A convertible version of the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow went into production in 1967 as the Silver Shadow Mulliner Park Ward Two-Door Drop Head Coupé. The lengthy name was finally reduced to the Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible in 1971 when the car received minor update. The exterior design was created by John Polwhele Blatchley and the car was assembled alongside the Corniche Coupé at Rolls-Royce’s London H J Mulliner Park Ward facility. Production finally moved to Crewe in 1994 when the London works closed. The Corniche was sold in both Bentley and Rolls-Royce variants with the two being almost identical both technically and visually. Only a fraction of the cars produced however were sold with a Bentley badge. After 1988 the Bentley Corniche became known as the Continental.
The monocoque/unibody Silver Shadow platform was a major step forward for Rolls-Royce who had previously built rolling chassis cars to be clothed by independent coach-builders. The two-door Corniche was considered the most luxurious convertible car of its day with elegant coachwork, a sumptuous interior and almost limitless power from the big V8 engine. Twin SU carburettors were initially fitted to the 6.75 litre engine while many cars featured the complicated single Solex four-barrel carburettor between 1977 and 1980 when Bosch fuel injection arrived. All cars featured a smooth GM automatic transmission however it wasn’t until 1992 when a fourth speed was added.
Rolls-Royce followed in the footsteps of the radical Citroen DS Convertible and licensing their technology to use a hydraulic self-levelling suspension system although this time with coil rather than pneumatic springs. The Rolls-Royce Corniche Convertible was regularly updated and revised throughout its extensive life-cycle both to add more modern features and to comply with tightened legislation.
Perhaps the ultimate style statement of the 1970s and 80s the Corniche’s stately presence was as popular with music and film stars as it was with the gentry. Not only was the Corniche a fine sales success it also played a major part in saving the company from bankruptcy. The Corniche’s modern counterpart – the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe is proving to be a similar success for the company although it is unlikely to have such a long production lifecycle!