The Rolls-Royce Corniche replaced the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow convertible and coupe in 1971, and was introduced in both closed and open body styles. Its name was derived from the Grande Corniche, the touring road high above the Mediterranean between Nice and Monte Carlo.
Essentially being the coupe and convertible versions of the Silver Shadow, the Rolls-Royce Corniche continued the use of the Shadow’s unibody construction. The car was smaller and squarer than earlier models, though the Corniche was aimed at buyers who insisted on coachbuilt bodies. The Mulliner Park Ward design took four months to build – two weeks alone were spent just creating the convertible’s top. Powered by a 6,750-cc, Bosch fuel-injected OHV V-8, the Corniche was hand-built, and despite its weight of almost three tons, topped out at 120 mph, with 0-60 mph reached in fewer than ten seconds. The self-leveling suspension was based on the Citroen hydraulic system and the Corniche employed power disc brakes, like the Shadow.
The major mechanical difference in the Corniche II, which was introduced in 1977, was rack-and-pinion steering. Alloy and rubber bumpers replaced earlier chrome ones. An aluminum radiator was substituted, and an oil cooler and a bi-level air conditioning system were added. In 1981, the fixed-head coupe body style was discontinued, making the Corniche a convertible-only model. A special medallion was applied to the rear decklid of the Corniche when new, but some Silver Shadows also display them today. Informed buyers know to confirm the chassis number before paying the premium for a true Corniche, which cost $205,500 by 1989. Overall, Rolls-Royce built 1,234 Corniche II’s built between 1977-89.
The Corniche III debuted in 1989, with its most notable differences from the Corniche II being new alloy wheels, standard air bags, body-color bumpers, and a refined suspension system. The Rolls-Royce Corniche IV appeared in 1992 with a four-speed automatic transmission (as opposed to the earlier three-speed), a glass rear window, and an improved top. The 1993 Corniche IVs also had a more powerful engine, and a run of 25 turbocharged Corniche S models closed out the model’s initial run in 1995.
The Corniche has always existed in the rarified world of the very wealthy and most have been maintained without regard to expense. That’s a good thing, because the brakes and suspension can be very expensive to repair. Expect to pay handsomely, and buy only the very best from reputable dealers or long-term owners. Demand full history, all maintenance records and a complete ownership trail. Once you have performed all of your due diligence, rest assured that you will be driving one of the most commanding cars of its era.