Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph, 1998-2002
Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce first met in 1904, by which time Rolls had become impressed by a few cars that Royce had been able to produce. Henry Royce was an engineering genius who became a successful and entrepreneurial young man with a self-taught education. By the age of 19 he had established a profitable manufacturing firm that provided him with the means to purchase his first car in 1903. Disappointed by the car he had just bought, a French Decauville, Royce went on to make his own car using the Decauville as a foundation on which to build. His heavy revisions created a car that was more to his liking. Royce created three vehicles on his own, one for himself and two for good friends Ernest Claremont and Henry Edmunds.
News of Royce's grand creations quickly reached the wealthy Charles Stewart Rolls. A conference was arranged and Rolls and Royce met at a hotel in May of 1904, where an agreement was quickly made giving Rolls the rights to produce Royce's cars. The two men established the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars company, and a few superb vehicles were readied for the 1904 Paris Salon where the new name made its debut.
By 1906, the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost had been developed. The model introduced the Rolls-Royce tradition of using two-letter model names with 'Silver' followed by the name of an apparition. More importantly, the Silver Ghost established Rolls-Royce as one of the highest quality and best engineered automotive marques. Silver Ghosts were exposed to grueling challenges of reliability and durability, facing such arduous endeavors as a continuous 14,371 mile gauntlet with no mechanical difficulties. The company continued for decades producing some of the finest automobiles available and even diversifying to make airplane engines of outstanding quality. Notable expansions of the Rolls-Royce company included the acquisition of Bentley in 1931 and the building of a new factory in Crewe, England to deal with World War II's demand for increased airplane engine production. The Crewe facility became the chief factory of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in 1946 as demand for airplane engines shrunk back toward prewar levels.
By 1971, the long-successful Rolls-Royce experienced financial troubles that forced the division of the airplane engine and motor car businesses. A British defense company called Vickers purchased the motor car wing of Rolls-Royce in 1980, and continued the production of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys until the whole car division again changed hands in 1998. Volkswagen was the new owner of Bentley and the Crewe factory, but BMW purchased Rolls-Royce. It was under BMW's fresh ownership that the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph was created.
A stepping stone from the conservative, pre-BMW Rolls-Royce to the bold and controversial Phantom currently in dealer showrooms, the Silver Seraph was the first entirely new Rolls-Royce since the Silver Shadow was launched over 30 years prior. Its design was signature Roller, as were its sumptuous interior appointments. But the Silver Seraph was a thoroughly modern car, with the state of the art equipment and updated mechanicals that had been lacking in Rolls-Royce products for many years. The ancient 6.75 liter V8 had been replaced by a 5.4 liter BMW V12. The overhead cam, all-alloy engine was far more advanced than the old V8, and was more in line with modern, high-end luxury offerings from prestigious brands.
The mating of a 5-speed ZF automatic transmission to the BMW V12 created a surprisingly Germanic drivetrain, but the rest of the car was over flowing with British luxury. The trees and cows that sacrificed their lives for the wood and leather cocooning the Silver Seraph's interior could not have wished for a better final resting place. Luscious dyed hide covered any surface destined to experience human contact. The walnut veneer looked thick enough for a dining room table, and there was enough of it to furnish a whole house. Chromed, circular vents complemented gauges with slender bezels. The instruments and vents were inlaid flush with the uninterrupted wood dash. Extraneous radio switches were hidden behind a wooden panel. Many of the exposed switches were chrome plated with the delicate look of prohibitively expensive items. BMW had clearly not lost sight of what Rolls-Royce stood for.
From the outside, the Silver Seraph had the unmistakable look of a Rolls-Royce. The proud, upright radiator grille, graced by the famous Spirit of Ecstasy, looked natural on the car's softened nose. Quad headlamps were visible behind transparent covers. Slightly protruding corner lights harkened back to the Silver Shadow, a car whose innovative spirit had been missing in almost all subsequent Rolls-Royces produced before the BMW buyout. The appearance was long and stately, with a distinguished bulk that set it apart from the cheaper and leaner top of the line models from Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and the rest.
Sold from 1998 until 2002, the Silver Seraph was received well by Rolls-Royce buyers and admirers. Its illustrious presence left no doubt as to what it was, and the fusion of modern mechanicals with timeless British luxury created a car worth the high price it commanded. A total of 1,570 Silver Seraphs were built before BMW grew confident enough to introduce the more radical Phantom. Sources:
'Company History,' 'Car History.' Rolls Royce Motor Cars Web.29 Jul 2009. http://www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com/.
Roßfeldt, K.J.. 'Rolls-Royce and Bentley Models: Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph.' rrab.com Web.29 Jul 2009. http://www.rrab.com/rsera.htm#top.
Wood, Jonathan. Great Marques: Rolls-Royce. Hong Kong: Octopus Books Limited, 1982. Print.By Evan Acuña
On March 3, 1998, the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph was officially debuted at the Geneva Motor Show as a replacement to the Silver Spur. The Silver Seraph was produced from 1998 until 2002 and was completely hand-built at the Rolls-Royce factory in Crewe, England. Following in their trend of building ‘the best car in the world', the Silver Seraph was no exception. The Silver Seraph is best known for its very comfortable handling and ‘relatively limited acceleration'. Base price for this Rolls was $220,695 in the US and £155,175 in the UK. Only the Rolls-Royce Corniche rivaled the Silver Seraph in both its unique nature and its hefty pricetag.
Under the hood, a 5.4 L aluminum alloy BMW V12 engine powered the Seraph and was operated by a 5-speed automatic transmission. The engine was not designed in house, but instead developed by BMW. This made it the first twelve-cylinder Rolls-Royce since the '39 Phantom III. Electronics standard on the Seraph were ‘state of the art' anti-lock brakes, digital engine management and adaptive ride control.
Improvements from its predecessor included coachwork that was 65 percent stiffer and updated radiator grille, wheels and badges. Other than these modifications, from the outside the body remained similar to the very current Bentley Arnage, which shared its body shell and its platform. Owners could choose one and two-tone paintwork for the exterior.
The interior of the Seraph was also quite similar to the Arnage as both the seats and the dashboard were upholstered distinctly in Connolly Leather while the dashboard trim and folding picnic trays for passengers in the rear were faced with glossy burl walnut veneer. The main interior differences inside the Seraph was the lack of a tachometer and the gear selector being column-mounted while the gauges kept a very traditional Rolls-Royce layout. The Seraph featured a top speed of 140 mph.
Quite simply dubbed the Rolls-Royce Park Ward, a stretched out variation of the Silver Seraph was debuted at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show and officially produced for the 2001 model year in the U.S. Occasionally called the Silver Seraph Park Ward, this model was stretched 10 inches longer than the Silver Seraph and meanwhile retained the 5-passenger seating of the regular model. In 2002 the Park Ward was also discontinued after a total of 127 models were produced.
Before production was ended, a total of 1,570 Silver Seraphs were produced and was indirectly replaced by the Rolls-Royce Phantom in 2003.By Jessica Donaldson