Money well-spent if you can avoid the pitfalls
Every Rolls-Royce mechanic I ever took it to said the engine needed an overhaul, and there was nothing else they could do to get it to run better, usually after $1000-$2000 of tune-up work. I finally decided I couldn't make things worse and learned how to tune it. Guess What??!! Ran better than ever after studying a book on S.U. carburetters! Transmission is GM 4-speed, similar to Jet-Away, but with provision for brake servo clutch. Find someone experienced with antique auto transmissions.
My experiences with RR-specialists have been unbelievably bad, and my advice for purchasers of these cars is to stay away from them. More than one has misadjusted mine, and friends have had their parts "swapped" by specialists looking for better parts for other customers. The bright-metal windshield wipers, for example, were taken off my friend's car and put on another because they're no longer available. Same for the "belly pans" which are often ruined by careless mechanics looking for an easy way to jack up the car.
The cars are not difficult for a good mechanic to figure out, since the carburetters and the brake servo assist are the only items which are uniquely un-American. The parts are usually shockingly expensive (thermostat = $360 and brake drums = $1000 EACH!) so be careful how you handle them. Original, authentic parts quickly differentiate a well cared-for example from one which has been butchered.
Watch for rust not only in the rear quarters, but also in the frame itself, which is actually a hollow section of sheet metal. I coated mine with POR-15. Most of the cars will smoke, and cures can get expensive (duh). The Rolls-Royce Owners Club is certainly a helpful source, but by no means the final word. If you really plan to own one on a middle-class income, be prepared to do your own maintenance work and minor repairs. Otherwise, you'll likely go broke and never be happy with the car. I had no clue how to do anything but change oil, plugs, points and antifreeze when I bought this car, so I had to learn a lot. The pros say to use 20W50 oil, but I prefer a lighter weight for winter use to eliminate valve noise during warm-up.
The woodwork is all real, and drop-dead gorgeous. The original finish was lacquer, which is not water-proof and is prone to cracking.
A delight to drive once you get it running properly. Don't expect sports-car handling, although they handle much better than American luxury cars of the same period and even 15 years later. Expect 10-15 mpg.
Factory A/C can freeze you to death if properly adjusted, and even fog up the windscreen on humid days, requiring use of wipers (which hopefully were not "swapped" by a specialist).
Very well engineered and well-built. The Cloud is reputed (rightly) as the car where Rolls-Royce got everything right.
Ownership costs can be reasonable even with some of the expensive repairs, if you consider how much you'd otherwise lose in depreciation on a new luxury car.
Most examples have fabulous veneer patterns in the woodwork, all of which is real. Be very careful to have the woodwork refinished by a pro -- the one time I recommend the use of a specialist in Rolls-Royce.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 24th December, 2007