THE classic Rolls-Royce certainly does not need the publicity, but the wheels have not stopped turning in the great Rolls-Royce debate since public servant Ms Elaine Chung Lai-kwok told a court last week that a second-hand Roller was cheaper to buy and maintain than many Japanese cars. Ms Chung, number two in the Works Branch, was ordered by the Small Courts Tribunal to pay more than $2,000 in repair costs to a chief staff officer of the Police Tactical Unit for the damage her 1972 Silver Shadow I did to his Volvo in a collision. But it was her claim that she bought the prestige car for $100,000 because it was cheaper to maintain than a Japanese car, which has changed the perception that a Rolls is only for the rich. ''I didn't buy it for prestige, it was real value for money - I'm just a very stingy civil servant,'' Ms Chung said after the hearing. ''I wanted a safe car to drive my children in and it was cheaper than a lot of Japanese cars. The insurance wasn't high because I went for third party. It was old and I knew nobody would steal it because it was too big for the smugglers to get up to China. ''I didn't even bother locking it for that reason, although once a pair of jeans were stolen out of it. ''With insurance, licence fee, petrol and everything else it cost me $3,000 to $4,000 a month and I never had to worry about taking it to the garage.'' Used car salesmen say there is a huge market for pre-owned Rolls-Royces and there are some bargains such as Ms Chung's to be had. ''Hongkong can't get enough of them,'' said Mr Holger Gossmann, general manager of MD Motors, which imports Rolls-Royces. ''Basically, the used car market is starving for merchandise. ''The new market itself is tremendous - we are doing more than 50 per cent more than last year. ''I prefer to use the term 'pre-owned' rather than 'used' because it sounds at least like the Rolls-Royce has been well-maintained.'' Because prospective owners like to have all the background and history on the cars they buy, the demand for cars bought and maintained from new in Hongkong is especially good. ''We can sell a pre-owned Rolls-Royce with much more confidence if it has a perfect service record and especially if there was a famous owner,'' he said. The term ''classic'' car was given to anything outside a current model line; the Silver Shadow and Silver Ghost were real classics, Mr Gossmann said. He said Ms Chung was ''very lucky'' to have been able to buy her 1972 Silver Shadow I for $100,000 in 1988. ''The market in Europe was depressed but it has turned around now,'' he said. ''She is one of those people who bought it at the right time.'' Depreciation of the Rolls-Royce averages about 20 per cent a year, but for pre-owned Rolls-Royces which sell quickly, this figure can be much lower. ''Cars that have been well-kept and have a low mileage are not in stock with us for the moment,'' Mr Gossmann said. ''We find that if somebody wants to sell one, they go directly to a member of the family or a business associate. But many people have more than one classic Rolls-Royce and buy them because they enjoy driving them.'' More than 95 per cent of Rolls-Royces are driven by chauffeurs, and a surprisingly high 70 per cent of drivers of the Corniche model are women. Some models, Mr Gossmann said, were especially ''feminine and luxurious'' and the car could be appealing to many women. ''I think it is wonderful to see a woman driving a Rolls-Royce in Hongkong,'' he said. ''The tendency is to think they are powerful women, and women who appreciate good craftsmanship and the detailed work that goes into a Rolls-Royce.'' And does the prestige factor diminish if it is not spanking new? ''Who is to know? One thing about these cars is nobody knows how old they are,'' Mr Gossmann said. ''They have a timeless design.'' The Sunday Morning Post test drove a 1980 Silver Shadow II; in immaculate condition and a joy to drive - if only because of the stares it attracted on the streets of Happy Valley - it was a snip at a negotiable $240,000, cheaper than a new Honda Accord. Still, for the first time Rolls-Royce driver, it felt a bit like driving your living room around; the dashboard was in its original gloss-finished wood with the controls delicately carved into it and the overall feeling was old world. The car was certainly not for hi-tech fans, although Ms Chung was more than satisfied with hers. ''You could do a U-turn with your fingertip,'' she said. ''The engineering was beautiful and it's the only car I've ever driven that had two independent braking systems in case one failed. Mind you, I never drove very fast. I'm a very careful driver.'' Ms Chung said there was still a certain mystique associated with a woman driving a Rolls-Royce. ''People are just curious, they would cut lanes just to see who was driving,'' she said. She admitted the accident was part of the reason for selling her beloved Silver Shadow last month - for less than $100,000. She admitted the accident was part of the reason for selling her beloved Silver Shadow last month - for less than $100,000 - but, for reasons unknown, she refuses to name the make of her latest vehicle. The word from the Works Department is Ms Chung wantsa low profile. Could it be a Honda Accord?