Well-known as the ultimate purveyor of luxurious automobiles since launching its celebrated Silver Ghost Tourer in 1908, Rolls Royce has manufactured the World's finest motor cars for more than 100 years.
The men from Crewe introduced their utterly modern Silver Shadow model in 1965 as a 4-door saloon. Shortly thereafter, a 2-door variant appeared, hand-built at the rate of one to two per week by Rolls' subsidiary H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward of London. Exact numbers are hard to establish, but Malcolm Bobbitt, noted Rolls Royce authority, suggests that just 199 left hand drive examples of this gorgeous Coupé were made, all for export, before it was renamed Corniche in 1971.
This particular vehicle, chassis No. CRX 1469, was among the first to be ordered by Rolls Royce U.S.A., Inc., residing at 45 Rockefeller Plaza, New York--on December 3rd, 1965, to be exact.
The customer was none other than legendary Hollywood producer and studio boss John Calley. Among many other movies, he produced "The Cincinnati Kid," Catch-22" and "The Da Vinci Code." Calley, who will turn 80 on June 30, 2010, also was CEO of the United Artists and Sony film studios and is the recipient of an Academy Lifetime award. A first-class bon vivant, Mr. Calley specified a Mason's Black car with Scarlet Red leather interior, Sundym tinted glass, "refrigeration" (A/C), electric windows and wing aerial, and cloth headlining.
The wait for the bespoke automobile to be completed seemed like an eternity. Not until a full year had passed the Coupé arrived in Los Angeles, aboard the ship Rio de Janeiro, on December 19, 1966.
The car's comprehensive early history has been revealed via factory records on microfiche and Schoellkopf cards, provided by the Rolls Royce foundation. No less than 33 facsimiles are included, providing a most interesting, detailed record of CRX 1469's provenance.
Looking at the original invoice, we learn that Mr. Calley paid the exorbitant price of 8,819.19£ Sterling for the 2-door saloon, almost $26,000.00 at the 1966 money exchange rate, and enough to purchase a dozen brand new Chevrolets!
The recent history of the MPW Coupé is equally interesting. Purchased at auction in 2005 by a fussy Nevada collector, exactly $33,829.31 was spent since to refurbish the car, documented by exactly 60 receipts for service, repair, and parts purchases. Highlights include a rebuilt transmission, a cylinder head job, brake and air conditioning work, and a photo-documented, bare-metal repaint. To claim that CRX 1469 is one of the best-preserved early MPW Coupés in existence would be a gross understatement!
Shown above, apart from the aforementioned documents, which are chronologically filed in clear sheet protectors and collected inside a huge ring binder, is the original owner's handbook, the small spares kit, and the full, 5-volume factory shop manual, all of which accompany the car.
CRX 1469 sports elegantly understated coachwork. It's a Grand Tourer for the Gentleman driver who does not see the need to rely on the services of a hired chauffeur. Its body, hand-built by the skilled workforce at Mulliner Park Ward's workshops on London's Hythe Road appears to be completely free of corrosion or accident damage; it's a true survivor!
Front and rear bumpers and guards have recently been triple-plated; brightwork, glass, and weatherstripping is in excellent condition throughout.
Original road wheels wear the correct stainless steel, full wheel covers and All Season radial whitewall tires of the size 225/75-15 all around.
Opening the bonnet reveals a spotlessly clean engine bay. Though the factory never released horsepower ratings for its engines, Rolls Royce always had a stellar reputation as a builder of quiet and powerful motors, for aeroplanes and fine automobiles alike, and the 6.2-liter V8 of the MPW Coupé is no exception. For added smoothness, it was coupled to the Turbo-Hydramatic 400 transmission, outsourced from General Motors.
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Apart from the full top end refurbishment mentioned above (to the tune of a cool $9,000.00), the car received a thorough rebuild of carburetion and ignition; an electronic ignition was installed, along with new plugs and wires. The hydraulic brake and self-levelling system, employed under license from Citrôën, has been serviced as necessary and works great. No red blinking warning lights on the dash of this Rolls!
Interestingly, upon the insistence of its original owner, the car had to be completely repainted at Peter Satori Rolls Royce of Pasadena due to various imperfections, a mere year after it was first delivered, fully paid for by the factory honoring a warranty claim.
Today, the car looks as resplendent as ever in its two-tone Mason's Black over Platinum Silver livery. There are no dents, scratches, bubbles or any other imperfections to lose sleep over; the finish is very glossy, indeed.
Turning our attention to the car's interior, we are quite frankly overwhelmed by its state of preservation. Only the best materials Mother Earth had to offer were utilised by supremely skilled, old-world craftsmen to assemble an ultra-plush cockpit; during the past five decades, it has acquired the uniform patina so beloved by the true connoisseur.
Original red carpeting has been well protected by mindbogglingly expensive Mouton sheepskin overlays, front and rear. The original red wool is breathtakingly preserved.
Subtly elegant burled walnut, traditionally considered to be the most beautiful and prestigious of woods, creates the proper English country estate atmosphere.
The Series I Silver Shadow/Mulliner Park Ward dashboard certainly lives up to its name: it's wall-to-wall wood! Classic, white-on-black SMITHS gauges all work, including the clock. Original steering wheel features a sporting black leather covering.
A different angle. Dash top has been re-covered; the leather panel between windshield and padding shows some shrinkage.
The leather upholstery still emits the unmistakable, mesmerizing aroma you'll only find inside a Rolls Royce or Bentley with its original interior preserved. This close-up reveals the fine condition of the hides and their irreplaceable sculpturing; after 44 years of service, this amazing automobile still displays all that's right with superior coachbuilding, supporting the manufacturer's claim that a Rolls Royce motorcar is made to last a lifetime.
The chrome-plated mechanisms for the reclining seats were actually provided by REUTTER's british subsidiary.
Spacious rear compartment offers room for two to three adult passengers.
Ready for a test drive?
So are we, however, we'd like to take a good look at trunk and undercarriage first.
Cavernous trunk easily holds all the luggage needed for that long, continental vacation on the French Riviera. It presents itself all original, including most of the Hardura lining. Black bag visible on the left contains the factory jacking equipment.
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Details, details. Note 2006 transmission rebuild date.
Memorial Day and blue skies provided the perfect opportunity to take the Rolls out for a spin through our beautiful San Buenaventura del Arzobispo neighborhood.
Faultless would be the most fitting word to describe this car's performance. The powerful engine whispers, the transmission shifts almost imperceptibly, the compliant suspension fully lives up to its reputation, the ventilated, power-assisted disc brakes respond to the softest touch and anchor the heavy vehicle with authority.
On the road, one is always pleasantly aware of Emily, the Flying Lady mascot, a masterpiece of fine English silversmithing. It feels wonderful to drive this Rolls!
The old adage "they don't make 'em like this anymore" does apply here. While production methods may have improved in regard to precision and output, not even a brand new Rolls Royce or Bentley can deliver the allure and ambiance of its entirely hand-built predecessor. Back in the 1960s, a wealthy Gentleman with style and values would expect to be able to order a bespoke suit commissioned directly on Savile Row, or his private blend of Eau de Cologne from Floris on Jermyn Street, as well as his personalized motorcar, be it a Dual-Ghia, Bristol, or Mulliner Park Ward 2-door Saloon; arcanely exclusive luxuries completely unattainable to the hoi polloi.
This full classic has been thoroughly fettled--its previous caretaker spent more than $50,000.00--and is easy to own. Right now is the best time to invest in a fine vintage automobile like this MPW Coupé. Depreciation is a non-issue; to the contrary, after a couple of quiet years, prices are on the rise again and there's still a huge upside potential to be realized.
It's good to own The Best, especially when it carries a rather pedestrian price tag. Imagine shopping at Saks Fifth Avenue, paying Wal-Mart prices! If you've been looking for a pedigreed early Rolls-Royce Coupé, completely hand-built by Mulliner Park Ward, here's your golden opportunity.
Carpe Diem, and may God save the Queen!
We sold this rare Rolls Royce in 2010.