SOLD for £39,900
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“The name Corniche has been chosen for the latest coachbuilt models because it symbolises their higher cruising speeds and their ability to cover greater distances with the minimum of fatigue for driver and passengers.” Rolls-Royce 1971.
When it comes to naming models, Rolls-Royce have a pretty good track record; Phantom, Wraith, Ghost, Shadow, Dawn, Spirit and Cloud all spoke of whispering progress at a higher level or even in a different, other worldly dimension. 20/25 was not perhaps a high spot though. “Corniche”; there are surely not many more evocative ‘handles’. Literally a road cut into the side of a mountainside, rock-face to one side and a steep drop on the other, in our minds eye as likely as not ending in the deep blue Mediterranean Sea; think ‘To Catch a Thief’ with Grace Kelly traversing The Grande Corniche in an open 4 seater. Of Franco-Italian origins and with named examples common in the Gulf States and the USA it is not hard to see where the Rolls’ target market was.
Launched in March 1971, the Mulliner Park Ward bodied Corniche replaced the two door variants of the preceding Silver Shadow and Bentley T-Series from the same coachbuilder which, as Crews first unitary construction machines, had caused such a kerfuffle within the ranks of the Rolls-Royce faithful; ‘No chassis? What is the world coming to?’
Disc brakes all round and independent coil sprung suspension with clever self-levelling Citroën licensed hydraulics kept the Corniche at the sharp end of things technically.
More familiar was the tried and trusted 6,750cc all aluminium L410 (referencing its bore in inches) V8 engine which had first seen service in the 1950s; not a bad bit of kit given it can still be found in a 2020 Bentley Mulsanne and has only gone out of production in the last few months. In the Corniche it gave 10% more power for 120+ MPH performance and acceleration to match more overtly sporty two door cars, though not many of them weighed in at just over two tons. Beautifully engineered and built, throughout the years all Corniche’ came with a frankly massive asking price (£13,429 in the case of the Convertible when launched) which against the traditional measure of ‘a three bedroom semi-detached house’ equated to around three houses per car. Today it is safe to say the ratio has reversed and probably doubled to something like six cars/house. Despite the King’s ransom purchase price the Corniche Convertible was still hugely successful remaining in production though to 1995, tweaked along the way but fundamentally the same machine; a boon for an owner who’s doubtless personalised Number Plate didn’t betray his pride and joy wasn’t necessarily brand new. Despite its long stint at the crease when time finally came to draw stumps on the Corniche, after just 3,239 Convertibles had been produced in twenty-four years, Rolls-Royce found that it was literally irreplaceable and no genuine successor was ever offered.
Built for the healthy US market, Chassis Number DRA 13260 was invoiced to Rolls-Royce Inc., Century Road, New Jersey on 19th August 1972 (copy on file). According to the Car Specification sheets also on file, the Corniche was originally finished in Porcelain White with red and black pin-striping, a black hood, black hide piped in red and cherry red carpeting. It was supplied via the Powers Motor Company to the ‘Apollo Distributing Company’ on 8th November that year; the flooring trade was obviously in good health and indeed they are still going strong today. It is understood that the change to the Corniche’s current black livery was carried out almost immediately. By 1987 the Rolls-Royce was owned by the ‘Goldenberg Plywood and Lumbar Company’ in Los Angeles and there is a bill of sale on file for its sale to Brit. John Giltsoff dated 20th April 1991. After a few years, Giltsoff and his partner Rita Fryer returned the car to the UK and in May 1996 respected London based Rolls-Royce agents Jack Barclay Ltd. undertook an examination, test and extensive service covering all aspects of the car to ensure everything was spot-on.
The Corniche was then registered with the DVLA on 19th September 1996. For the next twelve years it spent time in the UK (where it was regularly MOT tested) and at the owner’s house in Spain. With the owners sad passing a great friend of his, the current owner, purchased the car from his widow in June 2008 by which time it had covered just 62,100 miles.
Since then the Corniche has been enjoyed in Spain (the owner drove it there and back in 2012 so it could be used as elegant transport for a friend’s daughter’s wedding), France and the UK. MOT tested every year up to 2017 by which time it had covered 71,600 miles, it is now showing some 72,370. During it current ownership it has been looked after by just one dedicated Rolls-Royce technician, Mr Duane Starman, initially at Exclusive Cars (Nottingham) Ltd. and then at his own eponymous company in Market Bosworth. Multiple bills in the file attest to the work that has been carried out over the past twelve years with attention having been paid to bodywork, paintwork detailing and interior trim. In 2011 with the engine misfiring slightly, investigative work revealed low compression on two cylinders so a precautionary engine rebuild was commissioned. The vast majority of the engine’s internals were found to be in excellent order with, for example, no wear detectable to the crankshaft journals bearing surfaces. The problem was traced to the hydraulic tappets and a worn camshaft and these were duly replaced. With the engine out of the car the opportunity was taken to smarten up and repaint a number of items in the engine bay and including attention to a few other areas of the car, the bill came to just over £20,000.
Today, just 6,000 miles later the Corniche is in lovely condition throughout. Never fully restored it has the air of a well looked after machine that wears its years with ease. Having spent the majority of its life in car-friendly climes such as California and Spain, there does not appear to be any of the bodywork issues that can so often afflict these majestic machines. The usually susceptible areas such as sills, rear wheel arches and the bottoms of the wings seem to be in excellent condition. The individual panels on a Rolls-Royce cover quite an acreage and this is especially the case with two-door models. Factor in the unforgiving black paintwork and any imperfections will be glaringly obvious but casting an eye down the flanks and across the bonnet and boot of ‘DRA 13260’ reveals few if any imperfections, even on the aluminium closing panels; we suspect the local Aldi car park has not seen the Corniche very often. The only non-standard item we noted was the chin spoiler as fitted to the later cars which was apparently sourced from Flying Spares.
On the subject of paint, the Corniche’s is for the most part in really good order with a great shine and spectacular depth to it. There are just a couple of ‘blebs’ and a little shrinkage in one or two places which we have tried to show in the photo gallery but you really have to go hunting for them in what is again a very unforgiving colour. A minor scrape inflicted by an inattentive lorry driver when exiting a roundabout a few years ago has been invisibly repaired and the black paintwork suits the Rolls-Royce admirably, looks fantastic and offsets the copious amounts of chrome beautifully.
The unmarked steel wheels are shod with Avon Turbospeeds - what else - which have a good amount of tread remaining though one hubcap has a little paint missing from around the ‘RR’ logo.
The Everflex hood (or should we say roof?) is in near perfect condition with little fading and no rips or splits while the rear window is clear and free from scratches.
As mentioned, there is plenty of chrome on any Rolls-Royce and that on this example is in good condition, speaking to not only its original quality but the environment it has inhabited and care given to it over the years.
Moving inside, especially with the roof (or should we say hood?) raised, one does get the impression one is entering a gentlemen’s club. Soft and accommodating leather armchairs welcome you and three guests to another world - you almost feel you should sign them in at the door. Everything is in excellent order with no noticeable imperfections in the leather (the lack of red piping indicates it has probably been re-trimmed in the past). The luxurious carpeting protected by relatively new lamb’s wool rugs and the multilayer headlining are both in unmarked condition. The wood-rim steering wheel as fitted to just the early cars, ties in well with the light wood dashboard, door cappings and centre console, all in very good order.
Though it is nearly ten years since it was spruced up, the engine bay still looks very well cared for. Fresh hoses and their associated clamps along with the engine ancillaries and various other peripheral items all look smart, clean and tidy.
Underneath everything appears super-solid and rust free. A little road grime is present as one would expect but there are no significant leaks from any of the major mechanical components.
A well-stocked History file is present which contains copies of the aforementioned original invoice and specification sheets and a fascinating forty-odd page ‘build record’ detailing every step of DRA 13260’s construction down to the caster, camber and toe-in micrometer readings. Current and previous V5s are present along with various US registration and insurance documents and bills of sale. Some nine MOT certificates from 1996 to 2005 are accompanied by another virtually full set from 2010 to 2017. As previously mentioned, bills from Starman and Exclusive Cars (Nottingham) Ltd. are present and aside from the engine rebuild already detailed they also document a steering box rebuild, new radiator, wheel bearing, suspension and brake work, all carried out within the last few thousand miles.
Wafting around the owner’s beautiful riverside grounds, an index finger and thumb guiding the surprisingly small diameter steering wheel, we felt completely at home in the Corniche - though we did feel a chauffer’s cap might have been appropriate wear in our case. Coincidentally, just this morning our weekly email from Goodwood Road and Racing dropped into our inbox and it was little surprise to us that their feature titled “The eight best Rolls-Royces ever made” included the Corniche…