Thoughts and advice on the care and feeding of fine automobiles from Machine Aficionado and bestselling author John Elder Robison, owner of JE Robison Service in Springfield, Massachusetts

We are independent restoration, repair, sales and service for Audi, BMW, Bentley, Jaguar, Land Rover, Mercedes-Benz, Porsche and Rolls-Royce automobiles.

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Rolls Royce woodwork

Have you ever thought about re-doing the wood in your classic car?  Here is an example of wood restoration in a forty-year-old Rolls Royce, to a standard that’s better than new.

Here’s the car, to give you a sense of perspective.  It’s a rare long wheelbase 1972 Silver Shadow, later called a Silver Wraith.   This example is very clean and mostly original.  

The wood finish was hazy from age.  Take a look at the photos and you’ll see what I mean.

It's in good shape, but the hazing of age has made it look rather plain.  It didn't look this flat 40 years ago, and the owner wants that original pop back.

We began by removing the wood from the car, and then removing the brackets, seals and other bits that are secured to the wood trim.  All those bits need to be photographed and tagged so they can be refitted later on.

Quite a bit of disassembly is required to remove all the wood.  It's deceptive because the big dashboard pieces come off in minutes but then it takes days to get the bits that surround the front and rear windows, the vanity mirrors, the seats, and all over the doors and body.

In this car you can see the wood substrate for the dash.  Rolls Royce cars built after the early 1970s used a metal frame for the dash - this is one of the last traditional wood framed dashes.

The piece above goes to the right of the glove box, and it's split in back.  That wasn't visible until it was removed.

When you get the wood off the car you see the chassis number written on the back of each piece, along with the original craftsman's mark.  

The process of “stripping” the wood takes at least as long as removing it from the vehicle.  Plan on several days labor.  If you mix these little bits up there will be hell to pay when you try and put the car back together.  

The wood pieces are inventoried checked and sent off to the master woodworker.  We work with several folks, each of which has different areas of skill and specialization.  William Rau did the work on this car.

If you have a Rolls Royce, and you want the best there is, he is your man.

This job involved some repair where the wood had cracked from age or the veneer had lifted.  Knowing we had to replace some veneers this car’s owner opted to redo all the veneer in a more unique way.

We asked Rau for some samples with stronger grain, and talked about changes to the pattern.  He sent us some sample veneers for approval, and we talked about stylistic changes.

We decided to remove the old 8-track tape player, and fill the hole.  That meant a new piece had to be made for the center, and he sent that to us in rough form to verify the fit.

Finally the finished wood arrived.  What a change.  The detail Will put into the veneer is finer than anything Rolls had done originally.  The door cap pings are now rolled smoothly, like the coach built cars of the fifties and the Turbo Rs of the nineties.  And the depth of grain and color is just stunning.

This car's owner also decided to fit a wood steering wheel.  The Rau wood wheels are famous and this one was matched to the rest of the wood in the car.  It gives a better feel than the original plastic though some purists prefer the original plastic.  

The finished result is truly striking.  It totally transforms the interior of this car, and brings it well beyond where it was when new.

This is the door before:

And this is the door now:

Here's the whole dash:


Eric said...

This is simply incredible. The craftsmanship is better than the original work, and when you think of the talent that is Rolls Royce that is saying something. I love seeing these restoration posts, the Lincoln was my favorite until now. Keep them coming.

Antony Cooke said...

The craftsmanship might be incredible, but it looks all wrong on a Shadow. The wheel is even worse; entirely inapprpropriate. In my opinion, these changes devalue the car. Original, as they say, is best. RR knew what they were doing.

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