As a luxury car designer, Rolls-Royce have produced a number of memorable motors over the years. The marque prides itself on being one of the finest vehicle manufacturers in the world, so their line is top of the range. One of the company’s finest offerings was the Rolls-Royce Corniche, which acted as the successor to the Silver Shadow. The name came from the Italian term for a coastal road. We’re looking into the history of the Corniche to see what made it so striking.
Beyond the Silver Shadow
The Corniche might have developed out of the Silver Shadow, but it wasn’t the first car to have the name. The first was a 1939 prototype based on the Bentley Mark V that didn’t make it to production because of the outbreak of World War II. Rolls-Royce decided to use the name for themselves.
The Silver Shadow had been popular with the public, so Rolls-Royce wanted to bring out an updated version. In 1971, the Corniche name was applied to a new car. JP Blatchley designed the body and the car was assembled in London at Mulliner Park Ward.
The Corniche featured a Rolls-Royce V8 engine, three-speed automatic transmission and self-levelling system. The spacious interior had a wide wood-polished dashboard, slim steering wheel, while the exterior had a Spirit of Ecstasy ornament. An update occurred in 1977, with the Corniche receiving rack-and-pinion steering, an aluminium radiator and air conditioning system.
The Corniche was a hit and many famous people bought one. They included Paul McCartney, Frank Sinatra, Elton John, David Attenborough and David Bowie. After the success of the original model, Rolls-Royce brought out the Mark II in 1986. New features for the Mark II included anti-lock brakes, updated seats and a more detailed interior. Around 1234 Mark IIs were produced.
The 1989 Corniche III debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show and came with new alloy wheels, colour-coded bumpers, airbags and a more advanced suspension system. The fourth version was introduced in 1992. The Corniche IV appeared at the Detroit Auto Show and it featured four-speed GM4L80 automatic transmission. In terms of appearance, there was no difference between the Corniche III and IV. The Corniche continued to be produced until 2002 when BME Group took over Rolls-Royce.
The Corniche’s style and beauty made it a memorable vehicle. Did you ever own one? Feel free to show us by posting your pictures on our Inside Classics Facebook page.