Rare Rides: The Saudi King’s 1984 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit Cabriolet, a White Whale
The Rare Rides series has featured five Rolls–Royce premium vehicles in past editions, yet none of them had more than two doors. We remedy this oversight today with a four-door Rolls commissioned and owned by the king of Saudi Arabia.
It’s not what you’d call subtle.
Much like the Camargue linked above, the Silver Spirit was one of the few models to carry Rolls-Royce into its more modern era. The Spirit lived a very long life, in its standard wheelbase guise from 1980 to 1997, and long-wheelbase Silver Spur format from 1980 to 2000. The Silver Spirit sustained Rolls through the end of its Vickers ownership and into the VW Group era. It would see replacement by the Silver Seraph, a car full of BMW parts but sold by Volkswagen. A different Rare Rides entry for sure.
The Spirit was the “volume” Rolls-Royce model, and at the time was also marketed as several Bentley models. All of those Bentleys were an Eight but had various trims, engines, and names. The Spirit and Spur were sold through four different series, all bearing a Mark I-IV title as typical with British cars that see updates. Mark I carried the Spirit through 1988 with its traditional 6.75-liter V8 and a sturdy three-speed GM THM400 transmission. Mark II was an important modernization point and included Automatic Ride Control which adjusted the dampers, ABS, and fuel injection. All those modern trappings so foreign to Rolls-Royce traditionalists. 1991 saw the introduction of a four-speed 4L80 transmission used in the civilian Hummer.
Mark III arrived in 1993, and included visual updates like new bumpers and flush composite headlamps, alongside airbags. In addition to the Spirit and Spur, two limited-run models appeared at this time. The Flying Spur had the turbocharged V8 from the Bentley Turbo R and was limited to 134 examples. There was also a high-zoot Silver Dawn, which had electric traction control and heated rear seats. Considered a more subtle car, the front radiator grille height was reduced two inches, and there was a smaller Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. She’d had her wings clipped.
The Mark IV was renamed New Silver Spirit and New Silver Spur, and introduced in 1996. This final revision was not marketed with any IV branding, as fear of the number is common in China, Japan, and Taiwan. All Mark IV cars were turbocharged, and bumpers became integrated and color-matched. But by then the Spirit and Spur were long due for their BMW-adjacent replacement, and everything looked a bit too gingerbread.
Today’s Rare Ride is one of three custom commissions by Saudi Arabia’s king. Part of the original Mark I run of cars, the king ordered three Spirit cabriolets all at once. The white one was for him, a yellow example was for his eldest daughter, and the third one (with Bentley branding instead) was for a good friend. Interestingly, the customizations were not completed by Rolls-Royce in-house but rather at a Rolls-Royce dealer in Milan, Italy. Checking the result, one might conclude why Rolls didn’t want to do the edits at Crewe. The king didn’t keep his white Spur for long, as it was sold to an owner in France in 1990. It’s in Monaco now and will be auctioned in a couple of weeks where it’s expected to fetch between $60,000 and $90,000.