THE Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit is a handsome car, the epitome of the super-luxury land yachts of the 1980s. Sure, they ran the ageing 6.75-litre V8 and a basic GM auto, but introduced refinements such as active suspension, along with – <scratching record sound>
What’s that? This ISN’T a Rolls-Royce? Oh yeah, now that you mention it, closer inspection reveals several issues. The grille’s a bit ‘off’ for a start, like when you meet someone whom you suspect has a papa that’s also their brother. Looking down the back, those tail-light lenses look a bit ‘Year 9 tech studies’, while the doors are – well, they’re Kingswood doors.
So what is it? It’s a Glammer, baby. And it’s from the 80s, back when any self-respecting wannabe coke dealer improved their Hong Kong-import Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC coupe with a $4000 car fax and an expensive bodykit.
During those halcyon days, arguably the crown prince of bodykit vendors was Geoff Heard of Adelaide’s Creative Cars. Geoff’s company could supply your Benz, RX-7, 300ZX or KC Laser (not even kidding) with a slick kit to match your white linen suit and ponytail, but better still, could completely transform your mum’s TA22 Celica into a semi-respectable Ferrari 308 GTB replica.
If the ‘Cerino’ sushi/pizza hybrid wasn’t to your liking, $10K could transmogrify any shagged-out Volkswagen Beetle into a Porsche 930 replica, with Creative Cars supplying everything from the panels and wheels to the rivets and bonnet release cable. If the idea of turning your antiquated, tail-happy, air-cooled German sedan into an antiquated, tail-happy, air-cooled German supercar sounds ridiculous in these modern times, try to understand that for the 1980s, these things were high-end.
Just how high-end? Well, back then, Creative Cars had their own stand at the Adelaide Motor Show, and possibly others for all we know. After selling 57 ‘Poraga’ kits in the first five months of production, including one to Channel 9, and a ‘Porrera’ to Penthouse magazine as its Pet Of The Year giveaway car, Creative Cars could reasonably be called “Australia’s sixth-largest auto manufacturer”.
For Geoff, clearly the sky was the limit, as he turned his company’s attention to the (replica) super-luxury saloon market. The Glammer brought Silver Spirit styling to a Kingswood body for beer money – assuming beer cost about $30,000 in 1988. Then again, with Rolls-Royce asking $250K for their product at that time, it seems like a comparative bargain.
Creative Cars preferred the HX/HZ-series up-spec Premier as the basis for their Glammer, to which they fitted WB Caprice headlights, Rolls-style bumpers and their own fibreglass body, in some places simply over the Holden sheet metal. The exact number produced is uncertain, but about a dozen seems to be the consensus, with sedan variants joined by at least two limos, and a solitary ute (in very un-Rolls orange) that is purported to still be with the original owner.
So have you heard of one of these? Do you remember noticing them? Well do you know who did? Rolls-freaking-Royce, that’s who! They spent November 1988 suing the crap out of Creative Cars, citing that “the level of copying was such that there was an attempt to pass the car off as genuine”.
Having cast an eye over one of these both in 2010 and more recently at the 2017 Old Skool N New Age Auto Show in SA, it’s pretty obvious the Glammer and the Roller are chalk and cheese. The driver of one of the Glammers showed me the sloped Holden rear quarters hiding behind the square fibreglass items, while mentioning that when the boot lock broke they didn’t bother replacing it; the boot lid is heavy enough to stay shut without latching! And although my experience with actual Silver Spirits is limited to a 1987 Matchbox release, I’m fairly certain the real deal didn’t have a pair of opposing Kingswood bench seats retrimmed in strip club-spec fuzzy velour.
Geoff’s brush with copyright law wasn’t his first. His ‘Cerino’ Ferrari replica was first released as the ‘Ferrino’, complete with a Prancing Horse logo, until a certain little Italian supercar company sent him a cease-and-desist letter.
Despite this prior form, in the case of the Glammer, Justice Trevor Morling was lenient, ordering only for Creative Cars to un-Rolls the grille a bit and refrain from using any actual Silver Spirits in their sales literature, for comparative purposes or otherwise.
Geoff was satisfied with the decision and made the changes required, with the car going into production more or less as originally intended. Interest was said to be high from hire car companies, and indeed the two Glammers I’ve seen were still plying that trade decades later.
As for private buyers, aside from ‘ute guy’ I’m not sure there were many takers for a Rolls-Royce based on a Holden and built in a saucepan factory in the back-blocks of Adelaide. But we hope there are some survivors out there, if only to make an LS-swapped Kinger that stands out from the rest, or at worst to donate its front panels to make a sick 80s pano the most ‘Glammerous’ in all the land.