S1 v. 220SE

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Sir,

The Editor does seem to have a happy knack of putting cats amongst pigeons. First VW versus The Rest, now Rolls-Royce versus Mercedes-Benz. I sometimes feel that his cheek must be pretty full of tongue!

I would first of all like to make it clear that I am not a Rolls-Royce owner, merely the humble but very satisfied user of an S1 Park Ward Continental, with some 86,000 miles to its credit, 45,000 of which has been done during the past two years. But there is little difference in the Rolls and the Bentley, apart from the radiator shell and the final-drive ratio, so I feel that I may have some qualification for expressing an opinion.

I have always had a great regard for the Mercedes and was considering a change to a 300SE and accordingly I asked the local agent to make available one of these cars to me for a few days’ trial, as I never believe in driving a car around the block and then deciding to buy. However, a 300SE was not available but in due course a 220SE with automatic box was delivered to me for extended trial.

The trial, over a matter of several hundred miles, was a revelation, having due regard to the 2.2-litres, and the road-holding was excellent, almost as good as the Bentley, but the engine was “fussy,” always giving the impression of working hard, whilst the tick-over was very fast and noisy, and the automatic box did not shine at all well in heavily congested towns where one’s speed was limited, tending always to be in 2nd gear and again being very fussy. On the open road the box was excellent.

Regarding Mr. Potter’s remarks concerning the body and interior appointments: My Bentley has the most comfortable seats with built-in anatomical correctness, which is not apparent until tried out over long mileages, and all my instruments with the exception of the clock are directly in front of the driver, and are mostly large round dials with white figures on a black background, not square or oblong dials which are difficult to see; the Mercedes speedometer being particularly bad in this respect as the horn-ring got in the way of the 50-70 m.p.h. range and the figures were painted in a dull red and quite small.

As far as the front wings are concerned, both are well in sight on my car and whilst both back wings cannot be seen through the mirror, the large rear window makes parking quite easy. The steering on the Bentley is feather light and extremely precise; both of these qualities being far inferior on the Mercedes.

Now turning to the body itself. The Mercedes body is very thin and tinny, the roof and boot lids being extremely bad in this respect. The chrome plating was showing signs of pitting in several places and was down to the bare metal in places on the bumpers; this on a car not more than six months old and with 17,000 miles on the clock. The roof lining was of poor quality and badly rubbed where the sun visors touched in the parked position, and the pressed cardboard type of lining under the dash was badly fitted and of very inferior material, and as for the floor covering the less said the better. To sum up, the general finish and quality of the bodywork and fittings was hardly equal to a British £1,000 car.

With reference to the fitting of disc brakes to a Rolls/Bentley: “when we consider disc brakes to be better than our own we will fit them.” That was the answer that was given by a Rolls-Royce engineer when I asked the question. Presumably a similar answer would be given to the question of air suspension, fuel injection, etc.

Another point is that the Rolls and Bentley do not require greasing and servicing every 1,200 or 2,000 miles or so, the servicing being limited to Schedules A, B and C at 5,000, 10,000 and 20,000 miles, and to the pressing of a small convenient lever once every 200 miles.

Finally, may I put Mr. Bucknall at case with reference to his article “Buying a Rolls-Royce.” I understand that the cost of a professional decoke for an S-series Rolls/Bentley is around £40, whilst a works reconditioned engine is in the £400 region. Incidentally, my Bentley has never had a decoke or the head off in 86,000 miles and does not need it as the compressions are all in accordance with the maker’s requirements and the oil consumption is still 500 miles/pint of multigrade.

J. H. MATHEW.

Tavistock