Catalogue Review - A New Look at Rolls-Royce Motoring

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When we published the January Editorial to do with Rolls-Royce, we thought afterwards that possibly we had been singularly foolish in not realising that maybe the Crewe manufacturer isn’t any longer interested in trying to sell motor cars. But this idea is dispelled by a beautifully produced if rather inconveniently sized (5 7/8 in. x 13 1/4 in.), piece of advertising literature with the above title, the first sight of which came, not from its sponsors, but from a MOTOR SPORT reader living in Birmingham, who very kindly mailed us a copy.

In this appropriately magnificent publication, illustrated by fine photographs, some in colour, taken by Louis Klemantaski, Tony Brooks gives his impressions of driving a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III fast round Goodwood, from Le Touquet to Cap Ferrat, a distance of 739 miles in a day at an average of just under 53 m.p.h. (no fuel consumption figures are mentioned), and flat-out up and down the well-known La Turbie-L’Escarene Col de Braus-Monte Carlo rally route. This brochure also covers the ex-racing driver’s impressions of going from Weybridge to Crewe and back in a six-year-old Bentley S1 which had done 40,000 miles, and a farmer-owner’s impressions of his personal Bentleys. (The modern Rolls-Royce and Bentley are identical apart from the radiator grilles, which some people might regard as taking “badge engineering” rather too far; the R.-R. grille is the more expensive, by £10.)

As some readers appear to think we are biased the wrong way where Rolls-Royce cars are concerned, we must refrain from making any comment on this most interesting test report, except to remark that Brooks was obviously very impressed, judging by such comments as ” … the brakes stood up extremely well, with only a very slight tendency to fade” (after a very severe test at Goodwood), “the acceleration is extremely good,” “on some very rough roads we’ve been able to cruise at 90 and 100 m.p.h. –  and even at 105 here and there – and the car has taken the bumps extraordinarily well considering how severe they were,” “even in the wet the stopping distance is incredibly low” (praise bestowed after a rapid descent of the Col de Braus had caused so much smoke to pour from the brake drums that “a garage lad reached for a bucket of water “), “The steering … didn’t present any real problem at Goodwood other than at the chicane, where it was necessary to cross my arms to get through in a really fast manner” (and, from the photographs, it looks as if Tony spun it!), etc., etc.

Incidentally, MOTOR SPORT’s Rolls-Royce Editorial has had a number of remarkable results, from some charming letters from R.-R. owners (some of which are published in this issue), to a suggestion, the relevance of which is not apparent, that we should confine our contents solely to Maseratis and Ferraris. It has also been pointed out that we shouldn’t name any car except the one from Crewe as the World’s best until we have driven the latest Rolls-Royce or Bentley – but surely this is to infer that no critic dare review a play until he has seen every play in the World, no book-reviewer put pen to paper until he has read every book of the kind he sets out to review ever published ? Tony Brooks does not refer to the Silver Cloud as the best car in the World (although this slogan appears in the brochure), preferring to confine himself to the comment that “As a big, luxurious car that can nevertheless be driven in a highly sporting manner, there is nothing quite like it.” Granted that his driving skill is 99% ahead of ours and that maybe he has had wider experience of good motor cars, it would surely be absurd to suggest that he should not have expressed such superlatives until he had driven every car in the World or accomplished precisely the same journey in every other available luxury motor carriage?

Not having had Brooks’ opportunity we cannot enlarge on that verdict. It does occur to us that, had we been privileged to take this car on this particular journey, while not claiming for a moment the driving prowess of Mr. Brooks, we might have saved Rolls-Royce Ltd. quite a bit of money – the cost of publishing this beautiful advertising brochure. For it is possible that an equally favourable account would have appeared in these pages. We did, for instance, comment so enthusiastically on a 4 1/4-litre Bentley which we drove in 1938 over the comparatively slow route from London to John o’ Groats at an average speed of 50.5 m.p.h. and nearly 17 1/2 m.p.g., that Rolls-Royce Ltd. published an account of the journey in their own periodical. However . .

What is particularly interesting. is that Rolls-Royce have included a summary of the outspoken discussion Brooks had subsequently with Mr. S. B. Grylls, their Chief Engineer. By publishing this they have silenced any suggestion that they fear criticism of their products. Brooks took up such matters as a lurching change-down into 2nd gear when driving the Silver Cloud III (price £5,516) in a decidedly sporting manner, too great a gap between 2nd and 3rd, causing a very noticeable fall off in acceleration on a hill, a rather noisy tick-over from the new engine, really first-class but too low-geared steering, a restricted fuel-range necessitating stopping for petrol every 150 miles, ride-control on the rear suspension that upset the cornering balance of the car, the question of why disc brakes, with “their even greater resistance to fade,” are not adopted, a slight tendency to wander at speed, particularly noticeable on rough French roads (“Surely independent rear suspension would further improve the ride and road-holding ?”), the dash layout, lack of full crash-padding, rearwards visibility under given circumstances, heavy-to-shut doors, long travel of the hand-brake lever, performance of the screen-wipers at very high speeds, strength of the horn-note and noise made by the scuttle air-scoop and ventilation fan. All these points Mr. Grylls replied to at some length but in order not to be thought biased in certain quarters we had better not join in the discussion.

In any case, the point we wish to make is that “A New Look at Rolls-Royce Motoring” is a beautiful and unique advertising book, which will give great joy to admirers of Tony Brooks and of Rolls-Royce cars. Whether it is available on application or is reserved for those “with the right kind of money,” as a Bentley owning correspondent puts it, we do not know. But you can find out by applying in writing to Rolls-Royce Ltd., 14-15 Conduit Street, London, W.1, and if you do so, please be sure to mention MOTOR SPORT.