It’s a bit unusual to see something at Greenwich that is squarely in the Mobile Conference Room class, but in my eyes this was one of the overlooked gems of the 2012 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance. Known to people outside the limousine industry as the C-pillar stretch, this Rolls-Royce Silver Spur by Mulliner Park Ward from 1993 was easily one of the heaviest things at the show, and also one of the most stealthy.
How can that be? It was simply lost in a sea of restored and overrestored pre-war European classics and a dozen gleaming Ferraris. But what makes this example hard to find (aside from the styling being somewhat dated) is the architecture of the body itself, where a new C-pillar section is created using the rear doors, and the rear doors themselves are reengineered entirely. A very labor intensive process, needless to say, and one that has fallen out of favor by the late 1990s. The more traveled among you will perhaps recall that this basic architecture was employed on the Bertone-styled Volvo 264TE and some of Carat Duchatelet’s W140 stretches. What makes this car rare is that this style of coachbuilt limousine just isn’t made anymore simply due to the expense of reworking so many parts of the car.
This isn’t really a limousine in the way that we think about limousines. For a country filled with disposable stretch limos, they’re something we take for granted, and exterior and interior design is whatever shows up at the door. The black car trade is just that: slightly nicer body-on-frame cars that are sliced at a breakneck pace to keep the limo companies humming along, shuttling executives back and forth from LaGuardia and the financial district.
You’ve seen this sort of stretch before, though perhaps you weren’t thinking about it at the time. The Maybach 57 and 62 avoided the refabrication part of the process entirely as they were designed with the sedan and limousine variants from the start, but the basic premise seen in the design of the 62 is here. Not even BMW bothered with reworking the basic architecture of the E38 to such a degree, opting for a simple mid-insert for its somewhat blase L7 limo. Brabus went the same route with its W220 Business Sedan, adding an insert to the B-pillar to give the rear passengers more legroom.
But this Mulliner Park Ward is meant for an entirely different audience, for private ownership rather than queasy rides through Manhattan. Cars likes these lived on large estates just outside European and Asian capitals, sharing garage space with Range Rovers and perhaps an armored G-wagen or two. Their owners were never new money, and tended to use these cars just for being driven back and forth from the office.
Mulliner Park Ward never really followed up on this type of limousine, as the Arnage and the Seraph were relatively short-lived, and because their audience largely shifted to things like armored Mercedes-Benz W220s. The Maybach 62 certainly picked up a large share of this type of clientele, perhaps winning over customers with its anonymous looks and the fact that what you were really buying is the interior. But this type of limousine was never really followed up on, because the demand for this type of architecture was always quite limited. And it’s a shame to some degree that large sedans aren’t really reworked into complex limousines of this particular type, as the clientele has either shifted to stealthier or flashier modes of transport. To find cars like this you’d have to raid the long-term storage garages of Middle-Eastern or Asian oligarchs, as stretches of this type were already classics at the time they were made.
This Mulliner Park Ward then is an artifact from a different age, having more in common with the Mercedes 600 Pullman than a modern LWB Phantom. And that’s why it was such a treat to see this example.
Full gallery from Greenwich 2012 below: