Road impressions

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A special kind of motoring

Time was when to receive a Derby or Crewe Bentley or Rolls-Royce for test was a rare event. These days Rolls-Royce Motors has seen the light, and allows many more motoring writers to sample its products. On September 19 a selection to the total value of £165,000 was assembled at Chateau Impney near Droitwich for another West Midlands driving-day and having done my first road test of a Bentley in 1938 I went along for old times’ sake. During the morning it proved possible to try five delectable models.

The Bentley Turbo R had marvellous pick-up in the higher-speed ranges, from its 6750cc V8 engine. It now has a ribbed, cross-bolted crankcase, heavy-duty THM 400 transmission, fuel-injection, and antilock brakes, and 1989 cars are distinguishable by twin 7in circular headlamps, deeper air-dam, and a red Winged-B motif on the boot-lid. The Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit has similar improvements, imparting the traditional impression of a Pall Mall club converted for fast, quiet travel.

The Bentley Mulsarme-S (with a black Winged-B badge, by the way, as a link with days of old) has adequate performance for British motoring , without the very impressive Turbo performance, while the Corniche II, top down, gave a breath of fresh air prior to a good lunch. Best liked on these short sampling hauls, however, was the Silver Spur — every inch a Royce, and that includes the additional four inches of rear compartment leg-room.

The cars offered to us had just done fast stints at Millbrook but all came back intact, some driven by journalists new to the special kind of motoring which these Crewe-built cars provide. It was a memorable day for all invited.

Rolls-Royce publicity has changed with the times; last year The Queen was the first reigning monarch to ride in the 1907 Silver’ Ghost, all main access roads to Crewe now have signs reading “Welcome to Crewe and Nantwich, Home of the Best Car in the World”, and company advertising has taken a leaf out of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World by having a scented strip in Architectural Digest which gives off a whiff of leather to remind us of how these cars are upholstered! Which may, or may not, have helped to sell more than 5000 Silver Spurs since 1980.

As I made my way home in a Sierra 4×4 on the winding road from Droitwich to Tenbury (which surely has more miles of no-passing solid double-white lines than any other?), I remembered that I had driven to the launch of the first Silver Shadow in another Ford, the excellent Cortina GT and had been asked to park it out of sight! WB

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