Timeless Elegance: The Rolls-Royce Corniche

by Michael Satterfield

The 1980s was a time of incredible change, the microchip revolution, mobile phones, and cable networks revolutionized the world and created countless new millionaires. When most people think of the cars of the 1980s, a decade of excess, they immediately think of the Lamborghini Countach. But if you wanted to project style and sophistication in the 80s, you did it in a Rolls-Royce Corniche, preferably the convertible variant. The Rolls-Royce motto is "The best car in the world" and if you ever have the chance to drive one, you will quickly understand why they are willing to make that claim.

The Corniche was an icon long before the 80s, first sold in 1966 as the Silver Shadow Mulliner Park Ward two-door drophead coupé. Rolls-Royce would make it a standalone model in 1971, giving it a new, much shorter, name. The Corniche, after the Grand Corniche road along the French Riviera. Its longevity is owned in part to its regal and timeless design which remained nearly unchanged until the end of production in 1995, and Rolls-Royce's reputation for reliability. A highly modified Corniche coupe even competed in the grueling Paris-Dakar Rally. It was, of course, sponsored by Christian Dior’s Jules aftershave. The Corniche would also make appearances on popular television shows like Magnum PI, MacGyver and, of course, Dallas.

With the Corniche being such a pop culture icon they were driven by the rich and famous in all the warm weather hot spots. Celebrities like Michael Caine, Frank Sinatra, and Zsa Zsa Gabor all owned Corniche convertibles. Even today, 25 years after the last Corniche was assembled at Mulliner Park Ward, celebrities like Celine Dion, Sean Combs, and Lady Gaga have been spotted driving classic Corniche convertibles, because the car makes such a bold statement.

The Corniche is now considered a collector car, so I reached out to Park Place Rolls-Royce to see if they had a line on a classic Corniche, they ended up connecting me to their long-time customer, Kyle Crews, a car enthusiast from Dallas who owns this beautiful Nutmeg and Tan 1973 Corniche convertible. The car has just 21,000 original miles and was purchased from the estate of the original owner. having sat for several years, the car required a light restoration, mainly just servicing belts and hoses and having the interior reupholstered in the original Connolly leather. Kyle even had the original 8-track tape player restored to perfect working order, keeping the car as true to its factory specifications as possible.

To me, the Corniche represents the best of the hand-built Rolls-Royce automobiles, the styling is timeless. For a heavy car, it handles wonderfully, and although the earlier Corniches had some engineering quirks if you understand the 'personality' of the cars and maintain them properly, they will run forever!
Kyle Crews, Owner

Driving a Corniche with the top down on a pleasant day when it's not too hot in Texas, is magical. The steering is surprisingly responsive and the ride is smooth. The power is as Rolls-Royce intended it, "adequate" you won't win any drag races with it, but it would be unseemly compete when you obviously have already won. For a car that is nearly 50 years old, it still has a regal look and a presence that is undeniable.

Today a running example of this iconic Rolls-Royce can range from under $20,000 to well into the six-figures, depending on the year, condition, rarity. Early models were called Silver Shadow Mulliner Park Ward two-door drophead coupés, the Corniche nameplate began in 1971. A two-door fixed-head coupé was also offered until 1987. For Bentley fans, a nearly identical version was offered as the Bentley Corniche with a different grille and other minor changes, the Bentley would go on to be renamed in the Continental in 1984. The name would be revised from 2000-2002 and was the last Rolls-Royce to be made at the Crewe factory. In 2007 Rolls-Royce would unveil the all-new Phantom  Drophead Coupé and in 2015 the Rolls-Royce Dawn was released to carrying on the tradition of open-air luxury and performance that stretches back to 1906.

If you are looking for a Corniche of your own I would suggest visiting our friends over at Hemmings.com where you can find a great selection of classic Rolls-Royces for sale.