By now, you probably know that the Land Transportation Office (LTO) has rolled out plates for vintage cars. The first plate was turned over to its proud owner on May 23, 2023, and we’re pretty sure more will follow. There were some photos from the even, and perhaps some of you are wondering what classic car got its first vintage plate in the country.
Eagle-eyed readers can probably make out a few details of the car, but car spotters (and car nerds) can tell what it is by now. But for the benefit of those who are curious, that car was a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow I. It’s a neat bit of trivia, but the Silver Shadow has a rather interesting history.
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The Silver Shadow, also called the Shad by some folks, was a revolutionary product for Rolls-Royce. It was introduced in 1965 and, in some ways, a response to criticisms that the company was lagging behind in tech and innovation. The Silver Shadow’s predecessor, the Silver Cloud, was antiquated even by the standards of European cars of the era. It wore drum brakes on all corners, had leaf springs at the back, and rode on a box-frame chassis like a truck. Power steering and air-conditioning weren’t even options during the Silver Cloud’s first model year.
So, when it came time to replace the Silver Cloud with the Silver Shadow, Rolls-Royce went all out in its modernization plan. The British company ditched the traditional body on frame chassis with unibody chassis, freeing up interior and trunk space. Rolls-Royce also gave the Shad disc brakes on all corners for improved stopping power. But the most important update was the suspension system. No more truck-like live axles here as the Shad got independent rear suspension.
The chassis upgrades didn’t stop there. Rolls-Royce wanted the best ride possible out of the Silver Shadow and so the company opted for a hydropneumatic arrangement licensed from Citroën. It even had self-leveling capabilities to prevent the car from squatting when it’s loaded.
As for the engine, The Silver Shadow first used a 6.25-liter V8 during the first five years of its life. It was upgraded to a 6.75-liter in 1970, and continued to be used in the facelifted version (Silver Shadow II) from 1974 onwards. That V8 engine would continue service until 2020 with the Bentley Mulsanne being the last car to use it. As for horsepower and torque figures, Rolls-Royce never disclosed the ratings until the late ‘90s. Back then the company simply said it had ‘adequate’ power. Output estimates are between 185hp to 200hp.
The Silver Shadow was launched in 1965 and carried a base price tag of £6,557. It might not sound like much these days, but it was about ten times the price of England’s best-selling car at the time, the Austin 1100. For reference, the humble Austin had a price range of £661 to £695.
Because of the Silver Shadow’s modern design, it attracted a different kind of clientele for Rolls-Royce. Once almost reserved for nobility, royalty, and the elite, the Shad brought in the nouveau riche (we mean it in a good way) and celebrities into the mix. Sure, the purists didn’t like it, but the new money folk bought it in droves. Had Rolls-Royce stuck to the old ways, it probably wouldn’t make it to the ‘80s. Such was the impact of the Silver Shadow, it still remains the best-selling Rolls-Royce model ever made.
Famous owners, you ask? Well, the Silver Shadow became a staple of the British Royal Family and it’s said that it was one of Princess Margaret’s favorite cars in the fleet. Speaking of royalty, Queen frontman Freddie Mercury had one too, so did football legend George Best, as well as iconic and renowned English actor, Michael Caine. Heck, Oasis fans might even recognize the Shad as it appeared on the album cover of Be Here Now. Yes, Oasis dunked a Rolls-Royce in a pool for its album cover.
There’s even an urban legend that The Who drummer Keith Moon drove a Silver Shadow into a swimming pool. There are conflicting reports, as guitarist Pete Townshend claimed Moon forgot to pull up the handbrake and it ended up rolling into a waterless pool, bassist John Entwistle said it never happened, while lead singer Roger Daltrey recalled Moon crashing a different car into an ornamental pond.
Hey, it was rock and roll in the ‘70s, so some detailed accounts might be hazy.