Back in ’71 there was a 10-year waiting list for RR’s flying sunbed. The Corniche convertible was a massive hit, bought by the richest and most famous people of the 70s and 80s. It was this car that saved Rolls Royce’s car division from closure. The roll call of owners reads like a Who’s Who: Onassis, Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Tom Jones, Englebert Humperdink (he’s still got his), Frank Sinatra, Elton John, Dean Martin, Zsa Zsa Gabor, David Attenborough and billionaire arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi. Demand was so huge that if you were on the hallowed waiting list, and actually took delivery, you could sell your Corniche the following day for double what you’d paid. Even the used ones regularly fetched more than the cost for a new model.
Mind you, the £17,000 list price of 1971 is today’s equivalent of £200,000, but this didn’t seem to put buyers off. By ’74, sales of the Corniche were so strong that RR had gone from broke to a profit of £6.3 million, thanks to churning out 350 of these beauties a year. Each one took six months to hand build, and was shipped between the Crewe factory and London coachbuilders Mulliner Park Ward. Had RR’s official receiver not seen the potential of this glam new convertible, and allowed RR to proceed with the press launch in the south of France in Feb ’71, RR might not be here today. Yes, the Corniche really is RR’s most significant car ever.
Over time the Corniche convertible never lost its glamour. The 6.75 litre V8 is as smooth as spooning honey; the GM gearbox gives seamless changes and the power steering is so light a kitten could park it. Hood down with the sun shining, this is one of the sexiest classic convertibles around with seats for four, 120 mph top speed and a gorgeous marshmallow ride. Plus you get standard air conditioning, power seats, windows and aerial, a boot the size of Bedfordshire and very large helpings of wood, chrome and leather. What’s not to love?
The car featured in the show is the actual RR Corniche bought by Adnan Khashoggi for his wife in ’73. Quentin picked this up at a classic car auction for £26k two years ago. He says: ‘Corniches are incredibly good value and will appreciate strongly in the next two years. But you can still find them for £35k. Buy a good one now and you’ll be able to own it for free as prices climb steadily.’
This is a very cool ride that looks rock-and-roll for the price of a tweedy Triumph TR5. Buy the best and lowest mileage you can. Avoid ruins and sheds as they cost fortunes to restore. The MK I version (’71 to ’76) is the most desirable, with chrome bumpers and clubby interiors. All Corniches should come with a fat history file of past servicing bills. And, if you’re lucky enough to find a rare Bentley version, snap it up fast – they only ever made 45 Bentley Corniche MKI convertibles! It won’t be long before Corniche convertibles with a flying B on the bonnet start moving towards £100,000.