1971 ROLLS-ROYCE Corniche I ConvertibleView vehicle description
Developed to become a two-door variant of the highly popular Silver Shadow, the Rolls-Royce Corniche is a front-engine, rear wheel drive luxury coupe. The hardtop version was built from 1971 to 1980, but the convertible model, like today’s offering, was built from 1971 to 1995. Bentley was also using the Corniche body by 1984, but the competing company developed theirs into an obscure vehicle called the “Continental.” The Corniche name comes from the French word corniche, which translates to a coastal road along the edge of a cliff. Between 1971 and 1988, roughly 3,224 Corniche Convertibles were built, and only a third as many hardtops were constructed.
Rolls-Royce dropped the standard 6.75L L410 V8 into the Corniche and mated it to a General Motors Turbo Hydramatic 400 three-speed automatic transmission. The suspension system is a design that originally belonged to Citroen, a hydraulic self-levelling setup that was combined with a more traditional independent coil spring format. The car has a 119.75-inch wheelbase which was later extended another quarter inch in 1974, and another half-inch on top of that in 1979. One factoid that makes the Corniche unique for Rolls-Royce is that it contained the company’s first standardized tachometer. A different factoid that makes this specific example unique is that it comes to us from the prestigious, Petersen Automotive Museum.
On the Outside
The exterior of this Corniche has been extremely well preserved. Black is an easy color to damage but the paint on this Rolls is smoothly applied, and oh-so glossy. The brown convertible top has aged excellently, although there are some creases in line with underlying skeleton. The plastic rear windshield is clear and can be seen through with ease. Curiously, the cover for the top when folded down isn’t attached in the photos. It is unknown to us if the cover doesn’t fit or if this was simply an oversight. Chrome around the car is clean and free of any wrinkles. The same cannot be said for the hubcaps unfortunately, which do seem to have a very minor amount of curb rash on each. The iconic radiator grill is in excellent shape and the Spirit of Ecstasy that rests atop it looks fresh from the factory. It is plain to see that this Corniche’s delicate black paint has been treated with great care during its time with the Petersen Museum, and the overall condition of the exterior makes the imperfections easy to overlook.
On the Inside
The interior mirrors the exterior, having a similar level of quality and preservation inside. The tan leather seats are complemented by fantastic pops of color, bright orange wooden inlays up high and striking red carpets down low. The Corniche’s signature 3-spoke steering wheel is present, and the wooden rim is in great shape. The front seats do show some creasing at the bottom, and the driver’s seat has more than the passenger, but neither has gotten to the point where the leather has actually been harmed. In the back, the rear bench is smooth and free of any holes or tears. The carpets show no major damage and lay flat in each of their respective positions. The door panels are quite complex, featuring wood inlays, tan leather, and red carpeting. Both panels look clear aside from a small scuff in the leather on the driver’s door. The dashboard is clean, although it seems some of the gloss may have lost its luster over the years. Regardless, all of the gauges are clean and easily readable. Mounted lower in the center console, a former owner added in an aftermarket stereo for a touch of modern convenience. The latches for the convertible top are free of corrosion and presumably work as intended.
This Corniche has a clean undercarriage with no major damage. The frame and floorboards are solid, and all of the suspension components are in order. Under the hood, we see more of the same, a clean engine bay with all of its components present.
The title from the Petersen Automotive Museum is included in the files below. It tells us that the Museum took custody of the car in September 2018 and has been in their care ever since.
What We Think
The Corniche’s executive styling made it highly popular among celebrities and pre-internet influencer types, but the Corniche unsurprisingly didn’t reach a massive audience. Rolls-Royce ultimately built 1,090 coupes and 3,224 convertibles. Today’s example has been impeccably maintained by the Petersen Automotive Museum, and we are confident this Corniche will reach its estimate.
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