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Car Tales: Life In The (Rolls-Royce) Camargue

Wild horses / Wouldn’t drag me away
‘So sang the Rolling Stones on their 1971 Sticky Fingers album, released that April. The cultural reference was the wild white horses of the Camargue, Western Europe’s largest river delta found in the south of France on the Mediterranean coast.
1981 Rolls-Royce Camargue for sale
‘This indigenous ancient breed was much celebrated, especially after White Mane won the Short Film Grand Prix at the 1953 Cannes Film Festival; this movie, about a wild stallion in this wild region of France and his friendship with a fearless and adventurous young boy, is directed by Albert Lamorisse, who went on to make the celebrated classic The Red Balloon.
‘The famous white Camarguais, known for their stamina, hardiness and agility, live in almost wild conditions in the marshy land of the region: the Camargue horse is the traditional mount of the Camargue cowboys who herd the area’s black bulls.
1981 Rolls-Royce Camargue side view
‘Camargue horses galloping through water is a popular and excitingly mysterious image of the region. So it’s a romantic notion, the Camargue, and one very in vogue in the early 1970s – romantic, that is, if you don’t mind the whine of mosquitoes, and the itchiness of having been bitten by the insects.
‘And as a south of France concept – an area then considered the quintessence of glamour – it was like the extreme reverse side of the gaming tables at Monte Carlo, 160 miles east along the Mediterranean coastline.
‘So you might not be surprised that at the end of the 1960s when Rolls-Royce was in the process of launching a range-topping coupe to slot in above its Corniche in the model range, it settled on the name of Rolls-Royce Camargue.
‘Here at Beverly Hills Car Club we have such a car right now, a 1981 Rolls-Royce Camargue with 45,663 miles on the odometer, in its factory color of Fenland Sedge with a chestnut interior. The Camargue comes with a clean Carfax and is equipped with an automatic transmission, air conditioning, power windows, power steering, and white line tires.
1981 Rolls-Royce Camargue rear
‘This Rolls-Royce Camargue is an excellent original California car that is mechanically sound, one of only 531 ever produced during the car’s 11-year production.
‘First sold in the UK for 29,250 pounds in 1975, the Rolls-Royce Camargue was then the most expensive car in the world. In the United States, meanwhile, where Rolls-Royce deemed it should appear even more exclusive, it was priced even higher, an additional $15,000 added on to the British cost. Throughout its 10-year production run, it would remain the most expensive car in the world, its final price in 1985 around $150,000. Although almost twice as expensive as a Rolls-Royce Corniche, which it sold as a hardtop from 1971 to 1980, it was mechanically identical to it in every way except for one: the Rolls-Royce Camargue was the first car to offer dual-zone climate control. Autocar described the system as ‘childishly simple’ to operate and the design featured in every subsequent Rolls-Royce and Bentley right up to 1998.
1981 Rolls-Royce Camargue dash
‘A luxury two door sedan, the Rolls-Royce Camargue was the flagship model for the Rolls-Royce range, built on the same platform as the Rolls-Royce Corniche and Silver Shadow and powered by a 6.7L V8 engine – a mighty 7.2-liter V8 had been essayed but never went into production.
‘The Camargue’s 6750cc V8 had extra power and torque to the Corniche: it would get to 60mph in 11 seconds, with a top speed of 118mph. Codenamed Project Delta, the Camargue was planned as long ago as 1969 to replace the Corniche two-door.
‘One of its several Unique Selling Points was its then very vogueish styling by Sergio Pininfarina, the Ferrari designer. It also offered ample lounging room for four people, effortless cruising with all the creature comforts of a luxury saloon.
‘Pininfarina was given the job of designing a stylish fastback that was right for the 1970s to sit on the existing Silver Shadow platform with most panels made of steel; the only alloy ones allowed were the doors (which still weighed a massive 100lb), bonnet and boot lid. All work was carried out at the London premises of specialist coachbuilder Mulliner Park Ward.
1981 Rolls-Royce Camargue engine
‘After the bodies were created they were sent north to Crewe for painting and assembling before returning to Mulliner for finishing: it took around 24 weeks to construct a single Camargue.
‘With such diligence and love behind it this chintzy coupé has to be one of the best-kept sleeping classics that there is. Prices are on the way up and the Rolls-Royce Camargue’s retro look is now quintessentially fashionable.
‘Wild Horses wouldn’t keep me away.
-Alex Manos, Owner
Rolls Royce Camargue buyer Alex Manos

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