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Car of the Month Selection

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 Rolls-Royce and Bentley

Wood: Rolls-Royce and Bentley: Spirit of Excellence

Car of the Month - March 2007
Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, 1988, #JCX23774

Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

A Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit built in 1988 is a good example to explain how careful Rolls-Royce followed their company policy of continuous engineering improvement. When compared to the original version that had been launched in 1980 there were consequent changes from years of development. The engine under the bonnet of the Silver Spirit from model year 1987 onward developed 22 % more power. This was a result of fuel injection having been adopted and but one advantage was that even with the fitment of a higher axle ratio (which gave considerably improved fuel consumption) acceleration and passing performance were better. Additional fine-tuning had included revised cylinder heads with circular manifolds allowing increased airflow and a new exhaust system with reduced back pressure releasing more power with no compromise as regards standards of quietness. The package included to fit low-friction pistons and a lightweight radiator providing greater cooling capacity to cope with the increased power. Cooling was enhanced, too, by an oil cooler having become standard equipment.

Ancillaries were not excluded as a new starter motor of only half the weight of the old unit was fitted; the new one was quieter and more powerful. A smaller power steering pump and a new alternator achieved some weight savings, too. A major innovation was modern thin-wall electrical wiring and the elimination of some 200 wiring connections in the harness meant not only some fractional weight saving but the elimination of failures whose sources were difficult to detect.

Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

But then a Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit built in 1988 is also a good example to explain why such cars – despite all the care invested in their development and manufacturing - in future almost inevitably will loose considerably in value. Their Achilles’ heel is the increasing shortage in availability of parts from the area of electronic control units. The addition of an electronic anti-lock brake system in 1987 did mean that a safety-critical component of the car was now depending on electronics. – Considering the fact that cars from MY 1987 are nowadays some 20 years old this means that all the problems of certain electronic control units no longer being available will result in “vehicle down situations” and thus such cars become a incalculable risk for their owners. The suppliers, of course, had guaranteed that for decades there wouldn’t occur any bottle-neck as regards supply of electronic control units and the motor car manufacturers did trust their word. Well, in the meantime many of those suppliers ceased to exist and very often original specifications, essential drawings, entire CAD-programs, etc. were lost completely; hence there is not even a chance to re-manufacture vital components. This might be looked upon as a minor problem as long as the air-conditioning cannot be tuned correctly any longer (that was operated via a microprocessor from 1987 onward) or if a gauge in the instrument cluster stops to work. However towards the end of the Silver Spirit’s production more and more electronics had found their way on board these motor cars. Hence for cars from that era failure of certain electronic control units are a problem. And for any cars from later model series an avalanche of serious problems is guaranteed…

Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

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