Whenever a new Rolls-Royce appears, it is the manner in which tradition is weighed against innovation that most intrigues the public, and there was certainly no lack of new components in the Silver Seraph of 1998; exterior door handles and the occasional switch excepted, nothing was carried over from its predecessor. The most significant break with tradition was, of course, the adoption of BMW engines, the Seraph's power unit being the 5.3-litre, 60-degree V12 of the range-topping 750i, its engine management system appropriately reconfigured for the heavier Rolls-Royce. The ZF five-speed automatic gearbox is likewise sourced from the 750i, and once again its electronics, which control shift points, are re-programmed to suit the different application.
Changes to the body may have seemed less radical, but were no less interesting. While the styling represented a conscious attempt to recall the looks of the Silver Cloud, its method of construction broke new ground for Rolls-Royce in several ways. Part of then parent company Vickers' £200m project investment was spent on new body plant, the Seraph being the first model built on a moving assembly line, and benefiting from the new semi-automated paint facility. The body itself - now fully galvanised - used significantly fewer panels than that of the Silver Spirit and took less time to make, while contriving to be 65 percent stiffer than its predecessor's. Build quality was by all accounts even better than before.
Recent years have seen major automobile manufacturers increasingly turning to outside consultants for assistance in shortening the development time of new models, and this policy was adopted for the Seraph programme. Apart from the BMW engine and ZF gearbox, the Seraph featured suspension conceived by Lotus, Bosch electronics, and design and engineering input from Mayflower, Hawtal Whiting, MSX, and Randle Engineering Solutions.
Quoted in Car magazine, project director Tony Gott said, 'For the first time, this is a Rolls-Royce that genuinely offers the owner the choice of driving or being driven, because it is a car one would really enjoy driving. The variable suspension, the adaptive transmission and the electronic throttle have enabled us to build two characters into the car.'
The last of its type made before production of all Rolls-Royce motor cars ceased at the historic Crewe factory, this Silver Seraph comes with its factory specification sheet listing the following non-standard features:
*Under-bonnet show car package - to level A standard
*Photographic record of build in special hide cover with Certificate of Authenticity
*Bottle cooler to rear armrest
*Cocktail compartment to lower front seat back x2 - hide
*Straight grain cherry cross-banding in lieu of oak cross-banding
*Standard R-R stainless steel transfer to radio flap
*Locking plate with key for SoE
*Special tread plates to say car is the last Silver Seraph - wording as follows: *The final Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph chassis 8854 Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Crewe. England 1946-2002
*Front numberplate to be supplied loose - no holes drilled in bumper
*Black boxwood inlay in lieu of standard boxwood inlay
*Stainless text overlay on the radio flap underneath the R-R - wording as follows: The final Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph chassis 8854
*Hide coloured (Cotswold) rear view mirror
*Hide coloured (to match redwood) top roll de-mister ducts
*Solid silver (hallmarked) Spirit of Ecstasy mascot to radiator shell
*Main paint to be Silver Ghost
Currently in the process of having a registration number allocated by the DVLA, this historic Rolls-Royce is offered for sale freshly MoT'd and 'on the button'.