What’s It Like to Drive a Z06-Powered Rolls-Royce? “Yeehaw!” Says Leno

by Grace Houghton
13 May 2024 3 min read
What’s It Like to Drive a Z06-Powered Rolls-Royce? “Yeehaw!” Says Leno
(Photos: Ringbrothers)

Car history boffins know that 120 years ago this year, Rolls met Royce. But did you know that a Silver Cloud once met … a Corvette?

Welcome to the latest custom-built creation of Ringbrothers, the hot-rod shop based in Wisconsin, USA. Though this 1961 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II debuted last year at the industry-only SEMA show in Las Vegas, brothers Mike and Jim Ring brought it to Jay Leno’s Garage last week, and we couldn’t resist another chance to savour the coolness of this lovingly crafted hot rod.

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This week’s featured car on Jay Leno’s Garage is Leno’s own Spectre, Rolls’ first all-electric car (read our review of the model here), but a ’60s Silver Cloud is probably more in line with what most people imagine when they hear the words “Rolls-Royce.” Leno, ever the comedian, tells the story of driving a similar model, loaned to his shop by a friend who bought it for $15K and wanted Jay’s staff to help him fix it up. “I pull up to a light and look over, a guy gives me the finger!” Leno says. It’s all smiles and waves, he says, when he drives his McLaren F1, valued around £19,000,000. But in the Rolls? “I look like a landlord – c’mon, gimme the rent!’”

Leno Ringbrothers Custom Rolls-Royce steering wheel

This Rolls came to the Ringbrothers shop wearing not white but baby blue. Under its hood was the engine that Rolls built it with, an aluminium-block 6230cc V8 topped with two single-barrel SU carburetors and making 230bhp.

At first glance, only Rolls-Royce faithful would spot anything different about this Silver Cloud, because brothers Jim and Mike Ring kept external modifications to an absolute minimum. The clues are in the size of the wheels – 18 inches in diameter rather than 15 – and in the bulbs in the taillights and front turn signals, which are LEDs.

Leno Ringbrothers Custom Rolls-Royce rear three quarter

All you have to do, of course, is click “play” on this video to realise that something is very, very different about this Rolls. A supercharger whine gives away the secret: An LT4 V8, the same engine that Chevrolet put in the seventh-generation Corvette Z06, sits below the centre-hinged hood of this British beauty. It’s backed by a 10-speed automatic transmission and kept in rein by a beefy set of Baer brakes: Six-piston calipers clamping 15-inch rotors, hidden behind a set of EVOD Industries wheels whose caps are self-levelling affairs bearing the twin Rs of the Rolls name.

Leno Ringbrothers Custom Rolls-Royce engine

Ringbrothers fit the new powertrain into the car thanks to a chassis swap. They scanned the original frame, then worked with fellow industry veterans Roadster Shop to craft a modern version in steel. The fully independent suspension is similarly modern, thanks to a six-inch RS SV coilover from Fox at each wheel. Ringbrothers shopped freely from the General Motors catalogue to build this 640bhp beast: The sway bars use end links from a C6 Corvette. The exhaust is from a Cadillac ATS-V, chosen (and modified) by the brothers for its dual-mode function: “As you jump on it it doesn’t get a whole lot louder, but it does open a second set of pipes.”

And Leno does jump on it: In the back seat, Jim is shoved backwards by the acceleration. Mike and Leno wear giant grins, and Leno lets out a yeehaw!

Just how fast is this cosmopolitan Brit? To find out, Ringbrothers raced it against a 2023 Rolls-Royce Phantom, powered by a twin-turbo V12 making 563bhp. We won’t spoil the surprise … have a watch below:

Changes to the interior are similarly understated. Instead of a glovebox to the right of the steering wheel, there’s an air conditioning vent. The outlines of the dash are the same, but the wood colour is different – the panels are actually aluminium, hydrodipped to look like a lighter, more modern-looking wood. The headliner mimics the Starlight one on modern Rolls-Royces, because the customer wanted the ceiling to look like that of his modern Rolls. Why not, you know?

Leno Ringbrothers Custom Rolls-Royce interior

Jay Leno repeatedly praises the build quality of the Ringbrothers’ shop, honking the horn to emphasise their attention to detail, and enthusiastically declaring, “So fun having a Rolls-Royce that handles!” As always, we’re re-watching the video, wishing for our own turn behind the wheel. The combination of V8 roar and supercharger whine, though, is good enough for now.

It’s increasingly fashionable these days to EV-swap a Rolls. If you had a Silver Cloud, what would you do: Leave it stock, swap in batteries for an ultra-silent experience, or start browsing Chevrolet crate engines?

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