When one thinks of the name Rolls-Royce, one thinks style, prestige and of course, money. A Rolls-Royce is the epitome of automotive sophistication and has been the choice of movie stars, captains of industry and royalty since their very inception back in 1904.
They are also perhaps as well known for their iconic hood ornament. Rumor has it that the designer based it on his mistress, the aptly named “Spirit of Ecstasy” or “Flying Lady” has graced the hoods of Rolls-Royce automobiles since the early 1920s.
One doesn’t necessarily think of the Rolls-Royce and speed however, but one would be wrong on that account. Rolls-Royce automobiles had long been known as being fast cars, winning many of the first races held in Europe. The company is also linked to many airplane racing wins and took home the prestigious Schneider Trophy in the 1929 seaplane race.
Tragically, co-founder Charles Rolls was killed in a 1910 air show crash only 6 years after he and Sir Henry Royce formed their partnership. Rolls-Royce also produced the “Merlin” engine that powered the famed Spitfire, and it was the addition of the supercharged Merlin engine that turned a till-then average performing plane into the venerable P-51 Mustang that was deemed the best fighter plane of WWII. To think that Rolls-Royce is only for the well-heeled among us is to forget that high-performance was always at the forefront of every R-R design.
Then there is this particular 1930 Rolls-Royce. The car was purchased complete and whole by a gentlemen in Michigan, but this car takes the performance aspect to a level that exceeds anything that had come before it, while still retaining that Rolls-Royce appeal.
To do so, he began by having Ron Sall Bodywerx of Holland, Michigan, build a custom frame. It entails fully boxed rails with an IFS, 4-link rear suspension holding the 9-inch rearend and disc brakes on all corners. Its narrow dimensions fit perfectly with the stock Rolls-Royce body while still providing strength for what was to come.
While the chassis was being constructed, a call went out to Dan Lesser at Viper Specialty Performance of Amherst, New York. Viper Specialty Performance has been in business since 2004, and does not hesitate to tackle complex problems. Lesser, who’s motto is “We do not believe in good enough,” started out dealing with exotic type cars and specialized in solutions design and engineering. Being racers, they do race engine design and building, forced induction system design and production, and motorsport electronics.
But, as the name implies, Lesser and his crew normally specialize in Dodge Vipers. They take the already potent V-10 engines and tune them to achieve peak power. What the owner wanted for his Rolls was anything but normal however; he wanted Lesser to install a Viper V-10 engine into the car. “Long story short, we were contracted about a year ago to supply a Viper powertrain,” said Lessor.
Lessor and his crew were to manufacture or modify a number of components for “show” (Polished parts, fuel rails, etc) and build a standalone Pectel Engine Management System and custom wiring harness and then complete the installation.
Lessor located a 2004 Viper powertrain (engine, clutch and transmission) and helped with the installation of all mechanical systems related to the Viper engine. In addition, they also designed and built a custom, stand-alone engine wiring harness based on the Pectel ECU and installed the wiring system.
They also completed the chassis portions of system installation, configured the hardware and then tuned the Pectel ECU to properly run the engine in this vehicle. Lessor then “show” tailored certain items of the engine, such as custom fuel rails and various polished parts.
A set of elaborately styled chromed headers snake their way from the engine, proceed over the frame rails and out through the side panels before continuing on beneath the running boards and back to the rear of the car. The result is nothing short of amazing. Thanks to the long hood, the engine fits perfectly and the show touches that Lessor and his crew added to the Viper gives it the look and feel of a true hot rod engine.
With the frame and running gear installed, and the body back on, the car was then turned over to ACR Performance of Fruitport, Michigan, who was charged with giving the car an interior that would have made the original stitchers proud. Let’s face it, this is a Rolls-Royce. Rolls owners expect opulence and the ACR crew didn’t disappoint.
When they received the car, it didn’t have any interior at all and a new top was needed. After they were done with the base structure, they sealed the top and applied a ¼-inch thick foam pad. Then they measured, fit and sewed the top, which is black canvas, and attached it to the car by stretching and stapling the edges.
ACR then fabricated a new dash out of wood and provided the lower edge with a fancy routered design. They also provided holes for the many gauges that were needed to keep an eye on the Viper engine’s vitals.
The woodwork was hardly over though, as custom door panels, rear panels with fabricated arm rests were made of wood to provide the proper support. Sound deadening material was glued to the inside of the roof and covered in ¼-inch board to equal out the spacing for the headliner.
They covered the seats in leather and custom trim pieces were designed and made for the shifter boot, parking brake boot and door handles. All of the leather pieces for the door panels, kick panels, and rear panels were sewn together with padding at equal measurements.
Sill plates were custom made to size and polished, as were the various handles. No detail was left undone, just as the Rolls-Royce factory made sure that their cars were the envy of all other drivers.
We love the idea of resto-rods. We love the look of the old vehicles, but are spoiled (and freely admit it!) as to how modern vehicles run. As with any good resto-rod, this car was built to be a driver, and all of the problematic original parts have been redesigned or replaced with state of the art mechanical and electronic pieces.
This car even has heat, A/C, and all of the bells and whistles that one would expect to find on a daily-driver, let alone a Rolls-Royce. As of this writing, the car was “99%” done, with just a few minor things to finish before being shown at the Detroit Autorama.
We think that not only have the various shops done an outstanding job with the build, but the result is one that Charles Rolls and Henry Royce themselves would be happy with.