What they buy

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Sir,

Having read with interest your excellent magazine for many years, I would hazard a guess that I am not the only reader who has formed rather strong views on the subject of Alfa Romeo and Rolls-Royce cars. To judge by the “Letters from Readers” in the most recent Issues, all those of us who either cannot or do not want to own an Alfa must be feeling rather pleased with ourselves. After all, having paid a sum ranging from about £1,500 to £2,500 for a vehicle (which means nearly 40% more at the current rate of income tax) one would expect something better in value. Perhaps it might have been better to spend a mere £992 on a Lotus-Cortina, £890 on a Sunbeam Rapier, or £1,867 on an E-type Jaguar. The “enthusiasts” may sneer, but all of these have a competition record as good as Alfa Romeo, and for which service facilities and spares are nominally readily available in this country. Perhaps this matter could be brought to a close (there are other makes of vehicle!).

On the subject of Rolls-Royce, I have, like the Editor, rather mixed feelings. Perhaps they are not what they were (or is it rather that those owning them are not what they were?). A study of the “For Sale” columns of MOTOR SPORT shows that R.-R. and “Rolls-Bentley” are by far the most common vehicles advertised for sale at the moment—do all the vendors live “by taking in each others’ washing”? That they are incredibly well made is true; a pity that the engineering was not applied to a matching conception of design— one imagines a Citroen made to Rolls standards. Then there is the slogan the “Best Car in the World.” Should this not be taken to read “The Best Massed-Produced Car in the World”? After all, they are being produced today at the rate of 50/60 a week, and I am told there is a waiting list for delivery of some nine months. As the cheapest model (the Bentley S3) is £5,493, and the production figures are thus some 2,500 vehicles a year, other manufacturers of smaller cars may well envy and wonder that they go on selling as they do.

It would be very interesting to know the comparative production figures of, say, Aston Martin, Bristol, “Daimler,” Ferrari, Jensen, and the Mercedes 600; those of the “prestige” models of the large combines are probably not much above 10,000 a year— that is for Jaguar Mk. 10, Humber Imperial, and so on.

When the vintage years of Rolls-Royce are investigated, the numbers built become even more striking—and the chassis were not cheap—a Phantom chassis in 1930 cost £ 1,900—yet some 1,700 Phantom us were produced between 1929 and 1935. By comparison, this is 17 times that of its contemporary, the 8-litre Bentley, and of its other rivals; how many of the “classic” cars were produced to a total of more than a few hundred?

As the years go on, naturally prices for good Rolls-Royce will rise; on the other hand it must be said that there is a fair amount of “scrap value” only offered—even then the scrap value is high. Perhaps those contemplating the laying out of capital on this type of vehicle could transfer their attentions to other makes which are now “lost causes”—i.e., Armstrong Siddeley Sapphires, the early Bristols, Coventry-built Daimlers and (don’t laugh) the Mks. 7-9 Jaguar, all of which, though not built to R.-R. concepts, will have a rarity value before long. One might even start to look for the “poor man’s Rolls-Royce,” the P4 Rovers, which are now out of production after some 14 years. This type of vehicle has passed in favour of the mass-produced limited life device—but Rolls-Royce (more power to their elbow) are still with us. Is this the “Rolls-Royce Secret” beloved of authors?

Thame.
D. Michael.