ROLLS ROYCE Silver Seraph (1998 – 2002) Description & History:
Manufactured between 1998 and 2002, the Rolls Royce Silver Seraph was first presented in March, 1998 at the Geneva Motor Show. Successor of Silver Spur and predecessor of Phantom, the Silver Seraph was assembled in Crewe, England and was available in a single engine configuration, a 5.4-liter V12, combined with a 5-speed automatic transmission. What’s interesting is that the Crewe-based factory ceased the production of this model in 2002, replacing it with Bentley’s cars, often based on the same platforms as Rolls Royce. Typically to Rolls Royce, the Silver Seraph had multiple exclusivist and expensive elements, such as the interior which came with Connolly Leather and walnut wood.
Developed wîth help from the BMW Group and powered by a 5.4-liter BMW V12 engine, the Seraph was a far more modern car wîth up-to-the minute electronics controlling the adaptive ride control, five-speed automatic transmission and a plethora of safety equipment. Body stiffness was said to have improved by 65% producing a better ride, handling and increased drivability. The long wheelbase version was named the Park Ward.
The Silver Seraph was the last model to be built at Crewe and was effectively the first all-new Rolls-Royce since the launch of the Silver Shadow more than 30 years earlier.
Charles Stewart Rolls and Henry Royce first met in 1904, by which time Rolls had become impressed by a few cars that Royce had been able to produce. Henry Royce was an engineering genius who became a successful and entrepreneurial young man with a self-taught education. By the age of 19 he had established a profitable manufacturing firm that provided him with the means to purchase his first car in 1903. Disappointed by the car he had just bought, a French Decauville, Royce went on to make his own car using the Decauville as a foundation on which to build. His heavy revisions created a car that was more to his liking. Royce created three vehicles on his own, one for himself and two for good friends Ernest Claremont and Henry Edmunds.
News of Royce’s grand creations quickly reached the wealthy Charles Stewart Rolls. A conference was arranged and Rolls and Royce met at a hotel in May of 1904, where an agreement was quickly made giving Rolls the rights to produce Royce’s cars. The two men established the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars company, and a few superb vehicles were readied for the 1904 Paris Salon where the new name made its debut.
By 1906, the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost had been developed. The model introduced the Rolls-Royce tradition of using two-letter model names with ‘Silver’ followed by the name of an apparition. More importantly, the Silver Ghost established Rolls-Royce as one of the highest quality and best engineered automotive marques. Silver Ghosts were exposed to grueling challenges of reliability and durability, facing such arduous endeavors as a continuous 14,371 mile gauntlet with no mechanical difficulties. The company continued for decades producing some of the finest automobiles available and even diversifying to make airplane engines of outstanding quality. Notable expansions of the Rolls-Royce company included the acquisition of Bentley in 1931 and the building of a new factory in Crewe, England to deal with World War II’s demand for increased airplane engine production. The Crewe facility became the chief factory of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars in 1946 as demand for airplane engines shrunk back toward prewar leve
By 1971, the long-successful Rolls-Royce experienced financial troubles that forced the division of the airplane engine and motor car businesses. A British defense company called Vickers purchased the motor car wing of Rolls-Royce in 1980, and continued the production of Rolls-Royces and Bentleys until the whole car division again changed hands in 1998. Volkswagen was the new owner of Bentley and the Crewe factory, but BMW purchased Rolls-Royce. It was under BMW’s fresh ownership that the Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph was created.
A stepping stone from the conservative, pre-BMW Rolls-Royce to the bold and controversial Phantom currently in dealer showrooms, the Silver Seraph was the first entirely new Rolls-Royce since the Silver Shadow was launched over 30 years prior. Its design was signature Roller, as were its sumptuous interior appointments. But the Silver Seraph was a thoroughly modern car, with the state of the art equipment and updated mechanicals that had been lacking in Rolls-Royce products for many years. The ancient 6.75 liter V8 had been replaced by a 5.4 liter BMW V12. The overhead cam, all-alloy engine was far more advanced than the old V8, and was more in line with modern, high-end luxury offerings from prestigious brands.
The mating of a 5-speed ZF automatic transmission to the BMW V12 created a surprisingly Germanic drivetrain, but the rest of the car was over flowing with British luxury. The trees and cows that sacrificed their lives for the wood and leather cocooning the Silver Seraph’s interior could not have wished for a better final resting place. Luscious dyed hide covered any surface destined to experience human contact. The walnut veneer looked thick enough for a dining room table, and there was enough of it to furnish a whole house. Chromed, circular vents complemented gauges with slender bezels. The instruments and vents were inlaid flush with the uninterrupted wood dash. Extraneous radio switches were hidden behind a wooden panel. Many of the exposed switches were chrome plated with the delicate look of prohibitively expensive items. BMW had clearly not lost sight of what Rolls-Royce stood for.
The interior of the Seraph was also quite similar to the Arnage as both the seats and the dashboard were upholstered distinctly in Connolly Leather while the dashboard trim and folding picnic trays for passengers in the rear were faced with glossy burl walnut veneer. The main interior differences inside the Seraph was the lack of a tachometer and the gear selector being column-mounted while the gauges kept a very traditional Rolls-Royce layout. The Seraph featured a top speed of 140 mph.
Quite simply dubbed the Rolls-Royce Park Ward, a stretched out variation of the Silver Seraph was debuted at the 2000 Geneva Motor Show and officially produced for the 2001 model year in the U.S. Occasionally called the Silver Seraph Park Ward, this model was stretched 10 inches longer than the Silver Seraph and meanwhile retained the 5-passenger seating of the regular model. In 2002 the Park Ward was also discontinued after a total of 127 models were produced.
Before production was ended, a total of 1,570 Silver Seraphs were produced and was indirectly replaced by the Rolls-Royce Phantom in 2003.