Flex your mind and ask yourself: if you were to own one car, and one car only, in your entire lifetime, what would it be? Made by who?
Hello and welcome to Luton. Now, let’s clarify. You could drive, borrow and rent whatever you want but I mean own, your own car. Only one. Many people, offhand, would probably say a sportscar or a supercar which, on second thought, you and I know would be a bad choice. The first few months would be fantastic but then you’d be hit by fuel consumption, and you would be frustrated by the impracticality. Plus, as often as not, that would be uncomfortable as well. So you’d think about it for a minute and then say SUV. A good idea… for a little while. Because then you’d realize that that would be a bit big and a little too expensive to run and let’s be honest, unless you live in Norway or you’re permanently on holiday in Aspen, Colorado, an SUV is largely unnecessary. So you’d settle for a practical hatch, perhaps 3-door, maybe 5-door, maybe sporty, maybe not. Maybe diesel, maybe hybrid. But then you’d have the opposite problem. It’s cheap to run but at times you might be a bit uneasy with its size. Too small. Ok. Let’s cut to the quick here, after thinking about it for a while, and maybe after a pint of two, any person of sound mind would go for a sedan / saloon.
Ask a 3-year old child to draw a car, it will be a red 3-box sedan with 5 doors. The 5-door sedan is the car. The emblem of it, its flagship and banner.
The history of the luxurious car is a saga of French names, Delage, Delahaye, Talbot-Lago, Bugatti and some Americans, such as Packard and Cord, had a go at it too. These were all very nice but there was one carmaker that made its cars even nicer. And that was Rolls Royce. Founded in Manchester in 1906 by Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce, this British car company continued making luxurious cars throughout its entire history, famously naming almost all of its cars after variants of the wordd… ghost. We’ve had the Ghost, the Phantom, the Silver Shadow and the Wraith. Well, long story short, in 1931, while it was busy making the Phantom II, Rolls Royce also bought Bentley, finally completing an acquisition that had started in 1919, when Rolls Royce had began buying assets from it. A lot of people don’t know this, but Bentley, now owned by VW (just like everything else, really) has been owned by Rolls Royce for 50 years. During those 50 years Bentley gave us a lot of interesting and luxurious cars: the Continental, the Camargue, the Corniche and, among others, the Turbo R that you see here today.
Let’s be frank, and let’s begin with the drawbacks. Yes, it is expensive to run and it consumes a lot of fuel and yes, it is huge and therefore not easy to park, but if we’re honest, the main issue with driving such a gigantic car around town these days is not its sheer size or the atrocious fuel consumption. The main issue is that you look like a show-off. Which means that at roundabouts people will refuse to give you way. Which will slow your journey down. But then it would be slow. Because this car surely isn’t fast. Its 6 and ¾ litre V8 only chucks out 300 HP which is plenty enough to waft around in silence and comfort, but it isn’t enough to move the car quickly, considering that it weighs a staggering 2,5 tons with you at the wheel. This is not the car for you if you live in Reading but work in Uxbridge. Or if you live in Bakersfield and work in Sherman Oaks to put it in American terms. But it is the car for you if you go to work with a train or a bus or a horse or a deer or whatever, and you just use your car for fun because, make no mistakes, this is much better than almost anything else on the road.
The Bentley just oozes class. Its interior, with all that leather and wood, the instruments and the details and all the dials and switches that… won’t work.
It’s far from being perfect, but this it is so elegant you’ll forget all about the rest.
It looks majestic and bear in mind you can buy one for less than 10,000 £. If you consider what it is, if you consider the fact that it will retain its value, and if you consider how much a modern Bentley costs, well, it’s actually a bargain.
There’s a very good reason why they don’t make cars like this anymore, and there’s no getting away from the fact that old cars are no longer very good, if they were, they’d still be making them. You may not want to own such a car, but you should smile knowing that if you want to, you still can.
words, pictures & video: Alessandro Renesis