Sweeping lines and a beautiful coupe silhouette, penned by one of the finest Italian design firms and built with care and attention to detail. Yes, the Rolls-Royce Camargue had one of those features. Let’s check out what happened in the Seventies when Rolls stepped outside their typical conservative mold.
In the Seventies, Rolls-Royce was still a small independent manufacturer that built its low volume of cars fairly slowly. At the time, the company had two platforms to use across its range: Production models like the Silver Shadow, Silver Wraith, and Corniche were all based on the Shadow. The other platform was for the much larger Phantom, which was in its sixth generation from 1968 through 1990.
Naturally, the new Camargue shared the Shadow’s platform, and when it debuted in 1975 was the first foreign-designed Rolls-Royce after World War II. Penned at Pininfarina by Paolo Martin (of Fiat 130 fame), the Camargue was supposed to attract a zestier, even wealthier Rolls buyer than the much more conservative Corniche. Racy buyers should have noted the grille was canted rearward at seven degrees, a first for the company. I’m feeling sporty already.
Said zesty buyer would need to be well-heeled indeed, as the Camargue was the most expensive production car in the world at its introduction, and second in the Rolls range only to the non-production Phantom. The Camargue made its way to tempt the North American consumer by 1976, as its first full year of production was meant for the UK market. Stateside customers paid more than British customers – around $5,000 more – because Rolls-Royce felt the trials and costs they experienced for federalization should be passed to the consumer. With only 30 or so odd units expected to move in the US each year, its customers wouldn’t mind the upcharge.
As the Rolls-Royce flagship, the Camargue featured the company’s newest technology. Most touted was the automatic climate control which was split-level, and a market first per Rolls. A complex affair, it took engineers at Crewe eight years to develop the system. Underneath, the air-conditioned coupe used the same six and three-quarter liter V8 as its Shadow brother, as well as the three-speed GM automatic. Its 120-inch wheelbase was the same as Corniche, and it had the same exact length as Corniche as well, 203.5 inches.
The Camargue received mixed reviews at its introduction but was featured on several different worst or ugly car lists in the decades following. Slow sales due to its price got even slower as the Seventies progressed and the pound experienced significant depreciation. To make up the difference, Rolls-Royce jacked the price.
Camargue remained in production through 1986, and the Corniche soldiered on alone after its demise. In its 12 years of production, just 531 Camargues were built. Fairly early in the run was today’s Rare Ride. A right-hand-drive example originally sold in Japan, it’s finished in Heinz Ketchup Red with a light parchment interior that features very crooked ketchup piping on the door panels. Located in Ohio (somehow) it’s traveled nearly 43,000 miles and is yours for $64,900.[Images: Rolls-Royce]