Don’t you find modern day Rollers rather disagreeable? All that bling. All that overstated chrome, slab sides and footballers’ wives high chintz interior. Now they’ve sliced the roof off the Phantom it gets even worse – you can see the tasteless buyers in their perma-tanned glory.
And no, my prejudice against the modern Rolls isn’t based entirely on envy. Good luck to ‘em, and all that. At least the sort of lottery winner who rolls down to the nearest dealership and splashes a deposit has got the genuine excuse that, with a ‘G’ reg Ford Escort as trade in, they don’t know what an automotive faux pas they’re making.
But the genuinely super-rich who do likewise aren’t even buying ironically – they genuinely like these leviathans and everything they represent.
Which is what, exactly? Proper old-school Rolls exemplified the best and worst of British craftsmanship – from stunning interiors to freak electrical fires. The Phantom doesn’t even have character-enhancing faults on its side, and it proves that the upper reaches of the UK motor industry have become a glorified assembly operation for Germans, who design and make all the important, oily bits properly. Our craftsmen and women just add the walnut and leather frippery.
But here’s the thing – new Rollers have been bought by social pariahs for as long as I can remember. You know the sort - scrap metal dealers, nightclub comedians and successful armed robbers.
Back in the sleazy ‘seventies, no Soho strip-bar was complete without the owner’s Silver-something moored against the kerb outside. You have to go all the way back to the swinging ‘sixties to find the last time Rollers were driven by the real cultural elite, when people like Peter Sellers, David Bailey and various Beatles tooled around in ‘em.
Yet the strange thing about Rollers is the way they acquire a sheen of cool over time. I’m not talking about some ‘Y’-reg Silver Spur in Hammerite, white smoking its way between cut-price wedding receptions, but rather proper oldies that have had a chance to acquire a bit of what the trade calls “patina” as they drop through the social strata.
I found a ’71 Rolls Corniche the other day, in a restrained shade of black and wearing a £30K screen sticker. Its understated elegance made the modern equivalent look like a gaudy fairground ride – and for a fraction under a tenth of the cost of a brand-new Phantom Drophead it gives the less financially-advantaged plenty of scope to demonstrate their superior taste.