I am about to become a Rolls owner. I am going to look at a 1986 Silver Spur. What are the important things to look for when buying one second hand?
I own a Bentley Eight 1986 and am looking at a Rolls Royce Silver Spirit 1987. People say `how can you afford to run the car at 12-14 mpg?` My answer is that it is cheaper than a taxi or a train for the same mileage, and a bus sometimes!
And I do the odd wedding during the year to help with maintenance etc. Excellent motoring and a hobby to boot! Insurance is cheap too, even including for hire and reward for weddings.
Even though this comment is a few years old, it deserves answering! Like any car from 1986, realize that you're dealing with 28 year old parts. R-R's aren't magic -- they are hunks of machinery like any other car. They're well-built and sturdy; with proper care they will last for generations. The problem comes when people don't realize that Royces, like any other high-end car, use some specialized technology that requires a bit more upkeep by design than, say, a Chevy.
For instance, the engine is aluminum. Treat it like it's gold. Flush the antifreeze every year to keep the water passages clean and corrosion-free. Similarly, use high-quality oil and change it regularly to get all the service out of that magnificent beast of an engine that you can.
There isn't a master cylinder and brake fluid: stored mineral oil at 2500 PSI applies the brakes (and levels the suspension.) Mineral oil eats rubber... and that includes the spheres, gas springs, hoses, calipers and seals. So the brake system is always slowly consuming itself. Change the mineral oil every two years, and plan to replace all the rubber in the hydraulic system every 8 years or so. (This isn't a bank-breaker: spheres can be sourced from Citroën, and a hydraulic shop can make your hoses cheaper than the factory. Unfortunately, the struts are purpose-built, so you are at Rolls' mercy).
The engine sits in rubber bushings, on a subframe on more rubber bushings. The struts and suspension are in rubber bushings. Point is, there's a lot of rubber bushings, and they take a lot of punishment coddling you from the vibration of the engine and the road. Plan on replacing them every decade or so.
-- Don't look for low-mileage cars. That means it's a garage queen that's been set up to rot for years. They have to be driven to keep things lubed, and if they aren't driven, things are still going to deteriorate. Don't worry about high miles, the V-8s are robust. Properly driven, they'll go for 400K+ before a rebuild.
-- Look for rust underneath, like any other car. It's a unibody, so rust in the floors is structural (if it's been taken care of properly, it shouldn't have any).
-- The factory's design philosophy was to physically separate the passenger compartment from any mechanical linkage that might transmit vibration and noise, so EVERYTHING that can be electrically moved, is. No big deal now, but it was in 1986. The shift lever is electric, and all the A/C flaps and doors are too. Everything's 28 years old: make sure everything works. It's all rebuildable, but they can be a beast to get to.
-- Look for a verifiable service history. If the car's been attended to over the years, it will give you solid service. Make sure the hydraulics and bushings have been attended to in the last few years at least.
-- The more you do yourself, the less the company will drain your bank account. A garage full of tools will be your friend. Use non-R-R-sourced parts when possible to save money (a $60 GM alternator sold by R-R is $600. Same unit). Use your brains, take your time, save money, and enjoy your Royce.
A Rolls is a heritage automobile, that with proper care and maintenance, will last for generations. The time and attention you put in will pay dividends in the long run.
Actually you can provide the same advice, more or less, with other vehicles with sporadic usage. People think that super low mileage is a great thing, but often it is not. I have bought a few low low mile examples and then dumped a lot of money in brake systems, fuel lines, tanks, electrical and leaking seals for openers. I drive my cars or try to for 20 minutes every 3 weeks. In winter it is sometimes a challenge, but usually there is a dry day to do so. Seals can dry out and cause leaks, tire flat spots, calipers and clutch can stick etc. I replace my tires; some only having a few thousand miles on them from cracks - dry rot. It's painful to do as there is full tread, but it's safe to do so. It hits before tire wear on my lightly driven cars. I change my fluids by time, not by mileage.
Another issue to address not mentioned is today's fuel. I use Startron for ethanol breakup and Stabil. I put dryer sheets in my cars and baits away from pets to eliminate mice. They can slip in a crack with very flexible bones. My friend's brand new car had a hole chewed in the center of the driver's seat. I keep my cars on battery maintainers not chargers. I keep my doors and trunk slightly open to avoid crushing the weatherstrips. And pans on charcoal briquets in the car and trunk.
I suspect this car is not a daily driver either. The problem you have is that once you get hooked with a great car, others seem to follow. And you can't drive all of them all of the time. You find excuses not to take them out for errands, malls etc. and you don't want them out in the unforeseen rain while you are playing the last round of golf. At least that's my experience. Good luck!