Icons & Innovators: Rolls-Royce Motor Cars: Three Decades of Distinction

  • Christian Gulliksen

The Phantom does not represent the first time that a Rolls-Royce designer took a risk. Just over 30 years ago, the company introduced the Camargue as its premier owner-driven offering. Remarkably for the conservative manufacturer, the angular Pininfarina-designed coupe bore a stronger resemblance to the Italian carrozzeria’s Ferrari 412 than to its baroque stablemate, the Silver Shadow. The Camargue’s appearance was as novel as its automatic split-level air-conditioning system, a world-debut feature that soon would become ubiquitous throughout the Rolls-Royce range. The coupe cost almost twice as much as a Silver Shadow sedan, and Crewe built only around 525 examples during its 11-year run.

Rolls-Royce produced other models of note over the last three decades, including the more conventional—and more popular—Silver Shadow II, the long-wheelbase Silver Wraith II, and the Corniche of the late 1970s. Despite aged designs dating from the 1965 introduction of the first Silver Shadow, these derivative models possessed glamour that attracted the young and fashionable. The squared-off Silver Spirit and the long-wheelbase Silver Spur replaced the Silver Shadow in 1980, but the Corniche persevered with its same basic body design until 1996.

The Silver Spirit and Silver Spur remained in production for nearly two decades through various iterations and names, but many Rolls-Royce loyalists felt a degree of indifference toward the cars’ clean-lined modern look; they missed the shapeliness of the older cars. Rolls-Royce seemed to be addressing this apathy in 1998, when it introduced the Silver Seraph, and again in 2000 with the new Corniche, both of which recall the curvaceous Silver Clouds of the 1960s.
 
Appropriately, the new Phantom brings the last three decades of Rolls-Royce history full circle with a sophisticated design that employs the traditional styling elements of the Silver Seraph in a daring fashion true to the Camargue.

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