This is the only car in this series still in production. Why might that be?
Well, progress at this level is slow. Or maybe you believe Rolls Royce who say customers don’t want change to be too frequent. When the coachwork was revised in 2012 R-R said: “Our customers don’t want a new car coming to market too often,” said Richard Carter , Rolls-Royce’s communications director. Or rather, after stumping up more than a third of a million pounds, they don’t want their cars looking out of date when the Mark II version is launched” (wrote the Telegraph in 2012). A quarter of a million pounds sterling. Almost six metres long. So tall you can’t see over the roof. The wheelbase is three and a half metres long. And powering these dimensions through space and time, a majestic 6.7 litre V12 engine producing a not inconsiderable 531 lb ft of torque. Those are the quantities.
The qualities are of peerless attention to detail. Even Clarkson was impressed though we will come to his qualification later. Paul Horrell (for it was he) took a different tack, being unable to envision the Phantom on British roads and being unable to justify the fact the car was five times the price of a Jaguar but not five times better. Both of these chaps manage to get it wrong.
What people have noted about the car is that it’s not perfect but still fantastic. Horrell noted the wind-noise, the BMW 7-series column stalks, the body-roll (noted the Daily Telegraph, Clarkson disagreed). It’s not even the most technologically advanced car in the world. After 13 years a Passat is probably on the same level.
What is remarkable is the enduring appeal of the car anyway. It’s down to the emotional aspects of the vehicle, where engineering serves to satisfy emotional needs. The refinement of the interior and exterior design puts this car miles ahead of its peers. Even if one has reservations about the kind of people who might own one of these, the car lets one lay these aside and reminds one of the astonishing things human hands can produce.
Let’s turn back to Clarkson who contrasted the made-in, designed-in, built-in Britain Humber suspension bridge (it had to be made in Britain) with the designed in, made-in Germany but assembled in Britain Rolls whose very heart, its engine, is made in Munich. He considers the car to be the best car in the world but asks plaintively why it can’t be as British as the Humber Bridge.
The answer is that Keith Joseph, Margaret Thatcher’s guru, thought heavy engineering and manufacturing were a waste of capital. That capital could be better allocated elsewhere, he argued. Further, heavy industry and engineering were the workplaces of the spine of the Labour party. Destroy those and Labour support would be diminished. Thus, beginning in the late 70s and continuing to this day, Britain’s heavy industry was run down: coal, steel, shipbuilding, aviation, heavy rail.
Of course, they do make more cars now than they did at the height of Britain’s home-grown industry’s powers but they are all foreign owned. Nissan, Jaguar, MG, Land Rover and Rolls-Royce, Aston Martin and Bentley: non-British owned all. What Mr Clarkson doesn’t realise is the connection between the politics he unashamedly espouses (and to which view he is entitled) and the consequences of those politics: his lovely British cars are all made by firms whose owners sit abroad. That didn’t happen in Germany. France has avoided it until now (the Chinese are in investing in PSA). Even Italian Fiat has bought Chrysler.
If you fancy one of these fine motor carriages it will cost a bit. The one featured in our photos is in Siegburg, Germany, going for €109,000 which is the price of a nice apartment in a medium sized German town.
Personally, I would go for the last Vickers Roll-Royce, the Silver Seraph.