Name Paul Capper
Occupation Funeral director
First classic 1977 Jaguar XJ6
Dream classic R-R Phantom VI
State Laundaulette or a Corniche Convertible
Daily driver Bentley Mulsanne
Favourite driving song Mascara Negra (from Crewe-supplied 8-Track tester tape)
Best drive Bilbao to Alicante in a day
NELLIE, QUEEN OF THE TRUNK ROAD
Anyone who knows me will readily confirm that I have been a Rolls- Royce and Bentley enthusiast all of my life. Growing up in the 1970s when the Silver Shadow and its derivatives were at their height, and from the first Matchbox models, I was hooked. I bought my ’1975 Silver Shadow in 1997 and, while the car was attractive from a distance, she was a million miles away from her current condition. I say ‘she’ because the Shadow is known affectionately as ‘Nellie’ throughout the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club and the Gay Classic Car Group.
When I was about to embark on the purchase, I remember a wise old club member advising me that, once all of the rough white Shadows had gone and been broken for spares, the good cars that were left would rapidly rise in value. Well, 16 years on, the prices of the best ones are definitely on the increase.
My interest in Nellie was further enhanced because she is one of the rarer Long Wheelbase versions built without a central division, but extended 4in from the B-post.
An LWB option was intended from launch, but the pressure of preparing the standard saloons for the Paris Salon launch in 1965 – as well as developing the two-door models – meant that any stretched variants were delayed longer than had been anticipated. It wasn’t until the spring of ’1969 that production of Long Wheelbase models began.
A pilot batch of 10 cars was made during 1966/’1967, however, including one built specially for HRH The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon. This particular example had several styling touches to suit the princess. It was finished in dark green with bespoke matching hide and pale green carpets.
Now 4in may not sound like that much, although it did provide a notable increase in space in the rear. Once the floorpan and sills were cut, the body received longer rear doors and roof panel, which was always covered with Everflex vinyl that some say was to hide the join, while a smaller back window gave an extra measure of privacy. An electric glass division was all well and good in the Phantom V and VI state limos of the day, but it was of little use in the Long Wheelbase Silver Shadow – and would have stolen any extra rear room.
When Nellie came into my possession she had a mere 65,000 miles on the clock, but was riddled with rust in the wings, peppered with cigarette burns in the woodwork and had a tired-looking cabin.
Now, 53,000 miles later, the car has been fully restored to day-one showroom glory. It recently landed three top awards – including First in Class and First in Elegance, plus The Dr Shu Shahid Memorial Trophy for Best Silver Shadow – at The RREC Concours d’Elegance at Rockingham Castle, Northants.
The Shadow is ideal for continental touring. It has been driven extensively through France and behaved faultlessly on a run from Bilbao to Alicante in 12 leisurely hours. Driving her in a straight line at speed is truly wonderful. Having said that, bends and roundabouts – if not negotiated properly, as a jaunt around the Bugatti Circuit at Le Mans vividly proved – can make your journey feel more like The Poseidon Adventure. And you expect Shelley Winters to float past your window at any minute!
Nellie was pressed into service and looked her very best when she regally conveyed my 92-year-old grandmother – along with my then partner’s 90-year-old grannie – to Windsor Castle as part of a display For HRH The Duke of Edinburgh’s 90th-birthday celebrations, on an event organised by the RREC.
All in all, if you ever get the chance to own a Silver Shadow, go for it. If you get the right car, it will give you many hours of motoring enjoyment and is just like driving your favourite armchair. And, as with any prospective car purchase, shop around, buy the best that you can afford – and attend one of the RREC’s technical seminars on how to look after them properly.
Clockwise: cheeky photo at Buckingham Palace; in Alicante; Cathedral of Murcia; parade for Prince Philip’s 90th-birthday do; gongs galore at concours.
‘The Shadow behaved faultlessly on a glorious run from Bilbao to Alicante in 12 leisurely hours’