1977 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II
After a 10,000-mile journey and a chequered history including five years locked away by the customs people, this lovely Shadow II found a caring Australian home.
Words: Richard Holdsworth.
Photography: Richard Holdsworth, Graham Phillips.
A SLICE OF OLD ENGLAND… DOWN UNDER
Graham Phillips wanted a slice of Old England. Being an Aussie with an English mother and an engineer father, Graham searched for and found the very best on four wheels. As a result, a pristine 1977 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II now sits on his drive. This drive – and beautiful home – is at Mount Macedon, some 50 miles north of Melbourne in the State of Victoria. And it is here that my wife and I are enjoying Graham’s hospitality with the mountainous scenery as a backdrop. But good as this is, the gleaming Rolls in Nutmeg Brown is giving the Aussie scenery a run for its money. The Rolls looks a million dollars!
Graham is telling us the history of how he found the car and it seems the car itself has something of a tale to tell too. How many cars – never mind a beautiful Rolls-Royce – have spent five years behind bars as guests of the Australian Customs? Nothing to do with Graham Phillips, I must quickly add! This history begins in early 1977. A Silver Shadow II has been ordered by a Mr G A Richards; the order reference number is R 8038, the engine number 31171, and the specification check list (dated 14 April 1977) gives a rather modest description of the car as simply a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow four-door saloon. This is just the tip of the iceberg, as the subsequent pages of the specification go into the real detail.
Steering right-hand, hide beige, headlining beige Ambla, carpet Cumberland Stone 44 – and more detail in the ‘Fine Lines’, which will be gold, both above and below side chrome mouldings and double gold on hub caps (referred to as discs by Rolls-Royce). RR motifs were to be fitted to each rear quarter, as in long-wheelbase cars. The instrument roll for the under-dashboard trim and radio surround were to be trimmed in beige hide, reference number 3234, not the customary black Ambla. And the radio, a Pye auto-reverse stereo cassette, was to be provided by Mr Richards. Such was the detail of cars built by Rolls-Royce at that time, this information is not to be found until one gets. Two sheets are dedicated to the engine assembly alone and the specification includes not just engine and gearbox numbers but numbers for each cylinder head, the distributor, the coil type and even the spark plug reference numbers. Details of the alternator, oil pump, P.A.S. pump, front and rear brake accumulator and the carburettors follow on and in case anyone needed to know, the A/C’s fridge unit is given as 08661.
Those who know the meticulous attention to detail at the Crewe plant will not be surprised to learn that the build detail of the car was then followed by an exhaustive series of checks before Rolls-Royce would allow the car to leave the factory gate. Graham Phillips is showing us two sheets with no less than 64 checks that the car had to undergo on its final road test. Such items as ‘Wind noise A-post…’ ‘Rattle in door when shut…’ ‘Check rear squab headrest, nearside, offside…’ ‘Check A/C on de-frost…’ Pretty thorough!
This was followed by a second paint inspection, carried out in No 16 Shop. Then came a safety check covering everything from the welds in the seat frames right down to the torque setting for the interior rear-view mirror stem to body fixing. Then, and only then, did Graham’s car pass for its Final Inspection report and move on to the ‘Final Road Test – Body Performance’. When it passed, the car was then ready for delivery to P J Evans Ltd, the local Rolls-Royce dealer (today absorbed within Evans Halshaw), and for handover to Mr Richards. The list price was £19,881.
NEW HOME IN MOUNT MACEDON
Graham Phillips is the ninth owner of the car, tenth if you include the Customs authorities in South Australia who purloined the Rolls when it was imported in 1981. The Shadow was imported to Australia by its first owner, Mr Richards, but for reasons I cannot discover — and which the Customs authorities will not discuss — it remained impounded for five years. This came to an end with an auction sale in 1986 at which Mr Eric Essex of Smithfield Trucks, South Australia, caught the auctioneer’s attention with his bid of AUD$46,500, or around £25,500 in today’s money. Despite some Sherlock Holmes work and an attempt to track down Mr Essex (whose name survives in the history folder) I can reveal nothing more about this unconventional change of ownership.
There were two more South Australian keepers before the Silver Shadow II moved more than 1,350 miles north-east to Queensland with Tony Lee of Nambour, a town on the Sunshine Coast approximately 75 miles north of Brisbane. The Silver Shadow continued to bask in the tropical sun with its next owner, Alan Anderson, a Gold Coast resident who paid AUD$33,000 for the car. It had covered 87,333 miles by this stage. Glamour came into the life of Graham’s Silver Shadow when it graced the drive of an Australian actor, Thomas Benditz, who appeared in the Australian TV series, ‘Neighbours’.
It was then that Graham Phillips came on the scene. With Graham’s family background, the name Rolls- Royce in the Phillips household was a byword for perfection. Graham watched videos of the various Rolls models, how they were built, how they performed and the devotion that owners showed them. Graham searched online through many listings until one stood out: a 1977 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II in apparently perfect condition. The mileage of 108,000 was nothing for a car carrying the Rolls-Royce badge. The price that Thomas Benditz was asking was more than Graham wanted to spend but the owner held the door slightly ajar.
‘It seems that he was more interested in finding a good home for the Silver Shadow than in the price the buyer would pay,’ says Graham. Graham confirms he paid a ballpark figure of around AUD$28,000 which, at AUD$1.80 to the pound, equates to approximately £15,500. Negotiations were conducted at a distance. By now Graham felt he knew the car and its vendor knew Graham.
‘We got to know the Silver Shadow as Camilla and eventually a price was agreed, and Camilla was part of the Phillips family!’ The next problem was distance, with Camilla being more than 650 miles away in Sydney. Graham’s sister was enlisted to help bring the Silver Shadow back to Mount Macedon but it was not just the distance that came into the reckoning. I’ll let Graham explain.
‘My sister has a painful back and driving for more than an hour obliges her to stop, get out of her car and walk around for a while… I expected to be behind the wheel of my new purchase before we reached the next town,’ Graham smiles, ‘but a Rolls-Royce is built for driver comfort and getting the keys from my sister was nigh-on impossible.’ He quotes the Hollywood actor, Charlton Heston, who at the time was President of the Nation Rifle Association of America. ‘He is reported to have raised a musket over his head and uttered those immortal words, “From my cold dead hands!” That was what I faced trying to get the keys from my sister! I didn’t get a look in.’
Having had the pleasure of being passenger with Graham driving, I can wholeheartedly confirm I would want to take the wheel too. The expression is a cliché – but I can only say it rides like a dream! Back home, Graham took stock of the 42-year-old car that now had almost 110,000 miles on the clock.
‘I am not an engineer myself, but my father was the chief ground staff engineer for Qantas when he emigrated to Australia from the UK. He had moved with his family from India to the UK after Partition and joined the RAF. That is where he got his training in engineering. My father taught me how to work on cars, how to take them apart and, more importantly, put them back together again.’
Graham had the service and repair record for his new acquisition, as found in the glovebox. It did not cover the car’s whole life but it did represent the work ordered on the Silver Shadow by owners number five through to Thomas Benditz. This represented 24 years of the car’s existence and 63,310 miles covered.
KNOWING YOUR MUSTARD
Graham Phillips claims not to be accomplished in engineering, but he is in the transport division of Australian Post and knows his mustard (An Australian expression? Must be similar to ‘knows his onions’ for UK readers! — Ed.). Armed with a lot of detail on the maintenance and repair work performed over the previous quarter-century, Graham went through the car, piece by piece, item by item.
‘The first thing I did was replace the spark plugs, distributor cap and rotor button. I had the brakes serviced, a few leaks sorted, replaced the air filter as someone from the past had fitted a non-standard filter and it was rubbish. I have given the car a new set of Avon Turbosteel tyres. Then I replaced the fuel filters and ignition leads. It seemed that the fuel sender unit was faulty, and I fitted a new unit.
But it turned out the float was holed so I am keeping the original sender and will solder the hole in the copper float, and I'll then have a spare.’ Inside the Silver Shadow, Graham took saddle soap and elbow grease to the leather upholstery. ‘It made a huge difference!’
Out on the road, he found there was an intermittent knocking from the rear left-hand side of the car and Graham traced the noise to the tip of an exhaust pipe striking the rear quarter. ‘I found that the rivets attaching the rear exhaust hanger had sheared off – I replaced these with bolts so the exhaust was restrained as Rolls- Royce intended,’ he says. Next in line, Graham intends to replace the boot seal rubber which he says is worn and is sure it will soon invite leaks. Graham is a member of the Victoria branch of the Rolls-Royce and Bentley Owners Club of Australia and it was through the Club that he found Tony Sammut of UK Motors at Airport West, north-west of Melbourne.
‘Tony is not my nearest service centre but he has many years’ experience with Rolls and Bentleys,’ says Graham, ‘and I took the car to him for fitting new front brake pads. While the car was on his hoist, he cleaned the hydraulic fluid tank and flushed the hydraulic system and filled with new fluid. Rear brake pads still have life in them, but Tony will replace them at the next service.’
Another task was the fitting of a front air dam which had been lost somewhere in the life of the car. Then came the alternator saga… Graham had driven the Shadow to work and on the way home, noted a grinding noise from the engine compartment. He lifted the bonnet and discovered the culprit to be the alternator – it wasn’t charging and the noise told him the unit had seen its last days. ‘My mother’s 80th birthday was coming up and I wanted to present the Rolls to her… she is staunchly British; she would appreciate what it represented, it was essential that the Silver Shadow was roadworthy and I could get it to her,’ says Graham.
Added to the problem was the start of the COVID-19 lockdown and travel from one area to another in Victoria was regulated. You had to have a good reason, and whether giving your mother a ride in a Rolls on her 80th birthday was good enough was never questioned, thankfully. ‘My journey to UK Motors was uneventful and Tony Sammut went straight to work,’ says Graham. ‘At such short notice he had to fit his workshop’s test-bed unit on the car to get it back on the road. The smile on my mother’s face was worth all the effort. It couldn’t have been a better birthday present.’ We know that kind of smile. Mount Macedon in the Australian autumn was a delight, but it couldn’t compete with the look on Graham’s face as he proudly showed off his stunning Silver Shadow. One very happy man!
“It seems that he was more interested in finding a good home for the Silver Shadow than in the price the buyer would pay.”
Mount Macedon is a leafy town named after the 3,200ft mountain that overlooks it – a lovely spot for some Rolls-Royce motoring. With more than 100,000 miles under its belt, the Shadow’s 6.75-litre V8 is still in excellent health.
“How many cars – never mind a beautiful Rolls-Royce – have spent five years behind bars as guests of the Australian Customs?”
You can’t tell from here, but rack and pinion steering and front suspension changes improved handling for the Shadow II.
Victoria’s Club Permit Scheme allows older vehicles to be registered on a pro-rata system of 45 or 90 days for cost-effective road use. Sheepskin seat covers protect the beige hide and probably add still further to the legendary Silver Shadow comfort.
Rubber bumpers with alloy strips mark out the Shadow II, and this car is from the first year of Shadow II production Original Pye radio-cassette now replaced by an older Blaupunkt radio unit and a modern CD unit in the lower slot