1979 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow II Retrospective Part 1: Introduction, Intrigue, and Quirks in Abundant Supply
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 Much like many people, I wondered if the mechanical underpinnings of this land barge were as outdated as the body and interior.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.
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!
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.