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Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Convertible 1970 (Muhammad Ali)



Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Convertible 1970

Ex-Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali)

Coachwork by H J Mulliner, Park Ward

Chassis no. DRX 9108

•One of only 272 left-hand drive Convertibles

•Owned by Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali) for its first six years

•Resident in Holland for many years

•Never fully restored



Offered here is a significant piece of sporting and motoring history in the form of a 1970 Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Convertible, originally owned by boxing legend, Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali). Voted 'Sportsman of the Century', Ali is the only three-time lineal Heavyweight Champion and has been ranked the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time. 

This sporting hero was still known as Cassius Clay when he bought the Rolls-Royce new in New Jersey in December 1970, possibly in celebration of having regained his boxing license, which had been taken away when he refused to be drafted into the United States military during the Vietnam War, citing religious principles. As punishment, he was stripped of both his boxing license and passport for nearly five years.

In August 1970, the City of Atlanta granted Ali a license and in 1974 he took part in arguably the most famous boxing match of all time, 'The Rumble in the Jungle' in which he knocked out the hitherto undefeated World Heavyweight Champion George Foreman just before the end of the eighth round. Ali's fights regularly drew record audiences, including 1 billion television viewers for 'The 'Rumble in the Jungle' and 'Thrilla in Manila', and 2 billion for 'Spinks vs Ali' in 1978.

Ali was a known Rolls-Royce enthusiast - he owned many during his life - and the prospect of owning its most expensive top-of-the-range model - the Silver Shadow Convertible - must have been irresistible. With the Silver Shadow's introduction, Rolls-Royce switched to unitary construction for the chassis/body, which meant that by the mid-1960s the market for traditional coachbuilt automobiles had been severely curtailed. Of the many hundreds of firms trading pre-war, just two - James Young and the now combined firm of H J Mulliner, Park Ward Ltd - were left to meet the demand for a coachbuilt Rolls-Royce or Bentley, though these might be more accurately termed conversions rather than 100 percent bespoke creations. 

Recalling its glamorous Grandes Routières of pre-war days such as the Phantom II Continental, Rolls-Royce's final coachbuilt models - entrusted to the company's in-house coachbuilder H J Mulliner, Park Ward - were limited to just two: a two-door coupé or similar convertible, the former arriving in March 1966 and the latter in September the following year. The cars were hand built in the best traditions of British coachbuilding using only materials of the finest quality, including Wilton carpeting, Connolly hide, and burr walnut veneers, a necessarily lengthy process that took all of 20 weeks for the saloon and slightly longer for the more complex convertible. This painstaking attention to detail resulted in a price some 50% higher than the standard Silver Shadow's. Nevertheless, demand for these more glamorous alternatives to the much more numerous Silver Shadow was strong right from the start, a state of affairs that resulted in them being given their own model name - 'Corniche' - in March 1971. 

This Silver Shadow Convertible was owned by Ali for some six years, passing to a second owner in the USA in 1976. The car has since found its way to Europe before being purchased by the current owner, an enthusiast in Holland. The car has never been completely restored; even the rare optional headrests (as can be seen on the archive photo) are still in place and it still retains most of the original interior, but the latter has had a colour change. The current owner has tried to keep the car original, especially the interior, while making substantial improvements.

Accompanying documentation includes copies of the original Car Specification sheet and Warranty Acknowledgement; a copy of Clay's Temporary Drivers License; Netherlands registration papers; a photo book and a copy of the photograph taken of Muhammad Ali and his close friend Diana Ross with the Rolls-Royce outside Caesar's Palace, Las Vegas before Ali's fight with Joe Bugner in February 1973. 

Described by the vendor as in very good condition mechanically, this rare and exclusive Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Convertible represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to own not only an impressive motor car but a piece of history originally belonging to one of the world's greatest ever sportsmen.


Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Convertible 1970 (Muhammad Ali)


SOLD €132,250


  • Model: Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Convertible
  • Year: 1970
  • Coachbuilder: H J Mulliner, Park Ward
  • Designer: H J Mulliner
  • Production nr.: 505
  • Seller: Bonhams
  • Country: Belgium
  • Contact: www.bonhams.com
  • Auction: BONHAMS - THE ZOUTE SALE 05-10-2018
  • Auction date: 05 October 2018
  • Tags: 1970, Bonhams, convertible, Rolls-Royce

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