“What happened there? Something went past us – and it was a van.” The words of Sir Michael Caine as he climbed out of the sumptuous passenger seat of his Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Two-Door Drophead Coupé in the 1969 documentary about the actor. “I won’t let it happen again, sorry,” was the response from Caine’s chauffeur.
The Rolls-Royce, wearing its original ‘UGN 842F’ number plates, features extensively in Candid Caine: A Self-Portrait of Michael Caine, with the star using it to revisit the house he lived in as a child.
Later, we see him wandering through the streets of London with the Rolls-Royce following him like an obedient dog. “One of my great pleasures is just to go for a walk; just walk along on my own. I’m also lazy and sybaritic, so I have a little bit of comfort just behind me in case I want to pop in.”
The Silver Shadow Drophead Coupé was Caine’s first car. Legend has it that he walked into the Jack Barclay showroom on Berkeley Square with a handwritten shopping list which read: ‘milk, bread, newspaper, cigarettes, Rolls-Royce’. An unshaven Caine, who by his own admission was looking a little worse for wear, was ushered off the premises.
Undeterred, he ventured over to H.A. Fox on Dover Street, where he found the Rolls-Royce which had been taken into stock after screenwriter Terence Rattigan cancelled his order.
Caine, who couldn’t drive, found it cheaper to employ a chauffeur than to pay the hefty insurance premium. The actor reportedly took great pleasure in flicking the V-sign whenever he wafted past the Jack Barclay showroom.
The actor, most famous in car circles for playing Charlie Crocker in The Italian Job and Jack Carter in Get Carter, passed his driving test at the age of 50. Speaking in 2011, he said: “It was weird. Before I took the test, the man said the guy who would be doing the test was sitting outside in the car and that I would only speak to him to say good morning.
“There would be no normal conversation – he would give me instructions, I would listen to him and that was that. There would be no personal remarks whatsoever. I got in the car and the guy looked at me and went, ‘I loved you in The Man Who Would Be King. You’re going to have to be s*** to not pass this test.’”
Caine didn’t hold on to the Rolls-Royce for very long. In 1970, he sold it to Jack Leach, owner of the infamous Gasworks restaurant in London, which drew all the big-name stars of the time. Re-registered as ‘ALO 182H’, the Rolls-Royce became a familiar sight Chelsea’s King’s Road, but was put into storage following Leach’s death in 2013.
Ten years later, and following a restoration that cost “the best part of £100,000”, Caine’s former Silver Shadow Drophead Coupé went under the hammer at the IWM Duxford sale, where it sold for £135,000, including premium.
Wearing its original ‘UGN 842F’ plates for display purposes, the car boasts just one front headrest; Caine’s chauffeur made do without one.
Not a lot of people know that Michael Caine never uttered his most famous catchphrase – Peter Sellers gets the credit for that – but we do know that £135k is a tidy price for a Silver Shadow Drophead Coupé, especially one with its doors still intact…