I read a few weeks ago that the guy who created the ‘100 things to do before you die’ books died in a freak gardening accident recently. Which is actually very sad. I was reminded of him when I drove a Rolls Royce for the first time last week. Because sinking into the deep leather armchair of a Rolls and staring down the bonnet at the Silver Lady is said to be one of the things that everyone has to do.
I have always wondered why, to be honest. True, a Rolls Royce has always been ‘out there’ in terms of competition – nothing can quite touch it. It’s also true that Rolls Royce has made some of the best cars in the world. But today, when almost every car rides and handles superbly, is there still room for the car that metaphorically ‘goes to 11’?
Actually, there is. While I could, if I had one, safely tick off the ‘driven a Rolls Royce’ in my book of things to do before I shuffle off this mortal coil, it was only a quick drive. But really quite a revelation. The car I drove – a 1989 Rolls Royce Silver Spirit – is no faster, smoother or perhaps even quieter than a modern car. And yet there is something totally unique about the way you travel in a Rolls Royce. Nobody can quite prepare you for the view from the driver’s seat. To look down that elegantly narrowing bonnet to the silvery sheen of the radiator is like rising out of the suburban soup and claiming your castle. There is an instant feeling of satisfaction – not smugness, just a gentle feeling that life has just got a little shinier.
The interior is sumptuous and of immense quality but it’s the driving position and view that stay in the memory. You sit high (and mighty) and literally stride down the road. Which I wouldn’t advise really. Quick as the Rolls Royce is – it is fitted with the naturally aspirated 6.75 litre engine – this is not a car to be driven quickly. It can be hustled, I suspect, but that is not how one drives a Rolls Royce. Haste and stress are very much absent from this world of burgundy paintwork, pianowood inlays and cream leather. In a Rolls Royce you know your purpose and your destination but time is in your control. After all, wherever you’re going people are probably waiting for you to turn up anyway so let them wait.
Perhaps the greatest thing about the Rolls Royce is that it isn’t actually a ‘look at me’ car. Yes, it grabs attention – it’s a big old car if nothing else. But when you’re behind the wheel the sense of one-up-manship fades away. You stop caring about what anyone might think (in fact, we got plenty of waves – people love a Rolls Royce) and just relax and enjoy how good it makes you feel.
I handed back the keys quietly impressed by this big handbuilt saloon. It is good, very good. I think it will make not just a great wedding car but a fantastic day out for friends and family. Imagine cruising the Cotswolds in a Rolls Royce? Somehow busy roads, irate drivers and roadworks would melt away – because you’re driving a Rolls Royce. So I’m going to offer the Rolls Royce for self drive classic car hire and chauffeur driven classic wedding car hire.