The Truth About Cars » Rolls-Royce http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Rolls-Royce http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Between the Mountain and the Moon: The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost and the IRA http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/between-the-mountain-and-the-moon-the-rolls-royce-silver-ghost-and-the-ira/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/between-the-mountain-and-the-moon-the-rolls-royce-silver-ghost-and-the-ira/#comments Wed, 05 Feb 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=733153 Photo Courtesy JamesBlackRestorations.com

Photo Courtesy JamesBlackRestorations.com

It is late March in 1924, and a dim sun is setting over the city of Cork in the southeast of Ireland. Spring is coming, and in the patchwork of fields that surrounds this busy coastal town, green shoots are already poking up through rich, damp earth.

To the east, through the double-stomach of twinned harbours, the British destroyer Scythe lies tethered at anchor, a dull-grey line of glowering steel. Here, the smaller village of Queenstown is a treaty port, one of three deepwater harbours that remain under English rule as party of the bitterly contested Anglo-Irish Treaty. Signed three years ago, it divided Ireland in more ways than one, creating an Irish Free state at the expense of a partitioned Ulster and a subsequent bloody civil war.

Down at the pierhead, troops are landing from Spike Island, a former penal colony and current fortification that houses the British presence. The launch bringing the soldiers across has only just tied up to the jetty, when the thrum of a racing six-cylinder engine can be heard approaching.

Skittering through the narrow cobblestone streets at breakneck pace, a primrose-yellow Rolls-Royce open-topped tourer slews round a corner and races out onto the beach opposite the pier. Its four occupants are grim-faced and composed; the gaping air-cooled maw of a mounted .303 calibre Lewis gun swings towards the clustered troops.

It opens fire.

Photo courtesy yunners.deviantart.com

Photo courtesy yunners.deviantart.com

For many people, the Irish Republican Army is associated with the black balaclavas and bombing campaigns of the capital-t Troubles in Northern Ireland. However, these are more properly the Provisional IRA, a breakaway group, and the initial organization is nearly a century older.

Early origins can be traced to America, and the support of various ex-patriate Irishmen in efforts to disrupt British rule of Ireland by military force. The earliest IRA insignia can be found in an 19th century invasion of Canada, of all places, wherein the ragtag forces of the Fenian Brotherhood attempted to occupy and ransom parts of Ontario.

The first appearance on Irish soil was at the start of the Irish War of Independence. Fought between 1919 and 1921, it was a fierce, brutal conflict of guerrilla tactics, ambush, assassination, mob violence by both Catholics and Protestants, and reprisals against civilian targets.

Driven from rural areas by the flying columns of the IRA, who would strike and then melt back into the countryside, the British government eventually declared martial law and recruited hundreds of ex-soldiers to bolster the police forces – the infamous Black and Tans and the paramilitary Auxiliaries. Often poorly trained and lacking discipline, the additional troops found themselves targets in a strange land and developed a reputation for striking back against the population in frustration – in one notable example, Auxiliaries looted and burnt the centre of Cork in 1920 as retaliation for the killing of one of their members.

Photo Courtesy JamesBlackRestorations.com

Photo Courtesy JamesBlackRestorations.com

The IRA lacked the men and materiel to meet the British army in open battle, but could consider their campaign a partial success in forcing a stalemate. Public opinion in England wearied of the violence on both sides, and a truce was struck, to be followed by treaty negotiations.

The Anglo-Irish treaty was signed on December Sixth, 1921, and was thought either a hard-fought compromise or a total betrayal. Instead of a united independent Ireland, it allowed for the creation of a Free State still under British dominion, and it also made provision for the largely protestant, pro-British unionist movement of north-eastern Ireland to opt out, which they did. The troubled country of Northern Ireland was created and would itself roil with sectarian violence for decades.

In what would become the Irish Republic, the IRA found itself divided into pro- and anti-treaty forces. The battle-lines were drawn haphazardly based on personal loyalties as well as ideology, and initially at least, the anti-treaty republicans outnumbered the Free State forces by two-to-one. The Republicans were also better equipped, and their troops more experienced. The two sides circled each other warily, as the British pushed for the Free State Army to act against the mutinous IRA.

To support the fledgling Irish Free State, a shipment of firearms and artillery were provided by the British. Here, at long last, do we come around to the question of the titular Rolls-Royces: among the weapons the Free State received were fourteen armoured Silver Ghosts.

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia

The Armoured Rolls-Royce is one of the most fascinating pieces of weaponry produced in the early twentieth century. It is at once a modern killing machine, and at the same time a sort of iron-clad warhorse for a last generation of knights.

The very earliest example of a Rolls-Royce at war can be found during early skirmishes in the Great War. Having brought over a number of personal vehicles to assist in rescue operations of Royal Navy pilots downed while battling German Zeppelins, Wing Commander Charles Rumney Samson mounted a Maxim machine-gun on the back of his open tourer and went to engage the enemy.

After strafing a German staff car, the impromptu British armoured column swept into Lille, where a few gaps in the armour were seen. Namely, Samson was hit in the face when someone threw a bottle through his windshield.

Even so, news of these exploits combined with armoured-car successes by Belgian troops convinced the British war office that an armed and armoured Rolls-Royce would be an effective tool. Over the next three decades, they would fight at Gallipoli, in the desert under Lawrence of Arabia, on protection detail in Shanghai during battles between communist and nationalist Chinese forces, and as shore patrol against a looming German invasion in WWII – essentially, in any war-torn corner of the fading British Empire, you could find an Armoured Rolls-Royce.

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia

Photo Courtesy Wikimedia

Weighing nearly five tonnes, most were powered by a tough, durable 7-7.5L straight-six engine. It only made between 50-80hp, depending on the year of production, but the engines had prodigious torque and even the heavily armoured version was capable of 70mph. Thick, boilerplate steel protected the engine and occupants, and the most-common armament was a Vickers water-cooled machine-gun mounted in an enclosed turret.

While the glutinous mud and stagnant trench warfare of WWI would soon limit the usefulness of the Armoured Rolls-Royce on the Western front, these fast, powerful juggernauts would have great success in desert warfare. In one famous exploit, the swashbuckling Duke of Westminister used a squadron of nine armoured cars to utterly destroy an enemy encampment in Northern Africa – munitions-laden camels are described exploding under machine-gun fire – and then dashed 120 miles across enemy terrain to rescue hostages from two torpedoed British ships.

Photo Courtesy irishmilitaryonline.com

Photo Courtesy irishmilitaryonline.com

The Armoured Rolls provided to the Irish Free State were viewed with almost totemic status. All fourteen were named, among them: The Flying Fifty, The Custom House, The Baby, Tom Keogh, The High Chief. The Irish called the ironclad Rollers “whippets”, for they were faster and quieter than any other of the makeshift armoured vehicles used in the Civil War.

Photo Courtesy irishmilitaryonline.com

Photo Courtesy irishmilitaryonline.com

Imagine, if you can, being a raw recruit fresh in from the countryside, holed up in a barricaded pub South of the Liffey. You and your friends are armed with little more than Mausers and Lee-Enfield rifles and carbines, and information is filtering in that the major concentration of anti-treaty IRA forces have surrendered at the Four Courts in Dublin, their defeat punctuated by a massive explosion that destroyed the central records office in a spiraling mushroom cloud.

Suddenly, a rolling steel monstrosity emerges from an alleyway between the buildings, its armoured plates shut to protect the radiator from fire. Its turret turns ponderously, training the water-cooled Vickers machine-gun on your building. A sniper’s bullet pings harmlessly off its boilerplate skin, and it responds with a roar, vomiting a hail of .303 calibre lead at the rate of 450 rounds a minute. The sustained fire shatters the building, the column is forced to flee.

Photo Courtesy irishmilitaryonline.com

Photo Courtesy irishmilitaryonline.com

There is little honour to be found in any civil war, and less glory. Possibly one of the better pieces of short fiction written about the Irish Civil war is, “The Sniper,” by Liam O’Flagherty; in it, the eponymous sniper is grievously wounded in a gun battle across the roofs of Dublin, killing his dimly-seen opponent only to discover, in the end, that he has murdered his own brother. During the three decades of the Troubles, 3000 people would die. The Irish Civil war claimed approximately as many lives in eleven months.

The Rolls-Royces of the Free State were present at every major battle, and while the decisive weapon of the conflict was probably light artillery, they were used with great effect. Unlike the actions of WWI commanders, and unlike the guerrilla tactics of the Irish War of Independence, mobile conventional warfare was a key factor in the civil conflict. In many ways, it presaged the motorized assaults and raids of the second world war.

Of course, while tough, the Armoured Rolls were not infallible. One, the Ballinalee, was cornered by IRA forces in 1922, and captured. It then went on numerous sorties for Republican forces, renamed as The Wild Rose of Lough Gill.

Photo Courtesy JamesBlackRestorations.com

Photo Courtesy JamesBlackRestorations.com

Another, known as Sliabh no mBan (Slievenamon) after a Tipperary mountain featured in an early rebel song, was present at the death-by-ambush of former IRA general and leader of the Free State Forces Michael Collins. Its water-cooled Vickers jammed, and in the ensuing firefight, the charismatic Collins was shot in the head.

Sliabh no mBan was stolen by the Republicans almost immediately afterwards, with the complicity of its machine-gunner, and was used in raids in the Macroom district, west of Cork. As the initial conventional warfare of the Civil War devolved into guerrilla raids and atrocities, some of the last IRA holdouts continued to operate from this area, and Macroom was originally the home base of the yellow Rolls-Royce that opened this story.

A large number of Anglo-Irish families were settled to the West of Cork, and the IRA’s guerrilla campaign included not just fighting the British army and police forces, but harassing these civilians. Eventually, most of the large estate houses were burned out, and it was during one such raid that the primose-yellow Silver Ghost tourer was stolen. It was armoured with primitive boilerplate and armed with twin Lewis machine-guns; involved almost exclusively in night-time attacks, it was dubbed “The Moon Car.”

Photo Courtesy JamesBlackRestorations.com

Photo Courtesy JamesBlackRestorations.com

The attack on the unarmed soldiers in Queenstown pier occurred a year after the anti-treaty IRA had signed a ceasefire and largely disarmed. One British soldier was killed and over twenty others wounded, including three civilians; public outrage included the posting of a £10,000 reward for information relating to the capture of the attackers. They were never identified: the Moon Car was driven to a deserted farm, burned, and buried in the bog to rot.

It was discovered in 1981 by a local historian, Liam O’Callaghan, and during the recovery process the frame was twisted and “some thievin’ little divil” made off with the radiator for scrap metal. Partially dissolved by the acidity of the bog, the Moon Car was nonetheless fully restored last year by James Black Restorations, a Rolls-Royce specialist based in Ulster, not far from Belfast.

Sliabh no mBan survives too, incredibly, having been recovered from the Republican forces and eventually preserved by the foreman of the Irish cavalry workshops (who listed it as scrap on the books). It starred in the 1959 James Cagney movie, Shake Hands With the Devil, and has recreated Collins’ fateful trip in at least two documentaries.

Photo Courtesy Military.ie

Photo Courtesy Military.ie

In the daylight of 2014, both machines are innocuous enough, impressive for their engineering and indeed beautiful despite a brutal, murderous past. Like hammer and anvil, the Mountain and the Moon – and once between them lay Ireland.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-2014-rolls-royce-wraith/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-2014-rolls-royce-wraith/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 13:45:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=648370 desertside

As part of TTAC’s reboot, we promised you, the readers, many things. One of them was “no more luxury car puff pieces”. Jack and I had every intention of adhering to this rule as well, until our staff email inbox received a message from Rolls Royce Motorcars, asking us to come drive the all-new Wraith.

“Go on the program,” said Jack, “and imagine that you are reviewing a Camry”.

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The Wraith is not the car that one would typically expect from Rolls-Royce. It used to be that Bentley focused on cars that one would personally drive, while Rolls-Royce was the vehicle of choice for those who preferred to sit in the back seat. But ever since the forced seperation of the two marques in 1998, the two have been competing for the same buyers.

Rolls-Royce won’t expressly say that this car is targeted at Bentley customers, just that it’s sportier, with more of a focus on driver engagement and outright performance – the sort of cars that Bentley traditionally offered alongside Rolls-Royce. What they really did say is that the Wraith targeted at “young entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s”, an assertion that is as starkly detached from reality as Steve Cohen’s remark that the $100,000 sum needed to replace the dead shark in his office was “inconsequential”. Or perhaps there are customers in the BRIC nations who are under 40 and have made their fortune by building a better mouse trap, rather than collecting a parental stipend. Only their marketing team knows.

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In person, the Wraith is as dramatic as the Phantom itself. The enormous front end is a concession to the aesthetic of contemporary high-end luxury goods, which our social betters have decided must be gauche and ostentatious. But the fastback profile is undeniably elegant, with a gently sloping roof line that recalls the coach-built cars of the pre-WWII era. The two-tone paint of my test car highlights the Wraith’s forms, but remains incapable of doing it justice. Another example, finished in a royal blue shade known as Salmanaca, looked like a modern interpretation of a Bugatti Atlantic from aft of the A-pillar.

The overall atmosphere of “bespoke” extends to the interior as well. Whereas contemporary Bentleys leave you with a lingering sense that you’re in a very nicely appointed variant of an Audi A8L, there is but one clue that today’s Rolls-Royce shares its bones with something as upper-middle-class as a BMW 7-Series. The gear selector, mounted on the steering column, will remind you of the very first Bangle Siebener. The newest 7-Series has abandoned the stalk setup for a proper gearstick. but it doesn’t have the superlative interior finishings of the Roller. The wood trim in the Wraith has more in common with a fine hardwood parquet floor than any of the Zebrano veneers that most people are familiar with, while the upholstery wouldn’t be out of place in the leather goods section of  Bergdorf Goodman. Every single panel, knob, switch and interior component is jewel-like, perfectly placed and installed, and for good reason.

The interior is the focal point of this car. It’s what you are supposed to take in as you glide down the road in utter isolation. For all the talk of this being a “driver oriented” Rolls-Royce, it’s more akin to a two-and-a-half ton drawing-room with four club chairs. Even with a 623 horsepower twin-turbo V12, there is nothing beyond a vague sense of forward motion to indicate that you are piloting the fastest production Rolls-Royce ever.  This boosted bent twelve is the last word in linear power delivery. Press the throttle, and the car summons all its might instantaneously, almost like a Tesla Model S with just the briefest pause before you feel maximum torque.

The 8-speed automatic uses a GPS-based system to change gears based on the type of terrain you are navigating, downshifting on grades and upshifting on flat roads to make sure the car is in the right gear at the right time – all without you ever knowing. There is very little feedback from the oversized steering wheel (another beautiful component, but one more at home in a marine application), while the handling and braking capabilities of the car are merely an afterthought. This is a slow speed cruiser, not some sort of grand tourer capable of carving up back roads if need be.

desertrear

That impression is only furthered by the Wraith’s concerted attempt to filter out every single bit of sensory feedback from the driving experience. Wind, engine, road and tire noise are perfectly isolated, as are most potholes, bumps and road imperfections. The overall silence borders on eerie – stopping in the middle of the desert to take photographs, I was struck by how the still, motionless desert was actually nosier than when I was inside the car, on account of the passing cars on the two-lane highway. Get back inside the Wraith, and it is utterly silent, something that I’ve only experienced sitting in a canoe on a remote lake in Northern Ontario hundreds of miles from civilization.

The only thing it couldn’t filter out was the homeless man sitting at the end of the freeway ramp, eyeing the Wraith intently when I exited. Lacking any American currency smaller than a $20 bill, I was utterly paralyzed in this situation – to give him spare change would have been an insult. To roll down the window and say “sorry”, or dismiss him with the wave of the hand would have been acceptable in a normal car, but even more distasteful given the circumstances. In a $300,000 Rolls-Royce, there is no option that isn’t unseemly or downright cowardly. Especially if it’s avoiding eye contact and praying for the light to turn green like I did.

There was a time when Rolls-Royce claimed to make the best car in the world. The cost was a by-product of that mission. But in 2013, quantity of MSRP has a quality all its own, and the company now finds itself in the uneasy position of attempting to build vehicles that justify a particular price.

Although I’m far from averse to automobiles that attract attention, there’s a big difference between driving something that makes an advertisement of personal wealth as its primary mission, and an exotic car full of visual and aural drama. When you leave the lights in a Jaguar F-Type, an Audi R8 or a Ferrari F12, you can revel in the noise of the motor, the clacking of the gated shifter or the sheer occasion of being behind the wheel of a front-engined, V12 supercar. Those cars are able to transport you to an alternate world where you are the star of a 9000 rpm music video in full-on sensory overload.

Not so in the Rolls-Royce Wraith. Instead, you glide away in utter silence, feeling, hearing and experiencing nothing that is not in your own mind – sophistry in motion. It is very easy to become disconnected from the rest of the world, to avoid making eye contact with the homeless man and lose touch with the rest of life’s other unpleasant realities. Being alone with your own thoughts, conflicts and internal misgivings is difficult enough. In a $300,000 four-wheeled sensory deprivation tank, it’s downright terrifying.

Rolls-Royce provided airfare, meals, lodging and transfers for the media drive of the Wraith, as well as the vehicle, insurance and a full tank of gas.

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Rolls-Royce “Intensively Thinking About” Selling An SUV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/rolls-royce-intensively-thinking-about-selling-an-suv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/rolls-royce-intensively-thinking-about-selling-an-suv/#comments Thu, 12 Sep 2013 12:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=516585 rollroycesuvchop1

Illustration by Garrett Bradford. All rights reserved, used with permission.

No sooner did Bentley confirm that they will indeed be producing a premium priced crossover, then Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes announced that they will join the other British ultra luxury marque in offering a utility vehicle, likely to cost even more than the Bentley, which is expected to start at about $250,000.

The least expensive Rolls-Royce, the BMW 7 Series based Ghost, starts at more than that price. BMW owns Rolls-Royce while another German automaker, Volkswagen, owns Bentley. ”We are intensively thinking about entering the SUV segment,” Mueller-Oetvoes told Bloomberg in an interview at the Frankfurt auto show. ”The SUV segment is very interesting. It has been incredibly stable during the crisis, and I think a luxury niche will develop.”

Crossover frenzy seems to be gripping the auto industry at all price points, including among luxury brands. The Rolls-Royce announcement follows previous news that Maserati would sell the Levante SUV starting in 2015 and CUV concept reveals at the Frankfurt Motor Show by both Jaguar and Infiniti.

rollroycesuvchop2

Illustration by Garrett Bradford. All rights reserved, used with permission.

 

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On Brittany Howard, LeMons and New Jersey College Virgins http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/on-brittany-howard-lemons-and-new-jersey-college-virgins/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/on-brittany-howard-lemons-and-new-jersey-college-virgins/#comments Mon, 12 Aug 2013 14:07:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499036 Yeah, I opened this up for the screen shot, but I had been listening

Yeah, I opened this up for the screen shot, but I had been listening

You have heard it before, you’ll hear it again. Probably soon, probably better and probably from Louis CK, in which case it will definitely be funnier.

But what an age we live in! Literally, a mere 10 years ago my wife sat at home hoping my once a week phone call from Africa would actually connect. Today, I am texting her as she has lunch with her little brother in Virginia. But what’s more impressive is that I am doing that while watching real time race updates as my buddies the Three Pedal Mafia and their beater Rolls Royce battle Speedycop and his amazing upside down racecar at on the 24 Hours of Lemons at NJMP. The mighty K Car wagon is there as well.

Unfortunately, I believe that is the S-10 Sea Sprite, The Rolls is not doing well

Unfortunately, I believe that is the S-10 Sea Sprite, FB tells me the Rolls is totalled

Yeah, you can watch big races live on the a giant TV from almost anywhere with electricity, but I am here, in a hotel in Amman Jordan, Guinness slippers on, getting real-time lap by lap updates on my iPhone with the Race Monitor App. This allows me to annoy my east coast teammate with useless observations and pointless advice so obnoxiously, it’s like I am there, only they didn’t have to buy me a case of Dos XXs.

Seriously, what is most unlikely? Unicorn farts or NJ College virgins?

Seriously, what is most unlikely? Unicorn farts or NJ College virgins?

 

This is not up to the minute action of the latest Formula 1 race, but this is “as-it-happens” track data from a crapcan race. All in the comfort of a small couch while Brittany Howard serenades me from my Alabama Shakes Pandora station.

Yeah, I know I’m not cool, call me a fanboi, trend jumper, whatever. I will read it, from right here, on the same couch, 8,000 miles away. I will probably read it within seconds of you clicking “comment.” But I move my lips when I read, so it will take a while. I am from Georgia after all.

But think about it. To place the concept in another time frame; it’s like my Dad being able to watch a Friday night grudge race from his leatherette La-Z-Boy by tuning to a UHF channel back when I was a wee lad. Except the TV is in Spain, a heckler can toss beer can at him from Australia, all while he typed up a story about it. Then mailed that story to German editor in Japa…you see where this is going right?

Of course you do. I am pointing out that you can mock me, as I bother my team, while we are watching live updates and our snarky criticism of other people can span the globe. I only ask that for a few seconds prior to your slapping that “enter” key with resolute authority, you think about the wonder of it all.

It’s pretty cool huh?

Go Three Pedal Mafia!

Fire away.

W. Christian Mental Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and a gift for making Derek and Jack wonder if English is actually his first language.

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Capsule Review: 2013 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/capsule-review-2013-rolls-royce-phantom-drophead/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/capsule-review-2013-rolls-royce-phantom-drophead/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 22:47:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489541 IMG_8273

When the call came in, I had shit on my hands. I’m speaking literally here, standing atop Quarry Rock in North Vancouver, tomato-faced and lathered with sweat after a hurried hike. My sleeping infant daughter had somehow just managed to relieve herself on the outside of her diaper – real assassination-of-JFK stuff, a second pooper on the grassy knoll.

Would I like to spend a day squiring a Rolls about town? Would I ever: a few short days later and I’m peering through the steering wheel spokes of a vehicle that is as quintessentially British as Queen Victoria herself.

Which is to say, a big fat German with a limited sense of humour.

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Yes, peel back the aluminium bodywork of this eight-horse gilded royal stage-coach to find a beating twelve-cylinder heart built by a company whose previous efforts once propelled Junkers over London’s East End to blast chirrupy Cockneys into smithereens. That was then, this is now.

The Rolls-Royce Phantom’s V-12 might share architecture with the boorish seven-series BMW, but it does so in the same way that the House of Hanover once sent over George I to assist the ruling families of Britain in breeding a race of men composed entirely of teeth, charisma and forehead. Which eugenics program, by the way, is going rather swimmingly.

This is a pan-European vehicle – the aluminium space frame is forged in Norway, machined in Denmark, welded in Germany and then shipped off to jolly old Blighty for final assembly. Each Roller is built to client specification in the Goodwood factory, a few miles from the racing circuit of the same name, once the playground of well-heeled gentleman racers.

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Vancouver can boast the largest number of long-wheelbase Rolls-Royce Phantoms anywhere in North America, though you’d not often see one. These sit on the road the way one of Edward I’s conqueror’s castles stand on the Welsh countryside – huge, dark, brooding things with their own gravity well of opulence; mirror images of the machines that ferry their Pacific Rim masters in whisper-silence past factories, tenements, the noisy, dirty, roiling mass of low-caste humanity. You might not be able to hear the clock on the dash anymore, but if you listen closely, you can hear groans of the workers that bear the weight of these monstrosities on their back, churning out an endless stream of cheap consumer products for our relentless Western appetite.

On the other hand, the Phantom Drophead coupe is meant to be a much less serious pleasure yacht for the acceptably wealthy. You know, Bertie Wooster, Jay Gatsby – that sort of thing. In fact, when I show up at the local dealership carrying a camera and wearing a seven-dollar button-down, the Drophead is just leaving on a test-drive with an actual Count. I meet the man briefly later and he seems all charm and polish and breeding and disinclined to bite anyone on the neck or to cackle with joy while tallying up a number of unconvincing bat puppets.

Here are the changes for the now decade-old Phantom, if you care, which you probably don’t. The transmission is now replaced with an eight-speed BMW unit, the headlights have been changed out for slitted LED units, and the front grille is now hewn from a single piece of stainless steel – the better with which to mow down pheasants peasants, one assumes.

Minor tweaks, to be sure, but the improvement is really quite marked. The old round headlights for the previous generation car always made the car look like Thomas the Tank Engine’s derpiest friend – as though someone had stuck wide-spaced googly eyes on the Flying Scotsman. Now though, the Series II has the face of a Monarch, even if the royal in question is, you know, a bit Henry-VIII-ish.

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Gazing out over the polished prow, nose, beak, bowsprit, snout, proboscis – anything to avoid the Conneticut-accented “bonnet” with which the RR PR lady sharply corrected my “hood” – I can’t help but feel that I’m about to engage in the largest single act of fronting since Vanilla Ice pretended to sling rock. There is no way I could ever conceive of affording a half-million-dollar machine like this. Six or seven generations ago, my ancestors wouldn’t even have been allowed to own a horse worth more than five pounds.

Automotive writing can already be weird this way: you catch yourself saying things like, “Oh, but I’d rather have the Porsche,” when really, I’d have the Subaru. And I’d buy it second-hand. However, poncing about in a gleaming white Rolls is on another plane of feigned success entirely.

It’s a bit like being handed the Crown Jewels for a day – the immediate visceral response is to do something wildly inappropriate. I am instantly filled with the urge to go directly to the nearest McDonald’s drive-through and ask for Grey Poupon on my Chicken McNuggets. Instead, it being such a sunny afternoon, I go for a sail. Er, drive.

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“Smooth” is, as the old Monty Python skit goes, an inadequate description of the sweetmeat. This machine glides like a dowager Duchess yet accelerates like Prince Phillip hearing a liquor cabinet open. Apply some gentle pressure with your right foot and feel the nose lift slightly – both yours and the car’s. There’s a sense of great inertia, of hundreds of years of privilege and heritage, a great heavy, ponderous mass like a post-lunch House of Lords.

Of course, this being the Rolls one buys if one is interested in driving, there is a sport button on the steering wheel. It’s quite prominent, and labelled proudly with a burnished S and – well imagine you were on a bus tour and came around a corner to find that someone had fitted Westminster Abbey with anti-roll bars and an enormous spoiler. It’s as farcical as, oh I don’t know, strange women lying around in ponds distributin’ swords.

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Elsewhere the cabin is – it’s whatever you want it to be, really. Rolls-Royce’s bespoke program allows you to carpet the seats and line the floor in leather, if you so choose. Chuck out the back seats for a humidor? Done. This is all ordering off the menu; if it’s physically possible, RR’s engineers will have a go at it.

All part of the experience, but so too is the beacon of affluence this thing projects. The roads here are cluttered with Range Rover Sports and AMG-badged Mercs and Porsche SUVs and M-sport BMWs and the Roller just crushes their showy, desperate, over-chromed avarice beneath its wheels as Gatsby’s creamy yellow Ghost did Myrtle Wilson.

Or so it would seem to me, as I glide along in the sunshine, radiating positively Trumpian levels of smug self-satisfaction. And then – you can’t make this stuff up – someone drives past going the other way in a Ferrari Enzo. Well, that puts rather a damper on the evening.

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Time for Cinderella’s carriage to turn back into a pumpkin – time for me to return to the comfortable middle-class lifestyle my parents worked their asses off to get: a lifestyle my daughter’s children might not be able to enjoy no matter how bright they are, nor how hard they work. This Roller is a chariot for the glittering Eloi, and if we’re not exactly Morlocks yet, that does seem to be the way things are going. Even the once enthusiastic Chinese are saying things along the lines of, “only a dragon can breed another dragon; the children of rats are fated to scrabble in the darkness.”

I head back to return the keys via the looping asphalt of Stanley Park. The traffic is nonexistent, and I am entirely ensconced in the throne room of my own mind when I turn a corner and come across a young family waiting at a crosswalk.

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I shift my right foot off the accelerator and gently depress the brake, causing the Royce to roll to a halt soundlessly, graciously. A magnanimous tilt of the head and intentions are made clear – the saucer-eyed child grips his mother’s hand tightly and the father half-raises a hand in salute as the family crosses the road.

There, beneath susurrating trees that send leafy shadows dancing across the Spirit of Ecstasy, safe in the green heart of our city of glass, we smile and smile and smile and smile – I in my borrowed ermine robes, they in their mass-produced best.

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And, at the very same time, thousands of miles away, the thump of industrial looms sends sand scurrying from a fresh crack in the foundation of a Bangladeshi garment factory; gas-flares flicker weakly in the poisonous miasma of a Nigerian swamp; a blind, mindless grey dragon receives the wrong instructions and pivots on kevlar wings to vomit fire and death into an Afghani wedding – the brief, bright, burning flash of Hellfire rockets turning love and hope and joy and life into heaps of drifting ash.

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This is a fine automobile. A lovely bright bauble built to amuse the super-wealthy and then be discarded once it is no longer a status symbol. It’s a chariot for the people who would be our kings.

Well, I’m a peasant. And I didn’t vote for them.

Rolls-Royce provided the vehicle tested, insurance and fuel.

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Rolls-Royce, Now With Advanced Tautologic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/rolls-royce-now-with-advanced-tautologic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/rolls-royce-now-with-advanced-tautologic/#comments Wed, 15 May 2013 17:26:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=488610

Do you have a truly bespoke pair of shoes, hand-made, to the tune of $1,000? Or a truly bespoke suit, not just one off the plebeian racks of Armani or Ermenegildo Zegna? Watch out, “bespoke” is losing its worth faster than a dollar during the peanut president regime. Oddly, it is Rolls-Royce that is behind that dangerous paradigm down-shift.

According to most dictionaries, from Oxford to Webster, “bespoke” simply stands for “custom, made to order,” something that sounds just right on the shingle of any tailor, whether on Savile Row or in a seedy side street of Kowloon. Now, the meaning of the term “bespoke” is slowly fading into “fancy,” or “high end.” Even in the pages of TTAC, the word “bespoke” has been used to gussy-up a simple top-line Acura.

The forces behind this semantic race to the bottom appear to be aligned with Rolls-Royce.  As anybody in the high-end business knows, a Roller is hardly bought off the rack. Or, in the words of a Roll-Royce press release, “nearly every Rolls-Royce Phantom and almost three in four Rolls-Royce Ghosts sold around the world are commissioned with Bespoke personalisation.”

So, they are Custom, made to order personalizations? Made by Two twins?  Sold at a High expensive price? The effects of this tauto-logic are wide-spread. From Autoevolution to  Motor Authority , car blogs have reprinted Rolls-Royce’s silly press releases for multiples of 12 Month years.  Next step:  Tailors will have to remove the term from their shingles, because Rolls-Royce’s parent will Trademark the patent on Bespoke. As you may have noticed, they already capitalize the B in Bespoke, soon they may want to capitalize on it.

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Wanna Wraith? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/wanna-wraith/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/wanna-wraith/#comments Tue, 05 Mar 2013 12:11:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480143  

Not to be outdone by the bull from Wolfsburg, BMW’s adopted super-luxury brand, Rolls Royce, offers its “most powerful and dynamic Rolls-Royce in history.” The Wraith, a car “with just a hint of the noir,” as Rolls says in an email.

The car looks a little bit like when a Plymouth Barracuda went to 4th base with a Phantom. It’s the Rolls version of a fastback muscle car. The V12 engine makes 624 bhp and propels the big bruiser from 0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds.

In the gizmo department, the Wraith has a Satellite Aided Transmission (a.k.a., clever, clever SAT:) Via GPS mapping, “the correct gear is always pre-selected for the road terrain ahead.”

In Europe, the car will cost €245K ($320k) – downright approachable, compared to the Wolfsburg bull.

P90115725_lowRes P90115726_lowRes P90115727_lowRes P90115728_lowRes P90115729_lowRes P90115730_lowRes P90115731_lowRes P90115732_lowRes P90115733_lowRes P90115734_lowRes P90115735_lowRes P90115736_lowRes P90115737_lowRes P90115738_lowRes P90115739_lowRes P90115740_lowRes P90115741_lowRes P90115742_lowRes wraith Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Seven The Hard Way: Possibly The Coolest Auction Of The Year http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/seven-the-hard-way-possibly-the-coolest-auction-of-the-year/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/seven-the-hard-way-possibly-the-coolest-auction-of-the-year/#comments Wed, 23 Jan 2013 17:51:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=474907

H.J Mulliners gave this model design the name “Flying Spur” which is well documented as the heraldic symbol of the Johnstone Clan in Scotland. The “Flying Spur” was awarded to the Johnstone clan for their help in allowing Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape on horseback.

That’s authentic British heritage, no Bentley-by-Breitling-by-Bentley-by-Brietling-by-Volkswagen needed. You’re looking at one of seven Flying Spurs for sale, from the collection of a Hungarian who escaped that Communist state to become an engineer, succeed beyond his wildest imagination, and acquire top-shelf examples of the Flying Spur wherever they could be found. That’s even cooler than the cars themselves, right?

The Boros Collection is now up for sale at Coys UK. I encourage you to read about the cars and the man who owned them. Now, let’s play a little game of “One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other”

This is one of Mr. Boros’ other Spurs:

It’s possible to quibble a little bit… perhaps you like the single-headlight Clouds better, perhaps you just don’t like big luxury cars. Still… look at it and imagine caning it down the B-road to your country estate, or pulling up to Stoke Park in it. Now, let’s examine the 1994-vintage Rolls-Royce Flying Spur, which was a turbocharged variant of the Silver Spur:

You can argue that this shape didn’t wear as well, but it’s still well-proportioned, clean, and elegant. Now, take a deep breath and continue:

Oh, look. It’s the Bentley Flying Spur. Right next to the S-Class so you can see the car with which Bentley intended to compete. A four-door Continental, which is to say a four-door version of a two-door version of a Volkswagen Phaeton. Looks like a Kia Amanti without the sense of dignity. Or maybe a Toyota Celica from the bug-eye era. It’s kind of sad, really. Bentley throws some lovely press trips, but this car is an embarrassment to the name and has been for several years now.

The seven original Flying Spurs are now old enough that it would be possible to bring one to the United States. We’d love for a TTAC reader to do just that, but more than that, we’d like someone to buy all seven and keep Mr. Boros’ dream going.

(NB: Although we would love to profit from an auction about which we are writing, TTAC has no affiliation with Coys or Mr. Boros.)

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This Rolls Is Not. Let’s Hope The Girls Are http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/this-rolls-is-not-lets-hope-the-girls-are/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/this-rolls-is-not-lets-hope-the-girls-are/#comments Tue, 11 Sep 2012 10:18:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=459862 In the olden days, when a Bentley was a rebadged Rolls Royce (or vice versa), it was easy to mistake one for the other. Bentley cleverly leveraged its “smart shopper” image into sales that were an order of magnitude higher than those of Rolls. Ever since Volkswagen forgot to check the trademark files, and subsequently lost Rolls to BMW while keeping Bentley (to still much bigger success), those days are over, and the respective overlords in Wolfsburg and Munich get alarmed if there is any confusion. The news still haven’t reached Indonesia, or so it seems.

The Indonesian Kompas newspaper reported about “exploding sales” of Rolls Royce in Asia. And then, the Jakarta paper that prides itself of its “high-quality writing and investigative journalism” showed a picture of the Bentley Mulsanne, surrounded by eight gold-lamed and well-heeled Asian beauties.

The translated caption says “Rolls-Royce surrounded by pretty girls.” Half true at best. While the pictured presumptive Rolls definitely is a Bentley, we hope that all the girls are in fact girls. The story is datelined Bangkok, Thailand, can’t be careful enough.

Tip of the blangkon to Petrus

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Born From Props: Rolls Royce Presents Supermarine S6B Inspired Special Model Collection http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/born-from-props-rolls-royce-presets-supermarine-s6b-inspired-special-model-collection/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/born-from-props-rolls-royce-presets-supermarine-s6b-inspired-special-model-collection/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 12:14:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457159 This will be a wee complicated and very British: The Schneider Trophy, a prize competition for seaplanes was won several times by a Supermarine S6B, which in turn was powered by a  Rolls-Royce R Type engine. Follow so far? What does this have to do with cars? Honestly, not the foggiest. But Rolls-Royce Motor Cars proudly presents the Phantom Coupé Aviator Collection, which is said to be inspired by said seaplanes. Still with me? Alright.

The first in a collection of 35 Phantom Coupé Aviator Collection models – which feature a suite of exclusive design concepts, colour combinations and new materials – debuts today at the Pebble Beach Quail gathering in the United States. And here are  some pictures.

Says the press release:

“Finished in Aviator Grey, the Phantom Coupé Aviator Collection features a contrasting matt bonnet, window and grille surround while inside, the interplay of wood and metal hint strongly at a cockpit theme. A Thommen, aviation-grade clock with blood orange needle tips is embedded in the metal foil upper fascia, complemented by matt black dials for power reserve, speedometer and fuel gauges.”

“Fitted with leather floor mats, Aviator Collection cars have also been designed to incorporate the Rolls-Royce of cup holders. Beautifully engineered in highly polished aluminium, the designer’s aim was to deliver functionality, but with that special combination of theatre and jewellery, both of which are expected by every Rolls-Royce client.”

Did I hear “How much?” If you had to ask, you probably can’t afford it.

PHANTOM COUPÉ  Picxture courtesy BMW 1 PHANTOM COUPÉ  Picxture courtesy BMW 2 PHANTOM COUPÉ  Picxture courtesy BMW 3 PHANTOM COUPÉ  Picxture courtesy BMW 4 PHANTOM COUPÉ  Picxture courtesy BMW 5 ]]>
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BlingCarNate http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/blingcarnate/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/blingcarnate/#comments Thu, 19 Jul 2012 12:19:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453465

A 1962 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II, adorned with over a million Swarovski crystals is on display at the Four Seasons Hotel in Munich, Germany.

According to London’s Daily Mail, “from boot to bonnet, the classic automobile shimmers with all the colours of the rainbow thanks to the unique way the crystals refract the light.”

The blingcarnate Roller will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to the ‘Help in Motion’ charity foundation. It helps drug addicts. After they did that car.

Picture courtesy dailymail.co.uk Picture courtesy dailymail.co.uk Picture courtesy dailymail.co.uk Picture courtesy dailymail.co.uk

 

 

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Does BMW Have a Fire Safety Problem With All of Its Brands’ Turbos? 2,916 More Non-Chevy-Volts Recalled For Fire Hazard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/does-bmw-have-a-fire-safety-problem-with-all-of-its-brands-turbos-2916-more-non-chevy-volts-recalled-for-fire-hazard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/does-bmw-have-a-fire-safety-problem-with-all-of-its-brands-turbos-2916-more-non-chevy-volts-recalled-for-fire-hazard/#comments Tue, 17 Apr 2012 18:07:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=440363

It hasn’t gotten nearly as much attention as the handful of early production Tata Nanos that caught fire, or the Ferrari 458 recall, also for fire safety issues, or the newly expanded investigation into Jeep Wranglers burning, and certainly not nearly the attention given the near non-event with that one crash tested Chevy Volt, but BMW appears to have a corporate wide fire problem with turbocharged models that has now resulted in recalls of BMW, MINI and Rolls-Royce vehicles. Earlier this year BMW recalled turbocharged Mini Cooper models because the circuit board controlling the auxiliary water pump used to cool down the turbocharger after the engine is shut off could develop an electrical fault due to copper migrating between circuit traces, creating a fire hazard. Now comes word that BMW is expanding a previous recall (PDF) of some 2010 BMW and Rolls-Royce models to include 2011 and 2012 models. It’s not clear if it’s the exact problem as with the Minis, though it does involve the same component, the electronic controller for the auxiliary water pump. To their credit, BMW discovered the latest problem in internal testing and there is no word on any real-world fires with consumers’ cars. The Mini recall was prompted by reports of a dozen fires, eight of them while the vehicles were parked. The latest recall (PDF) affects 2011 BMW 5 Series, and 2012 6 Series, 7 Series and X5 and X6 vehicles. Also affected are 2010-2011 Rolls-Royce Ghosts, which are built with a BMW platform and share components with the parent brand. BMW says the problem exists with 100% of the turbocharged V8 and V12 powered models in those lines. A total of about 35,000 BMW made vehicles are affected by the original and expanded BMW and Rolls-Royce recalls.

In the initial voluntary recall last October, BMW attributed the problem to an unspecified malfunction in the electronic controller. It’s possible that it’s the same problem as with the Minis.

Under certain conditions, the pump’s electronic circuit board can malfunction. The malfunction can occur as a result of certain design features in combination with high operating temperatures. Under these conditions, this can lead to a failure of the water pump. In some cases, the circuit board can overheat. In an extreme case, overheating of the circuit board can lead to smolder of the water pump. If smoldering occurs, it cannot be excluded that this may also lead to an engine compartment or vehicle fire.

In the subsequent expanded recall, BMW attributed a problem with later production vehicles to improperly made turbocharger housings, resulting in leaking coolant.

It was discovered that for the additional production, there was a manufacturing process deviation at the supplier for this limited production run of pumps, this deviation could result in cracks in the pump housing. If this were to occur, then coolant could enter and contact the pump’s circuit board.

Whether or not it’s the same exact defect affecting Minis, BMWs and Rolls-Royces, it’s clear that BMW has quality and fire safety problems involving its turbochargers’ water pumps. The recall notice sent to NHTSA from BMW identifies the faulty component supplier as Pierburg Pump Technologies GmbH.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Automotive Aloha: 1937 Rolls-Royce, Pre-War Bentley, And A Dakine Engine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/automotive-aloha-1937-rolls-royce-pre-war-bentley-and-a-dakine-engine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/automotive-aloha-1937-rolls-royce-pre-war-bentley-and-a-dakine-engine/#comments Sat, 14 Apr 2012 13:29:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=439872

Even when on vacation, I can’t help tripping over interesting stuff. In this case, quite literally. Ouch. My toe’s still bleeding.

We’re on the windward side of Oahu, a low-key family-style vacation where I normally eschew the madding crowds of people who are better looking than me, embracing instead a backyard chaise-longue and a local IPA. It is in no way, shape or form a hard-knock life.

This is one face of the real Hawai’i and the folks here are as relaxed and bronzed as well you might expect. They’re also used to a quiet life, and many are retirees from various places on the mainland. As a member of the informal network that arises out of the bridge, bunko and bbq circuit, my wife’s aunt asks me if I want to take a look at couple of old cars belonging to a friend’s recently deceased husband. What kind? “Oh an old Bentley and I think a Mercedes.”

Well, here’s the “Mercedes”. Turns out it’s a 1937 Rolls-Royce which predeceased its previous owner only very slightly. The car used to be daily driven: you could see its graceful carriage wafting among the palms, along the Pali or the Likelike highway into Honolulu.

Same story with this one. Another pre-war artistocrat, this pre-war Bentley was driven by the gentleman’s son for many years, until it too became a Garage Countessa. Being so close to the water, the salt air pits the chrome mercilessly.

Aside from the two gargantuan Britannic majesties, this place is stuffed to the rafters with all manner of cast-iron goodness. Some of which, as mentioned, wreaks its bloody havoc on my be-flip-flopped foot. I blame Jonny Lieberman.

Here, for instance, is the engine out of a pre-WWI plane. Don’t ask me to be more specific than that: no doubt the man who added it to his Aladdin’s Cave could have given you chapter and verse, but its current caretaker doesn’t have the specifics. It’s off to a museum, not a collector.

Transfer cases, gear boxes, a cider-press from the early part of the century. Some would call this hoarding behaviour, but to me it’s evidence of the gravity well that exists inside even the best-kept garage.

More than that though, it’s the legacy of a man who kept taking things on right up to the end. Doubtless he felt that all these spares would be organized, all these tools sharpened, all these machines made to run again.

But in the end, entropy rules. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, rubber to rot, chassis to rust.

These beasts will roar again. They’re special enough to be reborn, although this level of necromancy is surely going to require that they leave their tropical island home to be shipped to some team of mainland craftsman. To return? Not likely.

The folks across the street have a Nissan Leaf, and photovoltaic panels on their roof. Sensible, but forgive me if I’d rather have this garage full of whimsy.

So let this be spurs to your own desire. Even in paradise, there’s no time to waste!

Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture courtesy Brendan McAleer Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Good News: This Year, The U.S. Will Beat China – In Rolls Royce Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/good-news-this-year-the-u-s-will-beat-china-%e2%80%93-in-rolls-royce-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/good-news-this-year-the-u-s-will-beat-china-%e2%80%93-in-rolls-royce-sales/#comments Wed, 11 Jan 2012 12:34:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=425545 When I came to China for the first time in 2004, I would have never thought that the country would one day be the benchmark for the consumption of luxury automobiles.  A few weeks ago, I thought the headline “U.S. may overtake China’s rich in Rolls Royce race” to be an impossibility. But here it is. At Reuters, an even-keeled wire when it comes to the auto beat. But first things first.
China overtook the U.S. by buying more than 1,000 rollers last year, say Reuters, which has it from Rolls Royce CEO Torsten Müller.  I can also remember the days, not too long ago, when Rolls-Royce’s total global sales were less than 1,000. In total, Rolls-Royce sold 3,538 units in 2011, up 31 percent from the previous year. Would you have imagined that one third of the Rolls-Royce production goes to China?

In 2012, the U.S. could correct the shame and outrank China again. Says Reuters:

“Yet Torsten Müller-tvs, a BMW veteran, expressed confidence in a resurgence of growth in North America, saying he would not be surprised if sales in the U.S. accelerated ahead of China in 2012.

“I think the American market will definitely pick up. It depends on the economy and the U.S. market. There are encouraging signals we are seeing,” he told Reuters from the flagship Rolls-Royce store in Hong Kong.”

PS: Reuters insists on calling the Rolls Royce CEO “Müller-tvs,” as if –tvs is a new German title. The correct name is “Torsten Müller-Ötvös” – I also would have never imagined that Rolls-Royce one day would be led by a CEO that has a very German name, hyphenated with a very Hungarian name.

 

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If The Times Are Bad, Someone Forgot To Tell Rolls-Royce And Ferrari http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/if-the-times-are-bad-someone-forgot-to-tell-rolls-royce-and-ferrari/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/if-the-times-are-bad-someone-forgot-to-tell-rolls-royce-and-ferrari/#comments Thu, 15 Sep 2011 18:31:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=411344

Derek Kreindler’s provocative defense of the Maserati Kubang sparked off an interesting discussion among TTAC’s Best and Brightest yesterday, about the the macroeconomic outlook for luxury brands. Sure, the American economy is struggling to stay out of a double-dip recession, credit is no longer as available as it was in the pre-Lehman days, and some argue that worse is still to come… but for the moment, the high end of the luxury market couldn’t be doing better. Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Mueller-Oetvoes tells Reuters [via AN [sub]] that his brand will set a new sales record this year, and that the outlook for 2012 is good, saying

I have not seen any reluctance to consider buying a Rolls-Royce. I do not feel that sentiment is deteriorating in the luxury market. We are dealing with people who are unusually wealthy and never really have to ask themselves, can I still afford this or not?

And it’s one thing to just talk, but Rolls is also putting its money where its mouth is, initiating a $16m expansion to its Goodwood plant. And it’s not the only luxury brand that seems to be confused about this “recession” that the peasants keep going on about…

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne joins the “what recession?” chorus, telling Bloomberg

If you go to the Ferrari stand, there aren’t any customers worried about the recession. The last Ferrari customers I saw at the show weren’t crying.

In fact, Ferrari is capping production at 7,000 annual units in order to maintain exclusivity. If a Ferrari customer were going to cry, it would only be because they were late to the waiting list and missed the latest must-have Italian stallion. Luckily Maserati is picking up the slack, as Bloomberg explains

Even without the Kubang SUV, Maserati aims to boost deliveries by almost eightfold to 45,000 cars in 2014 as it increases dealers by 150 percent worldwide.

According to IHS Global Insight, sales of the top-tier European luxury brands, Ferrari, Maserati, Lamborghini, Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Aston-Martin, will grow double digits this year and the next. Even with the growing possibility of a deep recession in Europe, a possible Euro-zone breakup and the persistent threat of a sovereign debt crisis, the good times are rolling for the global upper-crust. Says Credit Suisse analyst Erich Hauser:

The rich have gotten richer and the number of millionaires in emerging countries is really growing so the demographic trend is very positive. Things would have to get very nasty before they face a problem.

In the meantime, the rest of us can take our minds off the grim reality facing the less-than-super-wealthy by tuning in to the automotive mainstream media’s ongoing obsession with the most unobtainable of millionaire-mobiles. Because voyeurism is free (or 83 cents per issue if you subscribe now!) and the wealthy are just doing their part to keep us entertained. Welcome to the new economy…

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Shanghai Auto Show: As Luxury Cars Fly Off The Lot In China, The Government Pulls The Brakes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/shanghai-auto-show-as-luxury-cars-fly-off-the-lot-in-china-the-government-pulls-the-brakes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/shanghai-auto-show-as-luxury-cars-fly-off-the-lot-in-china-the-government-pulls-the-brakes/#comments Sun, 24 Apr 2011 19:52:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=392841

At last year’s Beijing auto show, a man walked up to the Roll Royce booth with a suitcase full of “Red Maos” – as the 100 yuan note is called in China, the largest note equals $15.40 – and walked away as the owner of a Rolls Royce Phantom. At least that’s what AFP heard. Because of taxes and duties, a Rolls-Royce Phantom started at 6.6 million yuan ($1 million) a year ago. That translated into 66,000 red banknotes.

At this year’s Shanghai show, no suitcases were proffered. However, “using connections to enter the show on the media preview day, millionaires bought two Rolls Royce Phantoms, which start at nine million yuan ($1.3 million) and four of the new Ghosts, starting at 5.1 million yuan.” The “connections” came cheap. On media days, there is a booming market for press passes outside of the show.

Aston Martin Aston Martin sold one of its super-luxury One-77s for 47 million yuan ($7.22 million.) “We don’t like to say it’s the most expensive car in the show, but we are pretty confident it will be,” Matthew Bennett, the Asia-Pacific director for British luxury car maker Aston Martin told AFP.

Despite a murderous 145 percent tax on imported luxury cars, China’s luxury car sales are expected to rise to more than 909,900 units this year, up from about 727,200 last year, according to forecasts by IHS Automotive.

China’s trend to conspicuous consumption might turn into its downfalls. There is rising public dissatisfaction with a widening wealth gap. The government is sensitive to this and has vowed to pursue more equitable growth in the future. As a first move, the government is clamping down on overly ostentatious displays of affection with dough. Already, Beijing’s government lashes out against billboards that advertise a flamboyant lifestyle. This is widely ignored. Now, Beijing handed down a regulation that hurts:

Beijing suddenly classified any vehicles beyond 6 meters (20 feet) as commercial vehicles, Automobilwoche [sub] reports. Meaning: They must stay in the truck lane and are banned from the ritzier thoroughfares. A billionaire might not reach his garage in the tonier parts of China’s capital.  As an answer, Rolls Royce did not just debut an extended wheelbase Ghost in Shanghai. Rolls also promised a shortened Phantom that skirts the 6 meter limit.

 

 

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Welcome To The Electrolux Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/the-electrolux-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/02/the-electrolux-segment/#comments Mon, 21 Feb 2011 12:58:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=384516

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How many people do you think called their neighborhood Rolls Royce dealer and asked: “Do you have a plug-in Phantom?” Never mind. BMW-owned Rolls Royce shows one anyway at the Geneva Autoshow. Don’t worry, they don’t really mean it, it’s a prototype only.

According to Automobilwoche [sub], the nearly 20 foot long Phantom require a hard look to reveal its electric inner life. From the outside, there is only a Lucite Emily that glows in electric blue. Instead of a gas filler, there is an illuminated socket for the charger plug. That’s it.

Rolls Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös (now that’s a nice British name) didn’t want to tell Automobilwoche what’s under the hood (possibly nothing at all yet). He assured the German industry rag that the plug-in phantom will have “sufficient range” and will be “comfortable to drive.” That’s reassuring.

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Carmageddon Is Behind Us. If You Believe in Ghosts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/carmageddon-is-behind-us-if-you-believe-in-ghosts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/11/carmageddon-is-behind-us-if-you-believe-in-ghosts/#comments Tue, 09 Nov 2010 15:12:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=371946

The worldwide auto industry is officially on the mend. Carmageddon is behind us. The future is bright and shiny. How do I know this? If Rolls Royce can have higher annual sales than in any of the 30 years before, life must be good again. And there still are 2 months to go, with some possible Rollers under some possible Christmas trees.

Last year, BMW-owned Rolls sold some 1,000 of their pricey cars. In October this year, they already had moved more than 2,000. Who’s responsible? A ghost, reports Automobilwoche [sub]. The $350,000 and up Ghost is selling like hotcakes and makes inroads into fresh target groups. 80 percent of the Ghost buyers never had a Rolls before, says Rolls Chief Torsten Müller-Ötvös. He’s more than happy to change that.

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Geely Rolls Out Updated GE Limousine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/geely-rolls-out-updated-ge-limousine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/geely-rolls-out-updated-ge-limousine/#comments Wed, 14 Apr 2010 15:47:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=352467

Remember the Geely GE, the poster child for Chinese auto styling theft? It’s been updated for the upcoming Beijing Auto Show, and trust us, it doesn’t look like a Rolls-Royce copy anymore…

…but did we say it was an improvement? Ah well, the journey from pirating to successful, original design begins with a single, awkward step. We still prefer Hu Jintao’s retro-tastic Hongqi HQE though.

geelygeupdate1 geelygeupdateint1 geelygeupdateint2 Improvement? The old model... look familiar? ]]>
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Bugatti Backs Down? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/bugatti-backs-down/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/03/bugatti-backs-down/#comments Sat, 27 Mar 2010 16:51:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=350500

With Maybach folding up its tent after an uninspired campaign to unseat Rolls Royce at the top of the luxury sedan heap, only Bentley and Bugatti remain as potential challengers to the Phantom (Geely doesn’t count). Bentley has always had a slight inferiority complex when comparisons to Rollers come up, and though the new Mulsanne offers an alternative to the Phantom, it won’t replace it as the undisputed champion of four-door luxury. No, it seems as though the Volkswagen Group is trying to bracket BMW’s Phantom, with the Mulsanne nipping at its heels, and the Bugatti Galibier concept indicating what on might purchase in order to put all the Phantom owners in their place. It might not be as purely luxurious as the Rolls, but the Bugatti name, the 800 HP and the Galibier’s dramatically opulent looks have the potential to yield an icon capable of unsettling the high-end, four-door order of things. But will it be built? According to Autocar‘s Bugatti sources:

It will be made one way or the other.. We’re the smallest VW Group member and there’s a recession on so we’ve not been a priority. But we can expect to announce something by the summer; it looks good, people like it and it wouldn’t be a great financial commitment in the context of the Group.

But evo Magazine’s Harry Metcalfe says it ain’t so. The Galibier, he says, is over, and with it Bugatti’s ambition to build the world’s most powerful and expensive four-door.

According to Metcalfe, who is known to have friends inside Bugatti (apparently owning 14 cars and an $11k annual insurance premium helps with this), the Galibier was well-received in in the US and Middle East, but potential European customers found it “rather too upright and unremarkable.” As a result, Metcalfe reports that Bugatti is ditching the four-door design for a coupe, which, he argues, would make a better Veyron replacement anyway.

The confusing part? Metcalfe writes in the April issue of evo

Bugatti has gone back to the drawing board and decided to create an exciting, all-black, coupe version of the Galibier, which is being given its world premiere at an invitation-only presentation on the eve of the Geneva show.

Sure enough, pictures of an all-black Bugatti were released at Geneva, but they’re of the four-door Galibier. Huh? With Autocar and evo telling different stories, it’s hard to know what’s actually happening at Bugatti. Perhaps they realized that a sporting Rolls alternative (in the Mulsanne) and a hyper-sporting Rolls-beater in the Galibier was a bridge too far. In either case, and at least for now, the Phantom seems safe in its place as the most status-bestowing four-door on the market.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Taking The PR At Face Value Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-taking-the-pr-at-face-value-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/12/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-taking-the-pr-at-face-value-edition/#comments Tue, 08 Dec 2009 21:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=338602 Sportlich? (courtesy:autobild.de)

When Rolls Royce’s PR folks told Autobild that the Phantom Coupe was the sportier model in the lineup, they probably didn’t expect the German magazine to treat it like a GTI or Type R. But they did. The result? Er quietscht, er qualmt, er quält sich (or, as Google Translate hilariously puts it, “he squeaks, he smokes, he torments himself”), say the Germans, before concluding that “there is a little bit of BMW in this Rolls-Royce after all.” And in the proud tradition of German car reviewing, comparing any car to a German car is as high as the praise gets.

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Rolls-Royce Records Record Results – In China http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/rolls-royce-records-record-results-in-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/rolls-royce-records-record-results-in-china/#comments Sat, 21 Nov 2009 13:30:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=336319 rollschina

“Rolls-Royce said Friday the market for its super-luxury cars was picking up dramatically across Asia as the effects of the global financial crisis recede,” says AFP.

“We’re fast coming out of the financial crisis and China and India look like they will lead the way out in 2010 on a feel-good factor,” quoth Rolls-Royce Asia-Pacific regional chief Colin Kelly.

Rolls-Royce expects sales in the alleged poorhouses of China and India to grow to three-quarters of its total business in the Asia-Pacific region.

China accounts for 50 percent of Rolls-Royce’s Asia-Pacific sales, says the Mercury News. China overtook Japan to be Rolls-Royce’s biggest market in the region. The Middle Kingdom already consumes about 10 percent of Rolls-Royce’s global sales, all 106 of them. In a good year. BMW sells 1000 Rollers worldwide. They must have a reason why they go to all that trouble.

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Whats Wrong With This Picture: Compact Co-Branding Rolls On Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-compact-co-branding-rolls-on-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-compact-co-branding-rolls-on-edition/#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2009 18:02:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=336122 (courtesy:Autocar.co.uk)

Autocar confirms that BMW has green-lighted a “MINI by Rolls-Royce,” featuring a “totally individual, coachbuilt” interiors finished at Rolls’ Goodwood plant. The Aston Martin Cygnet and Abarth 695 Tributo Ferrari have been put on notice… as have the marketing geniuses who thought they were good ideas. At least Rolls-trimmed MINIs have good precedent.

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