Cars of 1998
Rectangular headlamps marked a departure from the British car manufacturer's usual practice over many decades to provide circular headlamps when the company's new model generation was introduced in 1980. It was code-named 'SZ' and consisted of the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and Bentley Mulsanne, plus a long-wheelbase variant in the form of the Rolls-Royce Spur. As regard technical layout these featured a lot in common with the previously produced SY-generation, because the basic design of the chassis as well as engine and gearbox had been retained as per specifications for the last version of the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II (and its sister models Silver Wraith II and Bentley T2). The completely new body of SZ-models showed styling with a clear emphasis on horizontal elements. These lines were prominently obvious in the front's rectangular headlamps.
For Rolls-Royce, these were a complete innovation because previously only one Italian designer had dared to deviate from round headlights: On the Bentley T1, #CBH4033, built as a one-off, Pininfarina had used the full space between the radiator and the edges of the fron mudguards (fenders for US-readers) with the different non-circular shape. self.
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Today, Pininfarina's original design can only be seen in photos, because during a later restoration the master's work was botched by opting on cheap headlights of a poor design. There is yet another indication of how thoroughly Pininfarina had considered integrating wide-beam headlamps into the front view of Rolls-Royce. Initial drawings for the design of the Rolls-Royce Camargue styled by Pininfarina give this off clearly. Even the early design with the abbreviation 'RA' is evidence of this, and in a later update with the abbreviation 'RF' the design was even more distinctive.
There is good reason for speculation whether or not during the first half of the 1970s, when infant designs for the SZ generation were taking shape at Rolls-Royce's styling department, considerations of rectangular-shaped headlamps for the future 4-door models were considered in terms of both appearance and function initiated by styling-ideas from Italy. This led to careful discussions of both aesthetic and technical options. The considerable area available at the front between the radiator grille and the front of mudguards / fenders did permit the installation of quite powerful lighting units. In conjunction with a lower radiator shell than before, headlamps with more width than height did their part to achieve the desired 'horizontal look'. The decision to integrate both parking lights and turn signals in this unit reinforced the effect. With an updated cluster that wrapped round the wing’s corner into the vehicle’s flank, the direction indicators could be seen through the maximum arc that complied with legal regulations.
It was only logical to retain this principle for the rear lamp clusters as well. Their design allowed the installation of a segment in the trunk lid. This made it possible to comply with all the regulations in force worldwide - some of which differed – regarding the dimensions, disposition, shape, size and brightness of rear lmaps and , too, of reflectors, indicators and rear guard foglamps.
The head of the design team at that time was Fritz Feller. A remark he made is remembered: "You shine a light upwards onto your face if you want to look evil or do not wish to be recognized, so why illuminate a number plate in this way?" Consequently the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and Bentley Mulsanne - and of course also the Silver Spur - are equipped with license plate illumination above their number plates.
This is only one glimpse on the of the multitude of innovations implemented by Fritz Feller and his colleagues in the styling department at Crewein the finished product to achieve their goal as per a claim by Feller for the new SZ generation: "We'll have succeeded in our task if, late on a winter's evening, in a dimly lit streets, someone looks out of the window and catches glimpse of a dark and travel-stained car and says 'A Rolls-Royce has just gone by'”.
With incredible in-depth research and illustrated with a multitude of exquisite pictures, the newly published book 'The Spirit of the Age' by Davide Bassoli is dedicated to Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, Silver Spur, Bentley Mulsanne, Turbo R and models developed from them up to the last Bentley Brooklands and Bentley Turbo RT. Almost scientifically meticulous he has also traced special versions e.g. of Jankel and Hooper. Published as a limited edition of only 500 copies this new book is highly recommended.