ALL adjectives and expressions used in the normal description of motor cars have to be based on some suitable standard, and owing to the inexorable law of averages, this standard is the normal good quality sound car which forms the backbone of the industry.
It is this fact which grossly handicaps the poor scribe who starts out to convey the details and performance of such a production as the latest Rolls-Royce to those used to the normal standard of motoring, and makes ordinary language quite inadequate in attempting to convey what can only be obtained by firsthand experience. The tradition of Rolls-Royce has grown with the motoring era till it has become a legend, but the wonder of this production is none the less
true for all its legendary qualities, and to those who sometimes ask, “Is a Rolls Royce all that it is said to be—it seems impossible ? ” one can only quote the Queen of Sheba’s remark about Solomon, “The half was not told “—or in normal English–” Try it for yourself and you’ll learn something.” The last trip we had in a RollsRoyce was in one of the famous “
Phantom” models, which was the forerunner of the “Phantom II,” and when the opportunity arose of trying a ” Continental ” edition of this latest model we duly repaired to Conduit Street at the appointed hour to meet Mr. Northey, with whom we were to learn what can be done to make motoring worth while. While waiting, so to speak, for
the car to appear at the door, it will be interesting to note some of the points about the new car and the policy which has caused its creation. As its designation implies, this model has been developed largely as a result of experience of fast touring on Continental roads, where the conditions are so vastly more strenuous and infinitely more varied than those obtaining in this country.
Rolls-Royce Ltd. have never attempted to produce what is generally termed a “sports car,” and they are emphatic that the ” Continental ” model is a fast touring car, intended to combine the height of luxurious travel with a performance over any type of road which will satisfy anyone who does not actually wish to compete in a race. The fact that so many owners of these cars use them all over the world, with a specially large proportion i n Europe, has given them a vast amount of useful knowledge. In addition to this a great deal of experimental work is carried out on the Continent by Rolls-Royce testers, any new feature, after preliminary tests in England, being put through a period of stren
uous testing over many thousands of miles of Alpine roads before it is finally accepted for production.
Such problems as cooling, while simple enough to arrange for under normal English road conditions, are far from easy when required to cope equally well with gentle gliding through traffic at one end of the scale, and a full speed ascent, of the Coldu Galibier, 8,450 feet high, at the other.
The Continental model diffeis from the normal Phantom II in having a rather higher compression engine, while the chassis is the result of the most rigorous tests to ensure perfect suspension at speed over all surfaces without interfering with the comfort in any way.
After due inspection of the separate engine units mounted in the showroom we boarded the car, and with Mr. Northey at the wheel we moved silently through the London traffic bound for the Great North road.
The first points that strike one about this amazing motor car are the comfort, which is unsurpassed by the most luxurious furniture, and the uncanny silence, which enables everyone in the car (we carried a load of four) to converse in normal tones at all speeds as easily as if seated round a smoking room fire. We very soon realised that in addition to providing this delightful mode of travel, the car was capable of the most astounding performance
without visible or audible effort. Once out of town
Northey, remarking quietly, ” Of course, if we wished to put real power in this engine we could,” put his foot down and the car went straight up to 90 m.p.h. without a falter, still with no sound but that of the wind past the windows. Having given some glimpses of
what the car could do, Mr. Northey then changed places, and we were able to try for ourselves the handling of this twentieth century magic carpet. The first thing that is evident when driving is that it is probably the easiest car to handle ever built. The lower two gears are practically never used for main road work, though when negotiating Alpine hairpins their use would be called into play. Starting is normally effected in third gear, which gives as good an acceleration from a crawl as any screaming small sports car, but without any demonstration of power. The engine torque at low speeds is terrific to give such acceleration, and one would naturally expect to feel the ” punch ” of the individual cylinders when picking up from a low speed. Actually one feels nothing, so cleverly has the engine mounting and vibration damping. been ar
ranged, and the flow of power can only be compared to that of an electric motor.
In ordinary use even third gear is but little used, although 70 m.p.h. can be reached on it, as owing to the amazing power available, top gear does nearly everything required. To give a full idea of this power the acceleration curve from 10 m.p.h. was taken entirely on top gear, instead of the usual MOTOR SPORT practice of using full revs, on each gear to show the maximum acceler ation obtainable. The result is extremely interesting as it shows a
performance, using a single gear which is only surpassed by a racing car, and then only by full use of the gears. From the first moment of taking control of the car, the driver feels absolutely at home. Although it is a large car, it feels small to drive owing to the perfect balance of the controls and steering. The latter is absolutely effortless, free from road shocks, and yet not too low geared,
and with a live feel which makes accurate driving and cornering really simple. The road holding is remarkable in its adaption to varying surfaces and speeds, and in its complete freedom from rolling or tail-heaviness when cornering fast. It can be seen from the photographs that the body, which is incidentally mounted on a special subframe, is
kept well within the wheelbase, which has a great deal to do with the car’s extreme steadiness. The brakes also contribute to the ease of fast driving, being so light to operate that the longest run would never tire the driver, yet without
any sign of fierceness. The pedal actually controls a servo motor mounted on the gearbox which applies the brakes on all wheels, and is equally effective either forwards or backwards.
Unlike so many servo systems there is no feeling that the servo is taking charge of the proceedings, and either the fiercest or the most gradual braking can be obtained at will without any particular delicacy or skill on the part of the driver. In open country a speed of 80 m.p.h. is reached in a few seconds and is maintained without any seeming effort on the merest fraction of the full throttle opening. The miles slip by with less fuss than in any other mode of travel we have
experienced. Trains rock aboutr and aircraft, either open or closed, are definitely noisy, but the Rolls wafts one along without either defect. In fact, such a means of transport would soon completelyspoil one’s taste for any other, except on the water !
The maximum speed was 93 m.p.h. and 90 m.p.h. can be obtained on. any reasonable road in perfect comfort and safety.
An interesting feature is the engine governor which is controlled by what on a normal car is the hand throttle lever. This is a useful fitting for getting away from a standstill on a steep mountain climb, obviating if required, the necessity for any cunning with the throttle pedal and hand brake.
The conditions of getting away under load were reproduced artificially by applying the hand-brake and engaging third gear. The governor throttle control was then opened till the engine was running at a fast tickover and the clutch let in without touching any other control. Immediately the car surged forward as the governor automatically opened the throttle, and on declutching the engine was ticking over once more.
Such a fitting is not essential, but it is just an example of the way this car is fitted with everything that can possibly make motoring more convenient, safe, or enjoyable.
It is a cheering thought in these rather pessimistic times to feel that this country can produce such a masterpiece, and there is no doubt that anyone to whom money is not a primary consideration need waste no time considering how to spend his money as far as motoring is concerned.