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Rolls-Royce FAQ

What services are available to help me maintain my Rolls-Royce or Bentley?

The RROCA has produced a Service Directory for the benefit of its members. It is hoped that eventually this directory - sized to fit in a vehicle's glovebox - will contain details for all Rolls-Royce and Bentley related service, maintenance and parts suppliers in Australia.

Myths & Legends

There are probably more myths surrounding Rolls-Royce motor cars than any other make. In this section we attempt to de-mystify the Rolls-Royce and debunk many of the myths surrounding them and their history.

"The RR radiator badge changed from red to black as a sign of mourning when Sir Henry Royce died."

Many people believe that the colour of the little plaque on the radiator of Rolls-Royce cars changed from red to black when Sir Henry Royce died in 1933 aged 70 years. In fact the reason was less romantic and based on an aesthetic decision which was that black would be more in keeping with the saloon body colours of the car. Royce always participated in any decision making and it was a coincidence that he died the same year as the colour change.

"My father once owned a straight-8 cylinder Rolls-Royce."

Rolls-Royce did not make an eight-cylinder engine for passenger vehicles before WWII. The first model with eight-cylinders was the Phantom IV, of which twelve were made and sold exclusively to royalty and heads of state. There was an 8-cylinder engine (the "B80") that was intended purely for military use.

So until the late 1950s your grandfather couldn't have owned an eight-cylinder Rolls-Royce unless he was royalty or similar, or owned an army truck or tank. By the early 'sixties all Rolls-Royce cars had V8 engines and the B80 was only used in military vehicles.

"The bonnet is sealed shut."

Rolls-Royce bonnets have never been sealed shut by the factory.

During motoring reliability trials - which were common in the early 20th century - it was customary to seal the bonnet and radiator so that competitors could not top up the coolant, adjust the carburetter or be able to do any other work on the car during the trial. This applied to all competitors, not just the Rolls-Royces.

It is possible that for many people, a reliability trial was their only opportunity to see a Rolls-Royce (which was more often than not the winner) and they concluded that as it had its bonnet sealed, so must all Rolls-Royce motor cars be sealed.

"Rolls-Royce cars are guaranteed for life"

No. Over the years the length of the warranty has varied, but it has usually been about the same as most quality cars, typically three years. A warranty, after all, is only against faulty components and production. After a year's use, any faulty components ought to have shown up. And of course a faulty Rolls-Royce would not be sold. There is a story that a Lady, being shown through the Factory by Mr Royce, and seeing the armies of inspectors and checkers, asked him what would happen if a faulty car got past them all. "Madam," he replied, "the gatekeeper would not let it leave."

"Rolls-Royces never break down."

Yes, it's true. Rolls-Royce cars do not break down the way lesser cars do. Sometimes, however, they "fail to proceed" because some mechanical component has stopped working. Owners have been known to send irate letters to the Rolls-Royce company after certain components have failed on their car after a mere eighty years of continuous use!

"The mascot is solid silver."

Sadly, no. Silver is very hard to keep shiny; it tends to stain and blacken (ask anybody with a cupboard full of silver plated sporting trophies!). Originally, all the radiator mascots were cast in bronze in sculptor Charles Sykes' studio, and then nickel plated. In recent years they have been cast in a special stainless steel alloy that does not require plating. (Normal stainless steel is notoriously difficult to cast, hence the special "casting" alloy.)

In fact, many purists will gasp in horror if they observe someone polishing their mascot. Over many years of polishing, all the fine detail of a mascot will become worn away and the result is a faceless and nondescript sculpture. You'll also find many a Spirit of Ecstasy with a very smooth midriff - the result of countless wedding ribbons rubbing against her tummy.

"The Rolls-Royce engine is a copy of an American Chevrolet V8"

Wrong. At the end of WW2 Rolls-Royce was a designer and manufacturer of every type of engine imaginable. They made huge marine diesels and small to medium diesels. They made petrol engines for trucks, tanks, jeeps, fire engines, and aeroplanes; and they made jet aircraft engines. The company was awash with expert engine designers. The company had designed every one of its own car engines since the very beginning, and they ran the gamut from cast-iron twins to aluminium V12s. The new 90 degree V8 car engine was laid down in the very early 1950s to a very tight set of parameters, and designed by veteran R-R engine designer Jack Phillips. Among other things, it had to be substantially larger in capacity without being any longer or any heavier than the 4.9 litre six-cylinder, and it had to cost no more to make.

Back in the 1920s, when Henry Ford decided to introduce a V8, his engineers went out and purchased an example of every V8 on the US market - some nineteen different engines, several of them European. The Ford V8 when it came out wasn't a copy of any of them. When R-R made a similar decision, they bought just two: the Cadillac ohv V8, and a Chrysler Hemi, both then 5.3 litres. When the R-R engine came out it wasn't copy of either of them, and the R-R alloy V8 was already running in protoype when the cast-iron Chev small-block was introduced in 1955.

A quick comparison of key features of the designs:

Feature Rolls-Royce Cadillac Chrysler Chev Small block
Material Aluminium Alloy Cast iron Cast iron Cast iron
Crankcase depth Deep skirt No skirt No skirt No skirt
Distributor drive Rear of Camshaft Rear of Camshaft Rear of Camshaft Rear of Camshaft
Oil Pump drive Front of Crankshaft Rear of Camshaft Rear of Camshaft Rear of Camshaft
Rocker Pivots Shaft Shaft Shaft Ball Pivot
Wet Liners Yes No No No

In 1955 no US car manufacturer was producing very large, aluminium, wet-sleeve, deep-skirt V8 engines, which is what the 6.75 litre Rolls-Royce engine is. Rolls-Royce used Merlin aviation engine technology to seal the removable liners, and the engine layout was carefully designed to fit into the long, narrow Silver Cloud engine bay, which is why the timing chest is so deep. Accessories such as alternators and power steering pumps had to be carried in front of the heads, because there was no room beside them. This narrowness was very handy when the smaller Silver Shadow came along in 1965. The big V8, despite its narrowness, is a very tight squeeze in the engine bay. It is still in production after more than 45 years.

The first version, introduced in 1959, produced a lazy 200 bhp at 4000 rpm, but massive amounts of effortless torque, which is what the designers were looking for. The latest edition is twin turbocharged and produces an astounding 550 bhp, moving the latest Bentley Brooklands coupe, a two-tonne mobile stately home, at over 150 mph in eerie silence.

Frequently Asked Questions

When at our rallies, on the road or even whilst doing our shopping we are often asked questions by passers-by. Here are some of those we are most freqently asked.

"How much is it worth?"

Not as much as you may think. You certainly don't have to be rich to own a Rolls-Royce!

The older cars do tend to demand high prices but a more modern Rolls-Royce or Bentley can be found for well under the cost of many new luxury cars.

The Silver Shadow models are currently at their lowest market prices ever and some real bargains can be had in the $20-$30K range. Earlier post-WWII models can be found for anything from $20K to $70K.

Like all cars, however, the monetary value of a Rolls-Royce or Bentley rarely matches its "worth" to the owner. When selling or buying, the agreed price is pretty much what one is willing to accept and the other to pay.

A 4.5 litre Mk VI chassis only was �2145 plus purchase tax ex factory. Not sure how much Messrs Freestone & Webb charged to build the body, but H.J. Mulliner charged �3820 plus purchase tax (33 1/3%) for a sedan (including the chassis). Therefore the finished car delivered and taxed was worth just under �5000.

"What size is the engine?"

Rolls-Royce motor car engines have always been on the largish side. There was a plan to make a small four cylinder engine immediately Post-WWII but it was "not considered appropriate" by the board.

Here are the engine sizes for Rolls-Royce models (which also apply to the equivalent Bentleys).

Model Capacity Configuration
Silver Ghost 7.04/7.43 litre 6-cyl
New Phantom 7.67 litre 6-cyl
Phantom II 7.67 litre 6-cyl
Phantom III 7.34 litre V12
Phantom IV 5.68 litre 8-cyl
Phantom V 6.23 litre V8
Twenty HP 3.13 litre 6-cyl
20/25 HP 3.67 litre 6-cyl
25/30 HP 4.26 litre 6-cyl
Wraith 4.26 litre 6-cyl
Silver Wraith 4.26 litre 6-cyl
Silver Dawn 4.26/4.57 litre 6-cyl
Silver Cloud I 4.89 litre 6-cyl
Silver Cloud II 6.23 litre V8
Silver Cloud III 6.23 litre V8
Silver Shadow I 6.23 litre V8
Silver Shadow II 6.75 litre V8

"Who's the naked lady on the radiator?"

The mascot often found on the radiator cap of a Rolls-Royce motor car is officially called "The Spirit of Ecstasy". Some think it's an angel but it's an ecstatic young lady clad in a voluminous and diaphanous gown, leaning forward into the airflow. If you look closely, you can see her pony-tail, her toes, and even her fingertips through the flimsy robe that forms her "wings".

When we are being casual we often call her "The Flying Lady", and in certain parts of the UK she is known as "The Flying Angel". There are one or two other names used by some, but they tend to be a little too frivolous and disrespectful: "Nellie in her Nightie" is but one.

For more information on The Spirit of Ecstasy, please see the articles in our Online Library.

Within the confines of the factory at Crewe (as it used to be) she is known as 'Phyllis'.

And as an additional piece of useless information, the Viking on the Rover badge was always known as 'George'.

"Why does Rolls-Royce have a mascot on the radiator at all?"

In the days before and after World War One, when all cars had exposed radiators, it was hugely fashionable to put fancy ornaments on the radiator caps. There were biplanes with rotating propellors, fat policemen, tasteless nudes, golfers, elegant Lalique crystal; a million varieties. Many of them were exceedingly trashy and cheap, lowering the tone of the car, so Rolls-Royce commissioned Charles Sykes to produce a classy one. It was available from 1911 as an option from the Factory, and most owner chose to accept the option. In later years it became standard. Rolls-Royce is probably the last manufacturer to have a radiator cap on top of a radiator (even though both the cap and radiator are dummies now), hence somewhere to put a mascot. Today a Rolls-Royce buyer would feel swindled if the new car didn't come with the mascot.

Not all owners use the official mascot even today. The Queen has a silver mascot of St George slaying the Dragon on her official Rolls-Royce cars. A number of Silver Ghosts whilst touring in Scotland in 1997 sported a Scottish lion mascot especially commissioned for the event. One WA Club member has a delightful mascot of Toad of Toad Hall, that fanatical motorist from Wind in the Willows, on his Silver Ghost. Many owners have alternative mascots they use for special events, but in the main the Spirit of Ecstasy is what you'll see on the radiator.

"What's the fuel consumption?"

Most Rolls-Royces you see have engines in excess of 6 litres capacity, so you can appreciate that fuel economy has never been a major consideration for the designers or owners.

The earliest cars - the Silver Ghost and New Phantom - have been known to do better than 20 mpg. Generally we find they do between 12 mpg and 15 mpg.

Early post-war cars have engines around 4 litres capacity, but the fuel consumption tends to follow the same pattern as for the larger engines.

For a MK VI 4� litre, fuel consumption (at a constant 30 mph) is 22.5 mpg. From "The Motor" 10/10/51. This is around 1500 rpm in top gear.

A proud owner of a 1962 RR Silver Cloud III reports:

Using a relatively early V8 6.25 litre Rolls Royce engine and a 1989 Bentley Turbo R (with the latter version of the V8 at 6.75 litres) I feel qualified to say that fuel consumption of the V8 is best ignored! On a good run in the Silver Cloud III we get about 14 mpg and I get about 15 mpg out of the Bentley on a daily commute involving lots of sitting around in London traffic.

"Why are Rolls-Royce models called "Silver this" and "Silver that"?"

In the early days of motoring it was quite common for owners of expensive motor cars to give them names, rather as they would their motor yacht, or their country house. They would even attach nameplates to their cars.

In 1906, Charles Rolls and Henry Royce wanted to concentrate on building a touring car or 'town carriage' rather than a noisy racing car hence the six-cylinder model of 40/50 HP. Smoothness, quietness and reliability were the key selling points. One specially-prepared car was used by the Company in various road trials of the day and performed so well it became a legend. Since all the metal parts that showed were plated with real silver and the body painted with aluminium, it was christened the 'Silver Ghost'.

Other Rolls-Royce names at the same time were "Silver Rogue" (also silver, but with a hotted-up engine, hence "Rogue") and even "Silver Phantom", also applied to 40/50 hp cars. These weren't factory model names; they were individual car names.

The "Silver Ghost" became so famous in its own time that the 40-50 hp model was often referred to as the "Silver Ghost type". Eventually all 40/50 hp cars became known informally as Silver Ghosts, although the factory didn't call them that (just as the Holden factory never had an FX model, it was officially the 48, but everyone knows what you mean). Over the next twenty years, over six thousand 'Ghosts' were made.

The first Rolls-Royce to have a name was the 40/50HP New Phantom, the model that replaced the Silver Ghost. This was superseded by the Phantom II, and then the Phantom III. The small pre-war range was known by its horsepower rating until 1938 when the "Wraith" was introduced.

After the War the first new Rolls-Royce was the Silver Wraith, and this was the also the first official "Silver" model. It was soon joined by the "Silver Dawn". The "Silver" of course harked back to the original Silver Ghost, and all the second words have suggested something ethereal and silent. Rolls-Royce nearly slipped up when the Silver Cloud was replaced by the Silver Shadow. The Silver Shadow was originally going to be called the Silver Mist, a natural progression from Silver Cloud. Then someone pointed out that in German, "mist" translates - literally and inelegantly - to "crap" in English. It's doubtful if many Germans would have wanted to drive a Silver Crap, so Shadow was chosen instead. The Shadow was replaced by the Silver Spirit, back to the ghostly theme, and that was followed by the Silver Seraph, which was discontinued in 2002.

When the all-new Rolls-Royce emerged from the all-new Sussex factory in 2003, it was called simply the Rolls-Royce "Phantom". There is a peristent rumour of a smaller Rolls-Royce in the future, closer to the Silver Seraph in size, and it would be no surprise if it was a "Silver something". Any suggestions?

"What has Bentley got to do with Rolls-Royce?"

Bentley was founded by W.O.Bentley after World War I. His company produced a famous line of fast sports-touring cars that won several Le Mans races. Unfortunately the company failed during the Great Depression and of many potential buyers Rolls-Royce acquired it in 1931. Conspiracy theorists have it that Rolls-Royce bought Bentley to suppress the new, impressive 8-litre Bentley, which threatened to take sales from the similar-sized Rolls-Royce "New Phantom". The accepted story, however, is that Rolls-Royce wanted to broaden their market by appealing to wealthy young sportsmen, who thought that Rolls-Royces were for elderly dowagers. Rolls-Royce wanted to acquire Bentley's image and Bentley's wealthy, sporty young customers without diluting the existing Rolls-Royce image.

Until World War II, Rolls-Royce-made Bentley cars were different from their Rolls-Royce stablemates. They used the "small" Rolls-Royce engine and gearbox in a much lower and lighter sporty chassis, to give high performance with Rolls-Royce refinement. They were known as "The Silent Sports Car", or as "Derby" Bentleys (after where they were built) or, in the public's mind at the time, "Rolls-Bentleys". The Bentley did what Rolls-Royce had hoped: it opened a whole new market to Rolls-Royce manufactured cars, without taking anything away from its existing luxury market. Derby Bentleys sold very well indeed.

After WW II, Bentleys steadily lost their distinctive differences, until by the mid-1950s they were identical to their Rolls-Royce counterparts. In 1982 Rolls-Royce revived the distinction with the sensationally fast Bentley Mulsanne Turbo and later Turbo R (R for "roadholding"). In the 1990s Bentley offered the Continental R coupe and Azure convertible, models not available as Rolls-Royces. The companies were separated after 2002, with Rolls-Royce owned by BMW and Bentley by VW. Once again Bentley cars and Rolls-Royce cars became distinct.

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