I Just Drove This Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III From Hamburg To Berlin
Photography by Jayson Fong; driving photos by BMW Group Classic
I turn the key and the entire car gives a slight shudder. It’s only the slightest of hints, but it’s the only one that tells me the 6.2L V8 beneath the enormous bonnet in front of me has fired up to life—typical of Rolls Royce vehicles, I can barely hear the motor running. On the other hand, here I am, excited but also cautious as I prepare to take a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe out for a pre-event test drive before the 9th Hamburg to Berlin Klassik.
I’ve always had a curiosity about what it would be like to drive a 1960s Rolls Royce. Like many, I have regarded them as one of the best physical representations of luxury. However, this example built in 1966 is more than your ordinary Rolls Royce. Finished in a light sage green, the pictured car is a rarer ‘Chinese Eye’ Drophead Coupe coachbuilt by HJ Mulliner, Park Ward. Although its looks might be arguably less ‘classic’ compared to the rounded headlamps of the earlier Silver Clouds, the iconic Rolls Royce grille, sheer size, and open top of the car draws attention to you whether you like it or not.
The quick drive around the block is definitely a good idea, the perfect chance to meet my co-driver Christoph and get acquainted with the car which will be our home on the road for the next three days—it’s surreal, to say the least. With creature comforts including a soft carpet floor, leather seats, electric windows and roof, radio and automatic gearbox, we are certainly more well off in comfort compared to the BMW 2002 Rallye beside us. Slotting the wheel mounted lever into gear and releasing the handbrake, I gently touch the accelerator, getting a feel for travel, and ease out of the narrow parking lot.
It’s an incredibly funny yet anxious first experience as we laugh about the ridiculous size of the car and its ‘look at me attitude’ of such a machine, I simultaneously attempt to make our way around corners in our 18 ft (5.5m) long convertible while being watched by confused commuters in compact city cars. We return to the carpark unscathed, and I successfully navigate a reverse park, although with the help of three others.
A sigh of relief then, at least we would begin the rally semi-prepared…
Our journey begins in the centre of Hamburg with the first special stage and it is certainly educational. Both Christoph and I immediately realise the humour of competing in a regularity rally with such a large vehicle. With the focus being on the front of the car crossing the line at exactly the right time, we have encountered our first issue: we have no idea where the front of the car is.
Regardless, after careful negotiation with lorries and commuters through the city, we make it to the open road, where the drive truly becomes a lofty experience and certainly more comfortable. With over two tonnes of weight to haul, the Silver Cloud isn’t the quickest off the line or the quickest to stop. However, at speed, it proved to be surprisingly capable at overtaking and felt incredibly stable. With the right timing and my foot firmly on the floor, the 4 speed hydramatic drops a gear and delivers a satisfying sense of urgency with the V8 quietly burbling as if on low volume.
Narrowing it down, perhaps the best way to describe the driving experience would be to imagine taking your couch for a drive and your entire living room joining in.
Through town we become increasingly grateful for the soft suspension on cobblestones, and are amazed by the the Silver Cloud’s sense of occasion. With steering that encourages large shuffles of the thin wheel from hand to hand as the most efficient way to navigate streets, you are made to feel incredibly aristocratic and noble. Together with a light toot of the horn to acknowledge the waving crowd in town centres always resulting in an eruption of applause and cheers, the illusion is almost complete.
By closing day of the Hamburg to Berlin Klassik, it is safe to say we were completely comfortable in the Silver Cloud—even managing a 1st place on the final special stage of the rally when we ‘zeroed’ by crossing the line exactly on time. After three days of driving, a 90th place finish out of 182 starters, and some unforgettable moments including being on a runway with a Mini Cooper and a chasing Biplane, I would be deceiving you to say I wasn’t a little be saddened to have to leave our grand transport behind.
However, what I will always be able to take with me is the magical experience of having being at the wheel of a Rolls Royce…not just any, but a Silver Cloud III Drophead Coupe, one of the most regal of all.