ROLLS-ROYCE: AN EXPLANATION
Some of our more red-white-and-blue readers have cast aspersions on our patriotism, because we have repeatedly named Another Make as being, in our view, the present Best Car in the World. So it becomes a matter of some moment to offer an explanation, and what better time, with Motor Sport embarking on another brave New Year?
Before the war and up to the outbreak of peace in 1945, we had the best possible relationship with Rolls-Royce Ltd. Each new model was described and road-tested in these pages and during the war much R.-R. history was published, W. A. Rowbotham of the R.-R. Experimental Department being an enthusiastic voluntary contributor. The Editor included the remarkable story of how the R.-R. racing R-type Schneider Trophy aero-engine was developed in our war-time “Great British Achievements” series; he who coined the saying “If the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing-fields of Eton, victory in the Battle of Britain was gained over Calshott Water” can hardly be accused of having overlooked the vital part played by the Merlin engine in bringing Britain victorious through the Second World War.
Today this same Editor is very willing to acknowledge the superiority of R.-R. engines in the air, but can claim no practical knowledge of recent Rolls-Royce cars. The fault lies entirely with the Company. The last road-test we were permitted to undertake of one of their products was of a Bentley S-series in 1956. We concluded the report with these words: “The British lion may spend much of its time lying down these days but it is still capable of getting up and facing the World in a bold and dignified manner, and products such as the Bentley remind us that this is so. This is the Company Director’s motor car par excellence and it is fitting that men who control British destiny should drive these fine cars from Crewe, rather than chromium-draped floating drawing-rooms of other than British origin.” Hardly the utterings of an anti-British writer, surely?
The Editor was keen to pursue this policy. We asked for each subsequent R.-R. model for test. We asked to be allowed, as American journalists were, to visit the factory, and to be permitted to describe R.-R. test methods. The Editor suggested he should take anonymously the course at the R-R. Chauffeurs’ School, to see how professional drivers of these legendary vehicles were trained.
We put these requests through a series of Conduit Street P.R.O.s. No go! We appealed to Mr. Whitney Straight, C.B.E., M.C., D.F.C., the R.-R. Joint Deputy Chairman, whose motor-racing activities were generously publicised in Motor Sport before the War. The Company still chose to ignore us.
Later the Editor contemplated the fascination of owning a used Rolls-Royce and asked his secretary to write to four firms, one in the West End, one near the Crystal Palace, one in Huntingdon, and one in Staffordshire, who specialise in this kind of business. It seemed a good idea to tell our readers what sort of stock such vendors held and the sort of performance, petrol consumption and satisfaction these old cars offer. Apart from one tentative phone call, no-one was prepared to co-operate….
We have no wish to ignore R.-R. products. But a journalist can write in detail only of what he experiences. In assessing the Mercedes-Benz as the World’s finest automobile we have been aided by the Daimler-Benz Press Service, one of the finest in the World. If we were asked to name the present British “Best Car in the World” (a sweeping phrase coined, history seems to confirm, by Rolls-Royce themselves!) we would name the V8 Daimler Majestic Major, built by Jaguar, for reasons given in the Motor Sport road-test report of June 1963.
To satisfy those readers, at home, overseas and in America, who have written to us on the subject, aghast at this seven-year silence (perhaps they are R.-R. shareholders?), we would like to write about the cars from Crewe. We want to get inside the factory. We want to drive a Bentley S3 or a Rolls-Royce Phantom V. Let no-one say we ignore these cars merely because they are antiquated in design and exceedingly expensive.
This Editorial may have a sequel. On the other hand, it may not! It rests with those whose task it is to help, to the best of their ability, the Press with information about, and first-hand experience of, the products of the Motor Car Division of Rolls-Royce Ltd….