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I am looking at a late '70s Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow with around 70,000 miles on it. There is no significant rust, the exterior is in good shape, and the interior front seat leather and wood veneer show a bit of wear but are generally in good shape. A Chevy dealer is selling the car, which they took as a trade-in as a favor to a customer.

The good:

  • They don't know a whole lot about RRs, but they have a service history that doesn't suggest neglect.
  • I test drove the car for around 20 miles, highway and around town with no noticeable turning, suspension, or engine issues in any gear or at any speed.
  • No funny noises.

The bad:

  • They had to jump the car to get it started.
  • The air conditioner is cold and was recently recharged but cycles on and off.
  • The parking break does not work.
  • The engine compartment was fairly dirty, but I didn't see any rust. Unfortunately I didn't pay enough attention to the belts or hoses.
  • There was oil residue underneath the car on the oil pan and/or engine, but I don't know if it was leaking or just from a sloppy oil change.
  • I was not able to get the car above about 65 mph-- I realize it's a land yacht, but is this normal?

Questions:

  • Are any of the above points indicative of massively expensive repairs in the future?
  • If this car is for Sunday drives only, what kind of maintenance am I looking at if the car is in decent shape?
  • Can I do my own oil changes and brake work? (I do this for my wife's and my cars (Mitsubishi and Toyota), so I have some experience and the tools, though I'm not a gearhead.)
  • If I go back to the dealer to take another look, what should I pay particular attention to?

Talk me out of this!

  • Don't do it!... – Moab Jun 29 '18 at 0:39
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    @Moab - You should write as answer as to why not to do it. I really know nothing about RR's, so couldn't even begin to answer. I would bet it would be a maintenance nightmare. Most English cars of that era were. The story goes you needed to buy two of them. One to drive while the other one was in the shop. I don't know if that was an old wife's tale, but it probably isn't far off the mark. Anyway, Moab, please post up your experience with them so we can learn why the OP shouldn't buy the car. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Jun 29 '18 at 0:51
  • Whilst this does feel like shopping advice, I'd say you could very well buy and own this car but for me, personally, I'd only do it if I had another car to drive daily and I had a garage in which to store it. – Steve Matthews Jun 29 '18 at 8:51
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Some would say that it being a 1970's Rolls Royce is a deal breaker in itself, this is because Rollers have the capacity to be money pits and quality of the cars at the time was extremely variable. Each one is a bit different because they were hand built, so if you need a body panel replacement it can be challenging to fit one from another car.

Parts can also be ridiculous, a single RR branded brake disk is about $400, and so are the pads per wheel, it can cost 3 grand to do all 4 brakes. There are lots of after market parts though which are a fraction of the price and reasonable. If you can't find an after-market one though you are really out of pocket!

Most of the bads would give me pause, I personally could fix the electrical system and replace oil seals, etc. The deal breakers for me are:

  1. The AC: Rollers are luxury cars, the AC needs to work reliably. Fixing a rolls AC system can be very expensive depending on parts, and it's not work for a home mechanic because you don't have the capacity to deal with the refrigerant
  2. Not going faster than 65mph: This car isn't a speed demon, top speed was 115mph out of the factory, but it should be able to go faster then 65. If it isn't you could have a very expensive problem on your hands, and that's why I'd leave this in the Chevy dealer
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If possible, get the car to a Rolls-Royce / Bentley Dealer for a checkup. Yes - that's not going to be cheap, but considering that most items that break can cost thousands on a RR, it's worth it.

If you can't get an expert to look at it, at least look for the service history. The engine is very picky about oil changes - if not done on time, the hydraulic tappets can sludge up and stick, causing expensive problems. And if the suspension goes, look out for an even more expensive bill. The keyword in any RR maintenance is 'expensive'.

The 1970's Rolls was a pretty much hand-made car. Not all of those hands were attached to expert arms. In good condition, it's like driving around in your grandmother's living room. If it needs any major work, you'll be selling your grandmother's house to pay for it.

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