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Just What Is It About Rollers? A Personal View

by Andrew Carter

posted in Automotive

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Rolls Royce - what a brand! The name conjures up so much history as well as an image of quality, opulence, of having 'made it'. I have recently had the privilege of driving a 1989 Silver Spirit, and am moved not really to review, more to reflect. A smooth, comfortable drive, loads of power available under the bonnet; lambs wool carpet, cream leather chairs (let's face it, 'seat' doesn't really work in this context - you're seated in a gently purring armchair really!) in the nice quiet compartment; and outside in the real world people are having their heads turned. On the subject of 'quiet', they do say that the only sound that you should hear inside a Rolls is the occasional creak of leather.
Rolls Royce has become a by-word for ultimate quality, as in "that's the 'Rolls Royce of watches / hotels / beverages (you name it)", and represents vintage luxury. Personally I'm not sure of the latest designs / incarnations, and I don't want to enter into a discussion about automotive politics, but the one thing that really thrills is following the silver lady (Nelly Thornton) on the bonnet - you'll never catch her, but it's a lot of fun trying. It's perhaps too easy to speed when you've got 6.8 litres under the bonnet, though I believe that the engine performs beautifully on the Autobahn sitting comfortably over the ton for hour after hour.
So what is it about Rollers, exactly? The one I drove is a silvery blue, but they also come in yellow (and lots of other colours too!), that radiator grille and mascot (since 1911 anyway) being the things that link this enduring family. They represent something exclusive, unobtainable for most, certainly aspirational (though maybe that's a generational point of view - the automotive sector is now bigger and more luxurious than ever it was). It's no accident that prospective 'Apprentices' are whisked form the 'Boardroom' in Sir Alan's Rolls - it says 'you've arrived' in a way that the black cab can't.
The hand built, hand stitched, hand polished nature of the beast sets it apart. So does the cost of running it! Servicing is an expensive game, as is putting fuel in the tank - I can't imagine they're cheap to insure either - you have to have a certain level of income to enjoy owning this particular status symbol. Let's face it, that's exactly what a Roller is - a status symbol: 'I've made it'; 'I can afford one of these'; 'look at me'. A good illustration of this has to be the gift my brother got from his best man back in the mid-eighties: the hire of a chauffeur driven Rolls to take him (via a scenic route through Savernake Forest) to his stag evening - that felt very special!
On top of this, there's the Britishness of the brand, and until latter years the car too. Of course it's now not-so-secretly a luxury German car, no longer hand-built in Crewe with a British engine, but by British coachbuilders overseen from Munich somewhere on the south coast of England, and sporting a power unit from a seven series.
It's a brand associated with champagne, caviar, racehorses and royalty; with film stars, sheiks and millionaires; with pomp, splendour and state occasions. It's related to Bentleys, Jet Engines, Dam Busters and Spitfires, with engineering excellence. Boy, does it feel dreamy to drive!
About the Author: Andrew is a qualified teacher of English as a foreign language (TEFL), a farmer with twenty years agricultural experience, and worked for fifteen years in the global automotive industry. He's now breeding bait / garden worms and selling quality used cars, the latter being on show at, the former shortly available on-line!
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