The back pages of Autocar looked very different in 1915. Squeezed between all the classified ads for mechanics and engineers were large sections advertising chauffeurs.
Here, young men posted ads “seeking situations” with employers. One was my own great-grandfather, a professional butler whose job included ferrying his employer, the ninth Earl of Shaftesbury, around the country on visits.
Which got me thinking: do I have what it takes to become a professional chauffeur in the modern era? Step forward Rolls-Royce. It still trains professional drivers in the art (and etiquette) of chauffeuring, under the banner of White Glove Training, although it’s currently an exclusive service available to high-profile customers only.
My trainer is Andi McCann, the man asked for by name to drive Rolls-Royce boss Torsten Müller-Ötvös in the UK and abroad. He’ll adopt the Autocar star rating system to see if I have what it takes.
First things first: we need to go for a drive, so we borrow an extended-wheelbase Phantom and head for the roads surrounding Rolls-Royce’s Goodwood headquarters to allow McCann to assess my base driving level.
I’m nervous and McCann isn’t giving anything away. We choose a short route with plenty of roundabouts and obstacles to see how I handle the 2670kg, V12-engined Phantom, and I try to be as smooth as possible. Balance the throttle to prevent any lurching movement, steady the brake as we stop, no sudden movements.
I think I’m doing well as we turn back onto Rolls-Royce property. McCann hands me a three-star rating. That, according to the back pages of this magazine, means I’m average in most areas and outstanding in none. Room for improvement, then.