First introduced in 1966, the name 'Park Ward two-door' was first given to the trailblazing Convertible, eventually renamed the 'Corniche'. The Corniche was a dramatic departure for Rolls-Royce from the standard steel Silver clouds to the newer and smaller Silver Shadow platforms.
The new generation of two-door vehicles was squinty-eyed with sloping inset grilles that brought instant success to the Rolls. Produced between 1971 and 1996, the Corniche was Rolls-Royce's coupe and convertible version of the Silver Shadow. Assembled and finished in London at Mulliner Park Ward as the continuation of the 1965 Silver Shadow coupe and 1967 drophead, the model featured the Corniche name was applied in 1971. Sold as a Bentley, that model was renamed and known as the Continental in 1984. Due to the onset of World War II, the first car to wear the Corniche name, a 1939 prototype based on the Bentley Mark V was never produced.
The coupe Corniche was discontinued in 1982. Utilizing the standard Rolls-Royce V8 engine, the Corniche had an aluminum-silicon alloy block and aluminum cylinder heads with cast iron wet cylinder liners. While the bore was 4.1 inches, the stroke was 3.9 inches to achieve a total of 6.8 L. Introduced in 1975, twin SU carburetors were originally fitted with a single Solex 4-barrel carburetor. Until 1980 export models retained the twin SU's when Bosch fuel injection was added.
Standard was a 3-speed automatic transmission which was a Turbo Hydramatic 400 that was sourced from GE. Augmented with a hydraulic self-leveling system, a four-wheel independent suspension with coil springs was originally on all four, but later in the rear wheels only. For 1972, four-wheel disc brakes were specified, with ventilated discs.
Originally using a 119.75 wheelbase, in 1974 this was extended to 120 inches and 120.5 in 1979.
For 1986 the Corniche II was revised slightly with the replacement of alloy and rubber bumpers instead of chrome ones. An oil cooler was added to the new model, while an aluminum radiator was substituted. Airbags were not available in the model, but ant-lock brakes became standard. New style rims were added, along with a new reverse warning lens type and pattern around the rear license plate. Other updates included newly-designed seats and a redesigned dash. All Corniche II's were convertibles, and the Bentley model lost its closed coupe option in 1982.
In 1989 the Corniche III was debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show as a following to the Corniche line. The major change for this generation was the addition of airbags as a standard feature. The bumpers were now displayed in a fitting body color paint job, rather than black. A more updated advanced suspension system was fitted in the new Corniche II. Once again the dashboard was updated this time along with the console.
For 1993 the Corniche IV was introduced and produced was moved to Crewe following the shutdown of Mulliner Park Ward. Upgrading from the old plastic rear window, the new Corniche featured a brand new glass rear window. No manual latching was required anymore, and the CFC-free air conditioning was specified, along with driver and passenger airbags.
The final 25 Corniche models in 1995 were named the Corniche S and were all Turbocharged.
In January 2000, the fifth generation of Corniche vehicles debuted. With a base price of $359,900, this new model was the most expensive vehicle offered by the company at this time. A total of 4347 of these models were produced. This new generation marked the first step into the new century for Rolls-Royce.
The Corniche V featured front and rear styling that showed a design developed from the mainstream model Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph. The new model was set onto the platform used for Bentley Azure, with a wheelbase of 3.061 mm. The unique identity of the drophead coupe was accentuated by a swaging from the top of the front wing to the bottom of the rear wing.
Completely set apart from the mainstream model, the new Corniche was powered by the well-proven 6.75 liter V8-engine with origins dating back to the fifties of the previous century. Introduced in 1959 with the introduction of the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II, Rolls-Royce Phantom V, and the Bentley S2, the engine had been kept up to date by careful development. The engine provided enormous torque that provided 738Nm at 2,1000rpm. The V8 engine was much heavier than the aluminum V12-engine. The Corniche weighed an astounding 2,735kg, which was 400 kg more than the basic four-door model with its V12-engine.
The last model developed at the Crewe factory, the Rolls-Royce Corniche was designed in the true Rolls-Royce philosophy with an interior that was luxurious and comfortable, a hallmark of the marque.By Jessica Donaldson