"Matters of Moment", October 1976

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Sir,

It is understandable that you should wax eulogistic about Daimler and Rolls-Royce, with anniversaries of one kind or another concerning them, coming thick and fast. It is at least forgivable to describe people who buy them as effluent( ?!). The suggestion that a proper resurrection of the Daimler marque would have been with the exclusive use of the fine V12 engine, makes sense. However, it is arguable,. at least, to claim that only RollsRoyce, now or in the past, here or in America, can unequivocably state to have made the best car. You list Lincoln, Cadillac, Pegaso and others who have made this claim. (What about your own choice for the title a few years ago, Mercedes-13enz ?). Few would argue that these have not succeeded. But you omit the one make that did displace Rolls-Royce for at least a couple of decades, Packard! With the introduction of the “Twin-Six” in 1915, and certainly in the 20s and 30s with the famous straight eights and V I2s, Packard unquestionably held the top position, both in America and in most of the export markets of the world. Packard held this position because of superior quality, style, performance and not least service, and it proved it with sales. In the top luxury field in 1929 alone, Packard exported as many cars as RR produced in the 10 years prior to WW2. The list of buyers reads like a who’s who, and included almost all the Royal Houses of Europe, the wealthy, film stars and cognoscenti of all continents. Ettore Bugatti’s favourite personal car was a Packard. Packard won more Concaurs d’Elegance than any other car by a wide margin and was the only car ever to win the Monte Carlo competition three years in a row.

Rolls-Royce during this period had become stodgy, square and dull to all but British eyes, and had fallen behind technically; in fact, many would say that they never again reached the position established with the Ghost. Much bodywork was poor and unimaginative. Their first i.f.s. system was copied directly from General Motors, and they were unable to produce quiet valve gear for their top model, the Phantom III.

An overall fair judgement of the world motoring scene vis-a-vis the now almost defunct British Motor (and motorcycle) Industry would be that our products were often poor, produced in miniscule quantities and for the most part unsuited to world markets generally, with service and parts (or rather the lack of these!) to match. This and the consequence of 80 years of anti-motoring atmosphere, despite so much native ingenuity, are now reaping the whirlwind. Rolls-Royce almost alone, provided a sparkling exception, but even this sparkle was eclipsed, for at least 20 years, by Packard.

Stevenage HANS EDWARD