Rolls Royce Retrospective Part 1: Introduction, Intrigue, and Quirks in Abundant Supply

1979 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II Retrospective Part 1: Introduction, Intrigue, and Quirks in Abundant Supply

by Corbin Goodwin


It was a picture-perfect evening in the west San Fernando Valley, and I stopped on my way back from a pizza delivery. On the side of the road, an old cream colored Rolls Royce with a For Sale sign caught my eye, and I had to know something. Much like many people, I wondered if the mechanical underpinnings of this land barge were as outdated as the body and interior. As it turns out, they aren’t (quite) and a few weeks later I bought a 1979 Silver Shadow II on eBay with the money I made by selling the “ZFG” RX-7, a car that likely divides MotoIQ readers’ opinions.

What was my plan for the white whale? What weird British BS would stand in my way? The original plan was to turn the Rolls into a drift-spec street car that would allow champagne-sipping in the back seat when it wasn’t full of tires. After peering under the example on the side of the road, I realized the hardware was more than up to the task- it just needed some tickling. The build morphed somewhat from the original idea and now the car stands as a proof-of-concept- in both a performance and artistic sense. I find myself trying to create a Rolls that is fun, capable, useable, and that still retains its soul; maybe it’ll even transcend car-ness, but this isn’t the article to explore that possibility.

Before I delve into the bits that made me believe in the potential of this old sedan, I’ll answer the pressing size and weight concerns and preempt the itching comment fingers. After configuring the car to near how it sits now, I weighed it and learned it’s not much heavier than a 5th gen Camaro. Not that it’s saying much.


We got the sensors plugged in wrong. Believe me when I say the car is not 55% heavier on the left. The engine actually sits almost completely behind the front axle which is why it’s barely front heavy. This weight is with most of the interior still present! It’s a few inches longer than a new Charger, a few inches wider than an ND Miata, and an inch or two taller than a new STI. With that out of the way, let’s get to the good stuff.

My friend David taking a stint as a really classy individual, this is one of the only pictures I have of the car when it still had the bumpers on.

In 1964, Rolls Royce introduced what for the time was quite a modern automobile- abandoning its body-on-frame, mechanical brake, house-on-wheels traditions. Shortly before this, they had developed a new and dependable V8 engine that still sees use today in the Mulsanne. In the Speed version, it cranks out a staggering 811 lb-ft at 1750 RPM!


Where’s the water droplets emoji when you need it? This engine is one of the longest-used designs in any production car, coming on 60 years of powering Rolls/Bentley.

I’d like to call your attention to a few of the awesome/weird things about this engine. It’s an aluminum block, aluminum head V8 of 6.75 liters using wet cylinder liners and 20 head studs per bank. Yes, 20. In US trim, the compression ratio is a staggeringly low 7.3:1, which makes it great for my boosted plans. It’s a cam-in-block motor with a helical gear driven camshaft, which not only actuates the shaft-mounted rockers by way of pushrods, but also drives the twin hydraulic pumps. I’ll get to those. 


The bottom end packs a forged, nitrided crank with bolt-on counterweights and forged rods. Unfortunately, the pistons are cast. Nine quarts of oil sit in the big baffled pan, because Rolls Royce. You can see the helical cam drive gear on the left and the beefy skirt and ribs cast into the block.


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