Our Sheffield correspondent encounters a Cullinan.
Sheffield is a city synonymous for not only making but also the shaping of steel. Construction and heavy industry to more specific, not to mention artisanal variations such as myriad uses in the cutlery, aero and medical fields. Some of that steel ends up in the carmaking business. Sadly, some too resides within men’s hearts.
The site of our local retail park was once Fox steel works of Stocksbridge, providing employment for the whole town at one point, making the steel and wire for umbrellas. When the 1980s recession hit, the steel ceased flowing and a dilapidated site remained for years. That is until the supermarkets began to take over land purchases from house builders, before even those plans went west. This left a cleared area but nothing to build. Until Mark Dransfield and his property investment business arrived to save the day.
Midweek, this large retail park is unsurprisingly full of SUV of every imaginable variation. Green ovals count large, those with the italicised H run the Landy’s a close second. Japanese fare, double chevrons along with Vauxhall’s attempts to at least provide a splash of colour to a predominantly grey scene. The manner in which doors are flung open with disregard for what’s around, be that other vehicles, people, or dogs makes my teeth grate, therefore our parking space is remote as possible from these heathens.
I’m here to assist my better half on the purchase of an outfit for some forthcoming event of importance – or at the very least, to appear interested. But while my mood remained as resolutely leaden the Sheffield sky, darker forces loomed ominously by. Hastening to avoid the horizontal rain, the dread became palpable and not just from the brooding caverns of retail therapy.
As we had now distance parked and had become pedestrians avoiding these parking crates, my peripheral vision caught sight of a forbidding beast that had been by the entrance – a Rolls-Royce Cullinan. Trumping even the double cabbed pick-ups for size, the only vehicles close to the same dimension were the delivery trucks round the back. The gleaming black bodywork, the bling of that radiator, the effing front to actually want such a wanton machine.
As it happens, the Cullinan is the owned by the guy who owns the retail park. When you pump tens of millions into developing the site, what’s a quarter million on a typically entrepreneurial motor? Then consider his previous runabout was a Dawn. That was in black too. When he had the official opening for the centre in 2016, he booked actress, Joanna Lumley to assist. The local news went bonkers. I noticed the Dawn in the background, khaki hood.
It’s not often you can get up close and personal with such a car. As Rolls-Royce would have you think, these types of car really are more at home on the Rivieras, the Monte Carlo’s, the Dubai’s of this world. Not a former steelworks in deepest and frequently soaked South Yorkshire.
But Goodwood’s finest can obviously tolerate such extremes. On a rare blisteringly hot day I remember peering into the car, sans hood and standing mouth agape at the quality. The stuff fair oozed out. Quite magnificent. Elegant is perhaps too strong a description for something so vast but the Dawn contained a refined air that a Rolls-Royce should possess.
But this on the other hand….
By no means am I defending the beast – it’s a deplorable thing, yet the Cullinan actually blends in here, somehow. The front end is similar in size to one of the shop frontages. And it’s the type of vehicle everyone else is driving (or wants to), only bigger and more vulgar than the rest. As bluff as a weather beaten cove. As oblique as a freshly mined coal seam. The very opposite of self-effacing. This car is menacing from a hundred feet away. But what exactly does a successful entrepreneur drive?
The easy answer is anything he likes. I’m certain the Dransfield fleet contains other noteworthy items of interest. Some classics, the ubiquitous E-Type, or pre-war Royce. Can’t see him in an Issigonis based bolide. Something American, maybe? A Cadillac or Oldsmobile, all restored to within an inch of their lives. My hopes are he has something stylish, but my head tells me it’ll be as brash as they come. A pimped up Ford Ranger, a Kahn Range Rover, a Maybach. All painted black.
I was once told an Aston Martin is a thug in a Saville Row suit. The Cullinan is the Strip Joint Bouncer who wears a velvet hat and has a chromed front incisor, displeased at your reticence to enter.
Led that merry dance by my wife around the aisles and avenues of cloth (yes, that’s nice, dear), my eyes searched one more time for The Beast, lest it creep upon me and devour my soul. I audibly sensed something dark leaving. Might have been an Eddie Stobart truck.