By on June 22, 2021

Sweeping lines and a beautiful coupe silhouette, penned by one of the finest Italian design firms and built with care and attention to detail. Yes, the Rolls-Royce Camargue had one of those features. Let’s check out what happened in the Seventies when Rolls stepped outside their typical conservative mold.

In the Seventies, Rolls-Royce was still a small independent manufacturer that built its low volume of cars fairly slowly. At the time, the company had two platforms to use across its range: Production models like the Silver Shadow, Silver Wraith, and Corniche were all based on the Shadow. The other platform was for the much larger Phantom, which was in its sixth generation from 1968 through 1990.

Naturally, the new Camargue shared the Shadow’s platform, and when it debuted in 1975 was the first foreign-designed Rolls-Royce after World War II. Penned at Pininfarina by Paolo Martin (of Fiat 130 fame), the Camargue was supposed to attract a zestier, even wealthier Rolls buyer than the much more conservative Corniche. Racy buyers should have noted the grille was canted rearward at seven degrees, a first for the company. I’m feeling sporty already.

Said zesty buyer would need to be well-heeled indeed, as the Camargue was the most expensive production car in the world at its introduction, and second in the Rolls range only to the non-production Phantom. The Camargue made its way to tempt the North American consumer by 1976, as its first full year of production was meant for the UK market. Stateside customers paid more than British customers – around $5,000 more – because Rolls-Royce felt the trials and costs they experienced for federalization should be passed to the consumer. With only 30 or so odd units expected to move in the US each year, its customers wouldn’t mind the upcharge.

As the Rolls-Royce flagship, the Camargue featured the company’s newest technology. Most touted was the automatic climate control which was split-level, and a market first per Rolls. A complex affair, it took engineers at Crewe eight years to develop the system. Underneath, the air-conditioned coupe used the same six and three-quarter liter V8 as its Shadow brother, as well as the three-speed GM automatic. Its 120-inch wheelbase was the same as Corniche, and it had the same exact length as Corniche as well, 203.5 inches.

The Camargue received mixed reviews at its introduction but was featured on several different worst or ugly car lists in the decades following. Slow sales due to its price got even slower as the Seventies progressed and the pound experienced significant depreciation. To make up the difference, Rolls-Royce jacked the price.

Camargue remained in production through 1986, and the Corniche soldiered on alone after its demise. In its 12 years of production, just 531 Camargues were built. Fairly early in the run was today’s Rare Ride. A right-hand-drive example originally sold in Japan, it’s finished in Heinz Ketchup Red with a light parchment interior that features very crooked ketchup piping on the door panels. Located in Ohio (somehow) it’s traveled nearly 43,000 miles and is yours for $64,900.

[Images: Rolls-Royce]

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18 Comments on “Rare Rides: The 1978 Rolls-Royce Camargue, Most Beautiful Seventies Car for Sure...”

  • avatar

    “Located in Ohio (somehow)”

    I didn’t know Jack Baruth had a Rolls.

  • avatar

    “The Camargue received mixed reviews at its introduction but was featured on several different worst or ugly car lists in the decades following.”

    Which proves that even Rolls Royce had it’s “malaise” period. There’s a convertible version of this on Hemmings for a $110K, so if you’ve got to have one the price is not out of line

  • avatar

    If you are going to use the word ketchup when describing the exterior color then you must characterize the interior as having the same hue as a plate of pale French fries. Certainly so if the upholstery piping looks like it was squeezed out of a bottle.

    All or nothing please, just like a buyer’s commitment to whatever hot mess the boys from Crewe were rolling out the factory doors back then.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    From the front it doesn’t look much different than a ’75 Mark IV with it’s light pods open, does it?

  • avatar

    Growing up a Rolls-Royce was some mystical thing to be aspired to.

    In the mid-90’s as a young adult had the opportunity to attend the Detroit auto show (NAIAS) during ‘Supplier Days’ (after the press, before the public) [before the stanchions were erected around the ‘special’ vehicles] and actually sat in the driver seat of a Rolls. Saw the 70’s switchgear and felt vaguely sick to my stomach (i.e., -major- disappointment).

    Recently re-watched some James May Top Gear-related thing about ‘affordable’ vintage Rolls-Royces and I could see the appeal.

  • avatar

    There’s room for a lot of lines of cocaine on that hood.

  • avatar

    [@Corey, bad link I think? – feel free to axe this comment when fixed or if I’m crazy.]

  • avatar

    I remember when the Camargue launched – I thought the styling was clean, but a bit too generic. I can see the Fiat 130 influence, and maybe too many buyers did, also. More of an aircraft look to the instrument panel than the typical Rolls.

  • avatar

    Huh I wonder if the 100kph redline is supposed to be a substitute for the then-mandated-in-Japan 100kph warning chime.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “most beautiful seventies car for sure”

    I’ll bite. My first thought for that prize goes to the Fiat Dino, Maserati Bora, the ridiculous Lamborghini Countach, the Lancia Stratos, Lotus Esprit, or even a 79 Mustang Cobra. I could be sold on several others that haven’t come to mind yet.

    Nobody had a poster of a Camargue on the wall next to Farrah Fawcett. :)

    • 0 avatar

      Methinks Corey was being a bit facetious.

      But, yeah, I wouldn’t put this on my list of best-looking ’70s cars. I can think of some good looking American iron from back then too – how about a ’71 Camaro?

      My fave ’70s design has to be the Ferrari 308. Now THAT one was on dorm room walls…including mine.

  • avatar

    The most beautiful car of 1970s was ZIL-114.

  • avatar

    I guess it’s in the eye of the beholder… but this is the second ugliest Rolls ever – topped only by the current “Wraith” (“Wrath”). It’s the fastback that looks like a hatchback – reminds me of Frazier’s brother Niles, talking about his rent car – “it’s a Hunchback – no, hatchback – why would you name a car after it’s least attractive feature?”

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    I take offense with that blatantly misleading headline.

    The Mark IV had the same grille, hideaway headlights, opera windows, coach lights, a far better looking profile and the ‘continental’ back.

    And the Mark IV was in many respects not only better looking it was a better automobile.

    The Mark IV had a bigger engine (460 cid v 380), was longer (228 inches v 203.5) had relatively the same wheelbase, had a more sumptuous interior, was quieter inside and was far more reliable.

    Even the Lincoln Town Car would be preferable to the ‘Roller’.

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