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1972 Rolls-Royce Silver-Shadow Bodied 1976 Dodge W200

Posted in Project Vehicles on April 1, 2007 Comment (0)
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Dick and Koos used the original front fenders. They did not change much at the front of the car (only the air dam and, of course, some restoration). Because of Dick's line of work, he had the right equipment and skills-including welding-to do the job.

This Rolls-Royce 4x4 pickup is not a concept vehicle, the brainchild of a crazy designer who thought he found a hole in the luxury 4x4 segment. Although at first glance it might seem that way. No, it's a unique product built out of necessity-and as a way to taunt the government.

The vehicle was born in the Netherlands, and you must first understand something about Dutch tax rules regarding cars. A while back (quite a while as a matter of fact-we're talking maybe 50 or 60 years), the Dutch government decided to raise taxes on luxury goods, including cars. Now viewed as a major source of income for the government, these taxes have increased excessively. Depending on the type of car, the Dutch consumer shells out between 40 to 45 percent luxury tax on the net price of a car. Above that, there's a 19 percent sales tax. Ouch. For the sake of discussion, assume the net price of a car is $10,000; the Dutch consumer pays $10,000 (vehicle cost) + $4,250 (average luxury tax) + $1,900 (sales tax), bringing the total to $16,250. Just buying the car is only the beginning. In addition to the purchase price, owners have to pay a road tax every year, and that amount is dependent on weight as well as the type of fuel used.

But then it gets complicated.

Dick didn't bother sketching out the bed's design first; he had it in his head. He and Koos chose wooden trim (because many traditional English cars use it), so they used Maranti wood, a Malaysian hardwood commonly used for joinery in marine applications. To build the bed, Dick enlisted his neighbor, a carpenter. It is designed to provide easy access to a forklift, since Koos sometimes has to transport pallets loaded with beverages. For large volume or wide loads, he can also take off the panels. The latches can be found on all kinds of industrial trailers.

If you're an independent businessperson registered with the Chamber of Commerce, you can prove that you need the car for your job (read: not a luxury to own it) and you don't have to pay the luxury tax-and you regain your sales tax. In Holland, it's called "gray registration." However, the car has to meet certain load criteria for this label too.

By now, you're probably as confused and as frustrated as Dick Bronkhorst was. About four years ago, Dick, who lives in Utrecht (pretty much in the center of the Netherlands) and his friend Koos van de Plas bought a Dodge W200, a former army truck registered as a pickup (and with a gray registration) with a 5.2L V-8 along with a stock transmission and transfer case. But a journey to the junkyard to look for parts for the truck revealed a trashed '72 Rolls-Royce. They bargained with the owner of the junkyard to knock off a few bucks-which meant letting him keep the Rolls-Royce's axles, engine, and gearbox. A Rolls-Royce has monoconstruction, so putting it on the chassis of the W200 would prove to be relatively simple, especially since the Rolls-Royce's body reinforcements were pretty heavy-duty. But the challenge proved to be in keeping the shorter roofline the same as the roofline of the Rolls-Royce. And considerably more labor was required to shorten the back doors, because Dick and Koos wanted those to look exactly like the original Rolls-Royce doors. To do so, they first made a mold before they did any cutting. Dick also wanted to turn the Rolls-Royce into an extra-cab, yet another necessity for keeping the gray registration. It was trickier to retain the back of the cabin and roof, so homemade versions were built. Dick also copied the original air dam but made it a little larger, thus maintaining the appearance of an authentic Rolls-Royce. The Rolls' grille had lost the battle against time, so Dick did a complete restoration. And, yes, there's a tow hook under the bumper for those muddy and sandy excursions for work and play.

The seats are stock blue Rolls-Royce units, but they were repainted, and the dashboard has new veneer from figured walnut.

Because the Rolls was parked outside at the junkyard, coupled with the fact that Holland is very rainy, all the wiring was corroded and rotten, so the only solution was to make a new wiring harness-modified, of course, to match the Dodge's electrical system. Another major concern was fitting the Dodge's steering system and master brake cylinder onto the body of the Rolls-Royce. The Dodge's column had to fit where the Rolls-Royce's was-and the Dodge's shift lever was on the steering column, while the Rolls-Royce's was on the tunnel on the floor. So, since the Rolls had right-hand steering, Dick had to manufacture a completely new dashboard, including the glovebox. But, the final product-and the entire interior-looks factory.

All bodywork was done by Dick, including the paint job that he was able to squirt in his own spray booth. Speaking of the body, the truck bed is stainless steel and wood, and under the bed floor are dual fuel tanks. The bed is illuminated by Hella lights.

Building this Rolls-Royce 4x4 took Dick and Koos a total of four years, but even after the complete makeover, it officially remains a Dodge W200 in the government's eyes. "It's crystal clear that it's a Dodge-can't you see?" said Dick, with a big smile. "I only slipped a few times when I was taking out the dents."

GENERAL
Owner: Koos van de Plas, Utrecht, Netherlands
Vehicle/Model: '72 Rolls-Royce Silver-Shadow-bodied '76 Dodge W200
Estimated Value: According to the insurance company, about $45,000

ENGINE
Type: 5.2L Dodge V-8
Aspiration: Stock manifold/carb, running on LPG (liquefied petrol gas)
Max output (hp): 180

DRIVETRAIN
Transmission: TorqueFlite 727 three-speed auto
Transfer Case: NP203

SUSPENSION
Front: Leaf springs, White Shocks shock absorbers
Rear: Leaf springs, White Shocks shock absorbers

AXLES/DIFFERENTIALS
Front: Dana 44
Rear: Dana 60, Powr-Lok
Ring and Pinion: 4.10:1

WHEELS & TIRES
Wheels: Unknown
Tires: Cooper Discoverer Radial LT 33X12.50R16

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