How I became a Silver Spirit owner: by Juergen Buech
My affinity for Rolls-Royce motorcars is indeed a life long love affair. I remember when I was a child, the eldest of my two older brothers - who is himself keen on Aston-Martins - told me that the car I should have when I am old enough to get a licence should be a Rolls-Royce. He bought me model cars and took photographs for me when he went to London for holidays and so whenever I played with my childhood friends, I was the one who had a fleet of Rolls-Royces and no other make as a toy. At around age 7 I saw my very first Rolls-Royce. It was a large Silver Ghost Open Drive Limousine parked in our small town to join a classic car rally. I was very impressed by its style and luxury and I decided then that I wanted one too when I was 18.
In 1981 I visited a first RREC meeting in Langenfeld near Duesseldorf. In October 1983 (when I was 15 years old) the then Section Secretary, Heinz Günter Schuhl, invited me to join the German Section Autumn Rally and I spent the day in the back of a Silver Cloud I, owned and driven by the founder of the German Section; Friedhelm “Lucky” Luckenburg. In January 1984, around the day of my 16 th birthday, my membership of the RREC was confirmed, having applied shortly after the Autumn Meet 1983. Since then I have arranged about 25 Rolls-Royce and Bentley meets here, with 52 cars attending in 2003.
It was not until I was 21 that I was able to buy a Rolls-Royce and became the owner of a Silver Cloud 1, which was quite nice to have and drive to school, but she used a lot of oil and although the body was in very good and original condition, the mechanics needed a complete overhaul. I therefore sold her six months later, as being a student I simply could not afford to have a virtually complete mechanical overhaul.
In 1993 I fell in love with my fiancée Ingrid and early in January 1994, aged 26, I thought it was time to buy another Rolls-Royce. So one evening I called several dealers in England to ask what they had in stock. One car seemed to meet my current taste and I agreed to buy immediately over the telephone. I actually had no idea what the car was, nor in what condition she was - I only asked for the colour scheme and was sure a more modern Rolls-Royce never gives any trouble. I ordered two one-way tickets on British Airways for Ingrid and myself to arrive in London Heathrow the following day and called Tony Copsey again to tell him to pick me up the same evening to hand over the car. The car I had bought so quickly was a 1973 Silver Shadow SRH14821, painted in Caribbean Blue with a dark blue Everflex roof. The interior was very lovely and unmarked in beige with blue piping and blue carpets. As I said, the next day the flight brought us to London and we took over the car: and that was how we bought my second Rolls-Royce. It would be a long story to tell you what all happened during our weekend stay in the hotel at Dover, but I promise to tell you all about it another time.
No, there wasn’t a ghost, but the circumstances we experienced in this small, old hotel facing the Eastern Docks were so frightening and reminded us so much of the Bates Motel in Hitchcock’s “Psycho” that we left in hurry during night in sheer fright, without asking for a refund of our money.
Well, the Silver Shadow was a very lovely car that I really enjoyed driving through France on that sunny Sunday, bringing her to her new home in Germany and I’ll never forget the good fortune I felt when driving her. Ingrid lived in Bonn, then capital of Western Germany, and I originally came from near Aachen, a town about 100 kilometres away, where the Silver Shadow was garaged behind the house in which my mother lives. But during the following months it became more and more difficult to find enough time to go to Aachen for a ride in the car, so after only less than year I had to part with her too, as it was impossible to find garage space in Bonn. I sold her to a friend of mine who had been dealing in Rolls-Royces since the early 1970’s and who in turn sold her to a man who runs a private museum where “my” Silver Shadow has now been on display for more then ten years.
In the years that followed I had quite a variety of cars of different makes. I loved my Porsche 911; I drove my Ferrari Mondial Convertible with joy, but I never lost my dream of owning a Rolls-Royce. One day I read an advert in the Newsletter of the German Section of the RREC, of someone I had known for many years, selling his restored 1956 Bentley S1 (B212DB).
Once again I telephoned and immediately agreed to buy his car and asked Ingrid to join me in going to Duesseldorf by train to collect our new Bentley right away. Ingrid really loved the car and right from the start the old Bentley took the place of the Jaguar I had sold only a few weeks before, and became our everyday car, driven by us everywhere.
I used the Bentley for around 40.000 Kilometres a year - all year round, summer and winter, and had never any trouble with her. She was a wonder of reliability!
But as with everything, what begins as a novelty over the years becomes a commonplace and I felt that although she was nice indeed, I began to miss the squared Rolls-Royce grille and a heater worthy of the name. During the winter months it wasn’t always funny to drive her along the German Autobahn and stop every second petrol station to warm up my fingers and have a warming cup of coffee. And so I began to wish for a more modern car.
It was in the Autumn 2003 when I was invited to join a Technical Seminar held near Frankfurt led by Eric Healey and Steve Lovatt. On this occasion I met another RREC member who had recently bought a 1981 Silver Spirit (SCAZS0000BCH02770). It was indeed interesting to learn that this car had only three owners in Britain before being sold to Germany in 1993, where the last owner put her in his garage simply to store the car. He had never driven the Rolls-Royce for which he had paid a princely sum in a London Dealership and the first person to drive the car after ten years of storage was the one guy who came to the seminar. Well, in order to bring the car back onto the road he had first to invest very heavily in all the hydraulics which where damaged by long storage. The hydraulic repairs alone came to more then 10.000 Euros and a complete service and some other work came to a further goodly sum for a car unable to be driven on the day he bought it. But at least everything was done and the owner had driven only about 1000 Kilometers when we both met at the seminar.
I really liked the green colour and there was virtually nothing to do on the Silver Spirit and as he was keen on having an old Bentley and I was keen in having a working heater, we shook hands and swapped our cars and each of us drove away in the others car! In the following days we exchanged all the documents and both felt that we had made a good deal. Perhaps not in financial terms, as I think the Bentley was worth more than the Silver Spirit, but I felt lucky to have found another good friend in my new car.
This Silver Spirit had been delivered new in June 1981 to Lex Mead of Manchester, at that time one of the largest dealerships in the UK. She was specified as an RHD car with some special features for use by a director of the company - painted in Laurel Green and with beige leather upholstery.
In 1984 she passed into the hands of a Mr Patrick Connolly of London W5, before being sold in June 1987 to a Mr Gaspard, living close to the Royal Albert Hall in London. Elias Gaspard was earning his money from diamonds and one of his customers was a man from Munich, the capital of Bavaria in Germany. The circumstances under which this German bought the car via a dealership are not known, but the Silver Spirit went to Germany – just to be stored immediately for nearly 10 years.
My Silver Spirit offered me sterling service as my daily driven car and to this day gives absolutely no trouble. I use her for around 40.000 Km a year and I still enjoy every single one of them. Today I clearly know that since growing up in the 1970’s and the 1980’s I have had a special interest in the cars of my childhood and while Rolls-Royces of other ages might be nice too, my heart would beat only for Silver Shadows, Corniches, Camargues and especially for my Silver Spirit. And I really love to see and to drive them! But at heart, to be honest, I feel more and more that I am a genuine Bentley Boy and am still waiting for the car I always really wanted: a pretty simple, small and early Bentley Mark VI standard Steel Saloon. So I hope now to sell the Silver Spirit just to be able to look around for such a car which will be the last one for me, and to be kept as long as I am able to drive.
It seems to be a little piece of luck if one is able to own and drive several Rolls-Royces over the years and some other Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars in addition, belonging to fellow members. Only a few weeks after I got my licence at the age of 18, I was allowed to drive a 1976 Silver Shadow myself. A few weeks later a Club member came for a visit who offered me to chauffeur his Corniche. The late Andrew Pastouna, author of two books about Royal and State Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, lived close by during the late 1980’s. He was a regular destination for visits and was the one who taught me to drive large Silver Wraith Limousines.
Andrew had a very fine fleet at this time and I’ll never forget that one day he offered me to drive his 1954 Silver Wraith Hooper State Landaulet (BLW92). I would really have loved to have done so, but my legs were to short to reach the pedals and when I sat on the outer end of the drivers bench, I could not reach the gear lever at the other end.
At least I can say that I have driven virtually every post-war-model from Messrs Rolls-Royce including every Bentley. The Silver Shadow I range has always been my favourite on account of their softness in riding comfort and lightness of use. I really enjoy to this day every chance to drive a Silver Shadow from the first series and if I was buying a Silver Shadow, I would always choose one built between 1971 and 1977, especially one of the rarer Bentley T1 models. The Silver Shadow II became more modern in its behaviour and feels “stronger” than the Silver Shadow I/T1. The easiness originally built in to suit American tastes had gone with this model and everything - especially the lightness of steering, which feels more down to earth.
My Bentley S1 was an all-year-round runner. I used her alike in summers and winter and never felt that this car was too slow in modern traffic, nor that it was too old in any other sense. I drove her over the Autobahn fast enough to keep up with the traffic for 80 to 90 miles and during the months when snow came down I never had the feeling that the S1 Bentley was a risk for me and my health to be driven over country lanes (I used Cooper 225/75 HR 15 All Year Tyres). The post war 6-cylinder cars are not as quick as the later V8’s from S2/Silver Cloud II onwards, but they are silent and reliable so that you simply can trust them whatever and wherever you wish to drive. And they are not as thirsty: my Bentley S1 used only about 17 Litres per 100 Km of unleaded petrol, which was no more than any old VW Beetle would have used. Early Silver Spirits do drive very much like late Silver Shadow II’s, as they are virtually the very same in the technical department. From the shape of the body it is only a question of personal taste whichever one prefers: the classical shape of a Silver Shadow II or the more squared body of the Silver Spirit. The later models of the Silver-Spirit range have become quite different to the earlier ones, as they are indeed completely modern.
A friend of mine, my best friend in fact, owns a 1994 Rolls-Royce Flying Spur, which was the first Rolls-Royce equipped with a turbocharger. This car handles like a car should handle built in 1994. It is a perfect modern car – but missing everything we’ve known from the earlier models that Rolls-Royce Motors call “waftability”. During the last years I had the opportunity to test drive pre- and zero-series Phantoms and Continental GT Bentleys, as like as the final thing. Both are great to drive - and I really enjoyed the Bentley GT on the Autobahn driven without any speed limit! An enthusiast of the marque would of course like to have all of them, especially the coachbuilt models like the early pre-war Bentley S1/S2 Continentals; but that’s life, sometimes you can’t have all the things you would like to die for to have. So you have to select what comes closest to your wishes and for me these are following models:
Early Mark VI Bentleys:
These car are my great love: I like them because they combine pre-war design with post-war mechanics.
I do prefer the early models as they are very pure, without loads of chrome or heavy luxurious seats. Commonly, the later 4½ litre types are more sought after than the early 4¼ Mark VI’s which could suffer rust, while under the bonnet the oil filter system wasn’t too perfect; but I like the earlier ones more than the later ones. I hope to find a buyer for my Silver Spirit and should I find one, I’ll immediately look for a single coloured (black or dark blue or grey) Mark VI.
The Bentley S3:
A friend of mine stored his one for a couple of weeks in my garage and I asked to drive it sometimes. Well, this is a very, very fine model. The last ones built are especially very elegant and fast cars, inviting for long journeys.
They do indeed compete with early Silver Shadows, as they behave like a modern car with all the modern helpers like power-assisted steering, but in their appearance they hark back to the great old days and are a best buy if you should find one in perfect condition. Of course, you could buy a Continental S type, which are the very finest of post-war motoring.
Silver Shadows and Bentley T-types:
These cars are always good companions for travelling – as long as you’ve found one not sucking too much money out of your wallet, as mechanical faults or hydraulic trouble can very quickly cost you more to fix than you’ve paid for the car. Don’t buy without having had the car checked beforehand by an expert and don’t buy too cheaply.
The dream will remain of an R-type Continental with fastback body by H J Mulliner, which is a blessing on every eye seeing such a car.
We all have very fine cars and we tend them that they remain in good condition, enjoy every single mile when driving them, and sometimes we sit in the garage just to contemplate our car with a glass of wine in our hands. For most of us it is a love story to own a Rolls-Royce or a Bentley – and it is simply great to be part of the RREC and of a worldwide group of people feeling all the same.
Here is a picture of my new 1952 Mark VI Bentley: B214NZ