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Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I (1955 - 1959)

Last updated 25 August 2013


Model Timeline

Although the Silver Cloud retained a separate chassis – to facilitate those customers who demanded special bodies – it was actually the first Rolls-Royce to have a standard body produced in-house. That wasn’t the only reason it was considered a hugely important car for Rolls-Royce – for one, it was incredibly beautiful, and ended up selling in serious numbers.

The adaptable separate chassis was readily turned over to other projects within Rolls-Royce – most famously, the incredibly stylish Bentley Continental S, which was launched in 1955. Apart from that, the Silver Cloud sired the Bentley S1 and S2 saloons.

Rolls-Royce had enjoyed plenty of success during the 1950s, and chief engineer Harry Grylls commissioned the Cloud as an entirely new vehicle, to take the esteemed marque forward into the 1960s. When it appeared in April 1955, it lived up to the brief. Although the early cars were available only with the 4887cc inlet-over-exhaust valve six-cylinder, more impressive armoury would appeal later in the car’s life.

Outside it was imposing, and inside it lived up to the expectations of the marque, retaining the traditional gentleman’s club interior, with a beautifully veneered dash and deep leather chairs. Further luxury adornments included GM's Hydramatic automatic transmission as standard, plus power steering and optional air conditioning.

The impressive bodywork 5.4m (17.6ft) long, body meant the Cloud was suitably imposing, which inevitably took its toll on the car’s six-cylinder engine. In 1959 that situation was put right with the introduction of the Silver Cloud II, which used Rolls-Royce's brand new aluminium V8, initially available in a 6.2-litre capacity. The new engine transformed the Cloud's character, and although it remained serenely quiet and supremely refined, it was now quick enough to cruise at high speeds in well-damped silence. As ever, Rolls-Royce never revealed the unit's power output, although at an estimated 200bhp it was more than adequate compared to the previous six-cylinder, which produced somewhere in the region of 150bhp.

It also enjoyed better fuel economy, although a leap from 12 to 15mpg hardly made the Silver Cloud an inexpensive car to run. However, the Cloud was no sportscar, and enthusiastic driving resulted in very ungentlemanly behaviour on the road. The Silver Cloud III, launched in 1963, saw the car gain twin headlights similar to those on the Phantom VI, a lower grille, a new power steering and a higher compression ratio, although the engine's true power output remained a closely guarded secret.

As well as the standard saloon, buyers could choose a Park Ward bodied limousine, with an extended wheelbase and even more sumptuous interior, a striking two-door coupé or an HJ Mulliner-designed drophead convertible (from 1962), which offered incredibly stylish looks and an even more exotic price tag.

However, the Silver Cloud started to struggle into the 1960s, and although it had been modern when it was launched, by the time production ceased a decade or so later, cheaper rivals were offering unitary construction, disc brakes and fully-independent suspension – none of which featured on the Rolls-Royce.

The Crewe company had it in hand, however, and when the Cloud went out of production in 1965, the for more progressive unitary bodied Silver Shadow replaced it – bringing the marque more up to date. That went on to become the marque’s best selling car ever…

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