Celebrating over a century of Rolls-Royce convertibles
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars rings in over 110 years of convertibles in an exploration into three of the its most coveted drop-tops
On a good day, with a gentle breeze blowing through the cabin and nothing but miles of blue sky above, drop-top driving is one of the most pleasurable experiences in the motoring world. The handful of early adopters that traded their horse and carriage for combustion engine motorcars would have been accustomed to canvas-topped cars with very little in the way of protection from the elements. But one particular manufacturer became known for its ability to make the finest convertibles in the world.
Enter Rolls-Royce, whose very first drop top came in the shape of the Ghost in 1906. An elaboration construction of brass, wood, steel and leather gave this prototypical limousine a charm and luxury beyond all other cars of the time, contributing to its fabled reputation as the ‘best car in the world’. Loved for not just its quality but for their famed reliability, Rolls convertibles have remained a popular choice for well-heeled buyers with a penchant for a high-profile public image. Rolls’ convertible cars were soon recognised all over the world, with one particular Ghost, the 1912 car now affectionately known as ‘Nellie’, making it into the personal collection of the Maharaja of Nabha shortly after it rolled off the production line in Derby.
With a reputation to uphold, Rolls-Royce went on to evolve the concept of the convertible, honing its models to ever greater heights of perfectionism. By 1955, its principle model was the mighty Silver Cloud, offered as a limousine and also as a two-door coupé and a two-door drophead, the latter two created by various esteemed coachbuilders. The Silver Cloud, presumably named for its majestic ride quality, could reach a top speed of 106mph while its occupants sat surrounded by swathes of the finest leather and crafted wood, enclosed in a voluptuous new steel body. Sporting high-tech options such as electric windows and rear armrest mounted speakers, the Silver Cloud represented open top motoring without compromise. With only 107 dropheads made, this particular 1959 car was originally the work of the coachbuilder H.J Mulliner and was loving restored by DM Historics in 2017, bringing the car back to its former glory.
Another half century on, and Rolls-Royce is once again in the business of making the world’s best drop tops. 2015 saw the introduction of the imperious Rolls-Royce Dawn, the topless variant of the Wraith, both of which are derived from the company’s four-door Ghost. With every conceivable luxury and high-tech add-on, it goes without saying that the Dawn is worlds apart from the trailblazing 1906 Ghost, save for one thing – they both stand head and shoulders above the competition when it comes to sheer luxury and presence.
Despite more than 113 years of near-continuous development separating the Ghost and the Dawn, all three of these cars share a singular quality; an unmistakable sense of superiority. Whether it’s the raw, mechanical beauty of the Ghost, the period charm of the Silver Cloud or the contemporary theatre of the Dawn, they demonstrate that Rolls-Royce is still pitching itself as the pinnacle of ultra-luxury driving, whether open or closed. While there are countless other convertible cars on the market – many with more impressive performance and rather lower price tags — none can glide along with the poise, prowess and presence of a Roller. Of course, these three aren’t the only examples of drop-top car built during the company’s history, but together they epitomise the evolving Rolls-Royce approach, a dedication and intent that has entered the language as a superlative. In this rarefied arena, it seems the manufacturer still reigns supreme, retaining an image it earned well over 100 years ago. §