Throughout last century, a new Rolls- Royce was an event of great automobile importance, and the 1980
models were as magnificent as ever, the new range also bringing into sharp focus the changing world in which they found themselves. The 1980 Rollers were longer, lower and wider than their preedecessors, but it is of note that they were 're-skinned' models using the pushrod ohv light alloy V8 engine that had by then now powered three diffferent marks of Rolls-Royce car products.
The running gear too was virtually as before except that the (independent) rear suspension utilised the coil and gas spring arrangement that had been adopted on two-door Rolls-Royce products the previous year - with a significant improvement to rear seat ride.
The bodywork (made by Pressed Steel Fisher - a British Leyland company) adhered to the 'three-box' shape, and like the Silver Shadow
which was in production for 15 years, the doors, bonnet, and bootlid were in light alloy in the interests of weight reduction.
The new rectangular headlights blended well with the patrician radiator shell which now bore the famous 'Spirit of Ecstacy' mascot in disappearing guise. Whereas the familiar lady in flowing robes used to spring back when struck by any object that got in her way, with the Silver Spirit she now demurely retracted into the top of that supreme automotive status symbol, the Rolls-Royce 'radiator'.
The new Rolls-Royce models came as Silver Spirit (120.5 in/306.07 cm wheelbase), Silver Spur (124.5 in/316.23 cm wheelbase) and Benttley Mulsanne (identical wheelbase and length to Silver Spur). The Silver Spirit/Mulsanne were just three inches (7.62 cm) longer than the old Silver Shadow
(which stayed in production for a few months after the announcement of the 1980
models, earmarked for the USA for which left-hand drive Spirits, Spurs, and Mulsannes were not available). Overall length for the two shorter Rolls-Royce cars was 207.5 in (527.09 cm). and for the long-wheelbase Spur 211.4 in (536.95 cm).
'Ordinary' motorists were somewhat amused to learn that Rolls-Royce hoped to keep the price of the new Silver Spur 'under £50,000', and were no doubt interested to find that, true to their word, they did in fact to keep the UK sticker price of £49,629 - about £7770 more than the Silver Shadow which it replaced. Whereas the Rolls-Royce Wraith (the long-wheelbase 'Silver Shadow') had been individually cut, lengthened, and gussetted, the Silver Spur was built as an entity, the extra three inches (7.62 cm) costing almost £7000 in the UK - more than £2300 per inch. The Silver Spur was mainly distinguishable from its shorter-wheelbase brethren by a smaller rear window and vinyl roof covering.
The Rolls-Royce 'radiator' was slightly wider and had a radiused edge on the 'slopes', but the lower build and smoother shape of the bodywork resulted in the notable aerodynamic co-efficient of 0.45 - excellent for both the time and the type of car. With its more curved radiator shell and lack of mascot the Bentley Mulsanne had a slightly superior drag figure, the handsome model being named to commemorate the old Bentley's 50th anniversary of the last Le Mans victory for the marque
(Mulsanne is the awesome straight on the famous 24-hours course where modern fast cars exceed 200 mph/320 km/h).
Rolls-Royce had sensibly designed the new cars' interiors to luxuriously accommodate four adults rather than to claim five seats. Five could of course be catered within the club-like interior, but in effect there were four 'separate' seats, upholstered in soft, sweet-smelling Connolly hide
(high-quality cloth was an option), each occupant lolling in luxury with ample leg and kneeroom, the wider body also providing generous elbow room. All models had Rolls-Royce's impeccable 'two-level' air-conditioning, four-speaker stereo equipment of staggering reproduction quality, thick carpeting, and polished walnut veneer (on light alloy) in profusion.
Standard kit also included automatic three-speed transmisssion (with electric selector lever), and 'cruise control'. A new fascia feature was a digital panel providing time of day, elapsed time of journey, and outside temperature. Seats were electrically operated, as were the exterior rear-vision mirrors, and electric windows were of course standard equipment.
The 1980 cars undoubtedly represented the ultimate in express pullman road travel at the time, and the fortunate diplomats, captains of industry, and pop stars who could afford them were likely to be envied. In spite of a kerb weight of around 5040 Ib (2286 kg) the Rolls Royce Silver Spirit was capable of a 0-62 mph (0-100 km/h) in about 10.5 seconds, and maximum speed was approximately 125 mph (200 km/h). At 100 mph (162 km/h) all three models devoured distance in near silence, and unbelievable luxury. The ride quality was superb, the handling excellent, and if there was a critiicism it was that the servo-assisted rack-and-pinion steering was a little too light at speed, and a little too insensitive.
The Silver Spirit II and Silver Spur II were introduced at the 1989 Frankfurt Motor Show. The suspension remained the main innovation, with a fully automatic system adjusting dampers at all four wheels in real time. Other changes included the adoption of ABS and fuel injection as standard for all models, and two additional bull's eyes ventilation outlets on the dashboard. The Silver Spirit III and Silver Spur III, introduced in 1993, relied on improvements to the traditional V8 engine as their differentiator. A new intake manifold and cylinder heads upped power output, which was still stated simply as "adequate" in company literature. Dual airbags were another new feature, and the rear seats adjusted independently.
The 1994–1995 Flying Spur was a turbocharged version of the Silver Spur III, while the final revision of the Silver Spirit and Silver Spur was introduced late in 1995, but a new Silver Dawn appeared a year earlier in the American market. Another new name was also added, the Park Ward limousine, just as the Silver Spirit name was abandoned. As of 1997, the long wheelbase was standard on all models, with the limousine models offering the extra-long only. Another major change that year was the introduction of a Garrett turbocharger on all models.