When most people think of a Rolls-Royce, the image that comes to mind is the long, flowing fenders and upright fluted grille of a post-war Silver Wraith or Silver Cloud saloon — hand-assembled with a timeless elegance, featuring powerful engines, the finest leather upholstery and rich wood accents. Most often chauffer-driven, they represented wealth and success.
In 1965, Rolls-Royce began to manufacture the Silver Shadow saloon. Smaller in size, but with all of the appointments one came to expect of a Rolls, it was aimed at a market where owners wanted to drive their own car, but still make the same statement of achievement. Breaking from tradition, monocoque, or unibody construction left the car without a full-perimeter frame. This meant the traditional custom-coach bodies were now a thing of the past, a move not every Rolls-Royce purist applauded.
Along with a new body, it brought improved performance, better handling, lighter weight through the use of aluminium panels and a more pleasant ride. Today, these models are still quite sought after, and slipping behind the wheel of a well-cared-for Silver Shadow can make every journey an occasion.
For Jerry Kozubal of Winnipeg, the timeless design of the Silver Shadow has a real hold on him. After retiring as secretary of the Taxi Cab Board, Kozubal took up soapstone carvings and contemplated starting a limo service using Silver Shadow sedans.
“The only drawback is that the cars are very expensive to maintain and, for serious limo use, many are converted to an American drivetrain,” Kozubal says.
In 2014, he found a black 1969 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow saloon in Cobble Hill, B.C. The previous owner, who had over 30 hot rods in his collection, had the car professionally built with a modern drive train in 1999 by Horton Enterprises in Milton, Ont. The following year, Kozubal’s plans changed and the idea of a Rolls-Royce limo faded, but the idea of having a great car to drive led him to have another look at it this past March. He purchased it as a summer driver.
With only 23,300 miles since the conversion, the car was in exceptional condition. A straight rust-free body with the factory black leather interior upholstery, it had all of the timeless elegance the Silver Shadow is known for. There’s also an added front spoiler from a 1977 Silver Shadow II.
The 6.2-litre Rolls-Royce V-8, automatic transmission and front and rear suspension had all been removed for the conversion. In its place, a custom fabricated tube sub-frame was constructed and fitted with power rack and pinion steering.
The car now rides on an Evolution 4701 series air-spring suspension from Air Ride Technologies with on-board compressor. Brakes have been upgraded to power four wheel discs with a Magnum 4500 kit in the rear and Wilwood ceramic 140 series discs in front.
For the powertrain, a tuned-port fuel-injected LT-1 305 cubic inch V8 and 700R4 automatic overdrive transmission from a 1988 Camaro was rebuilt and installed. The transmission is now controlled by a B&M Quick Silver floor shift. Exhaust includes ceramic-coated headers from Street & Performance leading to a Stainless Specialties Turbo Tubes custom dual exhaust system. Cooling is accomplished with a four-core custom-fabricated radiator with electric fan and a custom-built tank supplies the fuel. In back, a custom-made driveshaft leads to a Ford nine-inch posi-traction rear axle, rebuilt by Forrest & Forrest, and installed with a Richmond 2.73:1 ratio gearset. Wheels are Weld Racing ZR-140s wrapped with Michelin radial tires.
The entire car was rewired with a new wire harness from Ron Francis Wire Works and the Rolls still carries all of the original power accessories. There’s power windows, power seat, power antenna, cruise control, radio with cassette player and an upgrade to the air conditioning system, with a new Vintage Air Super Cooler unit.
A quality build throughout, it’s fully documented with photos and plenty of invoices. The car is now dead reliable and easily runs over 20 miles-per-gallon on the highway.
With the drivetrain conversion, replacement parts are as near as your local auto parts supplier and the ride and handling upgrades make this one comfortable and unique summer cruiser.
Kozubal thoroughly enjoyed the Silver Shadow this summer and attended 11 car shows with it. “It’s a hot rod with a pedigree and has really been a people magnet,” he says. It’s not difficult to imagine the beautifully crafted Rolls-Royce attracting attention at car shows, especially one with Air-Ride that can be lowered or raised with the flick of a switch.
There were 20,604 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows produced between 1965 and the end of 1976. It, along with the Silver Shadow II and Corniche convertible, took luxury through the 1970s and 1980s with a capable and elegant car for the discerning buyer.
Not without its own turbulent times, Rolls-Royce the automaker saw a bankruptcy and was sold to Vickers Ltd. A further sale saw the company split between Volkswagen and BMW until 2003. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd. is now the exclusive manufacturer of Rolls-Royce automobiles and is located in Westhampnett in West Sussex, England.