1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

Lee Whiting was five years old when his parents bought him a Flying Lady mascot from a Rolls-Royce. He would polish it to perfection, but did he really believe he might drive a Rolls-Royce of his own one day? Good things come to those who wait!


Bought ‘70% good’, now nearly perfect!



FEATURE CAR 1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

It’s true, I’ve wanted one since I was five years old,’ says Lee. ‘I honestly don’t know whether the mascot I was given had come off a Silver Shadow or a Silver Cloud – it was a long time ago – but to start with, it was a Shadow that I wanted. Then, after driving a few examples, I decided I preferred the way the Silver Spirit drove.’

1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

By this time, almost 35 years had passed since the small boy first got his hands on Eleanor Thornton’s likeness. Lee had enjoyed a varied working life in advertising, plumbing and finally as a painter and decorator, and in his late 30s was in a position to become a Rolls-Royce owner at last. ‘I thought, if I don’t buy one now…’ Lee smiles, remembering the feeling, clearly still relieved that he took the plunge. It took some guts to select a car that Lee knew wasn’t a perfect example, as a tempting sale price can often mean a much less pleasurable bill for all the corrective work that comes next. ‘It was an okay example,’ says Lee, ‘probably about 70% good. The only rust was on a sill, and I made sure I bought a car with faults I could sort out myself, for the most part.’

‘Like a significant proportion of Rolls-Royce and Bentley owners, Lee likes things to be right.’

Early steps included a thorough clean, underneath as well as the more obvious spots, and then some undersealing to keep the hull in good shape. It’s a process Lee repeats from time to time, as he uses the car all year round, ‘little but often’. Also sorted out as the months went by were new brake discs, front and rear dampers, spring cups and injectors. New tyres improved the car too: ‘The old ones were really noisy, but the new Avons were so much nicer,’ says Lee. ‘They made a huge difference.’ The rear bumper had rotted inside, so Lee dismantled it and was able to replace the rusty sections and reassemble. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – what had Lee actually bought, and why?

1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit


‘It’s a 1987 Silver Spirit, the first model year that any cars were fitted with fuel injection for the UK market,’ says Lee. ‘I didn’t want a carb-fed model and I preferred the newer dashboard layout, but at the same time I didn’t want anything too new with active ride, so when I found this one in Waltonon-Thames, not far from my home in Surrey, it seemed to fit the bill. It had been chauffeur driven, so there was some wear to the back seat, and I was able to replace the rear seat cushion with one I had re-coloured to match.’ It doesn’t show anything like ‘‘9,000 miles-worth of wear now, but then neither does the rest of the car. You can’t spend long with Lee’s Sliver Spirit before realizing that Mr Whiting is something of a perfectionist. It[s not so obvious from meeting Lee himself, who is as relaxed and chatty as anyone could be, especially on a hot sunny day in Richmond Park with nothing to do but talk cars. But have a close look at the Rolls-Royce and certain things strike you.

1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

It's impeccably prepared; clean and polished as you’d expect. Better than that, the areas that tend to let down many otherwise excellent SZ generation cars – bumper rubbers, trim strips around front and rear lamps, lamp lenses themselves, the finish around the rear numberplate aperture or on the front valance under the bumper – it’s all spotless. Open the bonnet and it’s the same story. Lee admits to ‘a hell of a lot of work’ in the engine bay, and you’d have to say it was well worthwhile. It’s a showroom-fresh look without going overboard into the kind of concours preparation that ends with every fixing being plated and polished. Indeed, Lee isn’t much of a trophy hunter, though he has taken it to shows and indeed won the RREC’s Surrey Section shield. Like a significant proportion of Rolls- Royce and Bentley owners, Lee likes things to be right. There are one or two tales from his refurbishment of the interior that illustrate this nicely. Those of us who have attempted the restoration of our cars’ interior timber will have genuine respect for anyone who makes a professional-looking job of it, and Lee’s work is such that you’d just assume it was factory.

‘I removed all the wood pieces, picked the cracked lacquer off with a scalpel and then tidied it all up with fine sanding using wet-and-dry paper. I gave everything about ten coats of two-pack lacquer, which took all day, and then when it was properly dry I could begin the long process of flatting with more wet-and-dry paper and polishing it back up. After all that work, I try to keep the car out of the sun – for prolonged periods, anyway!’


Lee has also been tempted to modernize one aspect of the Silver Spirit’s specification by adding daytime running lights, or rather, by added the facility to use what’s already there by hiding LEDs within the sidelights, using a new bulb-holder. But these would require a new switch, and that would look ugly and out of place wherever you sited it on the dashboard. Unless…

1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

‘I found a new Rolls-Royce switch panel with front and rear fog lamp symbols, for sale in Lithuania,’ says Lee. ‘I took the fog lamp symbol off one of them and applied adhesive letters instead – DRL for daytime running lights, then I put a green LED behind it. It looks very authentic.’ Lee also added a high-level brake light and installed bulb-holders for four-light braking, as the wiring was already present – it was standard on US models. He runs LED lamps these days, all of which should combine to make the Silver Spirit as safe and as visible as any modern car, with stopping power to match thanks to the superb Rolls-Royce high-pressure hydraulics.

1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit - ENGINE V8

Oh, and one more tale to show the kind of care and attention this car receives, this time about the piece that connects it right back to Lee’s early childhood. ‘The Spirit of Ecstasy mascot should retract into the top of the grille,’ says Lee, ‘but it didn’t when I bought the car. I fixed the mechanism but the plinth it sits on was still 2-3mm proud of the top of the false radiator shell – they all are. This annoyed me, so I modified it by taking the grille off to adjust the height of the plinth and therefore the mascot itself. Now it works and looks like it should.’ Lee’s car was registered new with the number it carries today – D86 HYK, and although the production record reveals it was once going to be green with Silver Spur wheel trims, the first owner changed their mind to the Cobalt Blue you see here, with Silver Spirit wheel trims. Is that blue piping on the seats a special option? ‘The car’s history is all there, says Lee. ‘The first owner lived in Mayfair, so as you’d expect, it has early history with Jack Barclay and H.R. Owen, the supplying dealer. It went through Hanwells of London at one time, and I think it’s had four owners before me.

1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit

It fits into Lee’s life very nicely, though you couldn’t accuse him of using it as a work truck. ‘I did turn up to one job with my tiling gear in the boot,’ he says, ‘which was actually at Nigel Sandell’s place – I must explain how I got to know Nigel. But most of the use it gets is purely for pleasure. I like to get up early on a Sunday, say 6.30 or 7am in the summer, and go for a trundle. It definitely does the car good to be used regularly and it does me good to drive it, too.’

Rolls-Royce ownership has come with unforeseen bonuses, as Lee hinted. Not long after he bought the car, he was in a café when he bumped into a bloke with a Rolls-Royce logo on his overalls. Lee got talking, and the man turned out to be Nigel Sandell, one of the foremost Rolls-Royce and Bentley experts in the country, especially for the SZ generation, and known to many of our readers. His car is featured on.

‘Nigel has become a good friend and has helped me out a lot,’ says Lee. ‘The other person who has been very generous to me is John Tupper from IntroCar. He tested out some different damper specifications on my Silver Spirit.’ It’s easy to see that 30-plus years of longing for a Rolls-Royce was worth the wait for Lee, who seems to be enjoying the whole car even more than he enjoyed polishing the mascot. ‘It’s true,’ he says. ‘I still get as much pleasure from it now as I ever did.’

1987 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit


The Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit lasted from 1980 to 1’’’ before the Silver Spirit II marked some significant changes, but throughout those nine model years, Rolls-Royce would often introduce upgrades when they became available, as had been company practice for decades. The first fuel-injected example, chassis 20001, was completed in mid-1987, when the cars changed from a twin exhaust to a singlepipe outlet. Here are some other changes introduced at that time:

Re-styled seats with adjustable head restraints and electric position adjustment, now memory-controlled, that includes door mirror settings

Bosch-controlled antilock braking system

One-piece airdam

Layout changes to dashboard and centre console Firmer suspension settings, a la Turbo R

Catalytic converter (from chassis 20240, late 1987) Basic performance remained similar, with slightly slower acceleration (0-60mph in 10.6s rather than 10.2s) but a higher top speed of 126mph vs the carburettor cars’ 119mph. All in all, 577 Silver Spirits were built in 1987, about half of those with the updates listed above. Credit: rrsilverspirit.com for data.

Lee Whiting's second Flying Lady — this one has a car attached And here are the original LHM bottles This sign points the way to spare LHM fluid for hydraulics Made for each other? They certainly derive mutual benefit

Retractable mascot now does as intended, and sits perfectly flush with radiator shell too.

How they're supposed to look — no droop at the rear axle.

Lee's detailing efforts produce a showroom finish.

Tool kit is very little changed from Silver Shadow. Lee's is complete, of course!

'How have you kept it so straight?' asks our editor.

Tyre pressure and fuel data — did you know max payload was 450kg? Note DRL switch — this is Lee's own creation

Steering wheel and dash little changed from Silver Shadow II.

Patient, skillful work to restore lacquered surfaces Renewed rear seat squab fits right in is impressive

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