Bentley Azure

Returning Bentley CEO Wolfgang Dürheimer, it seems, waxes nostalgic for a convertible. He’d like to build a 2-seater but he’ll most likely follow Royce’s example and go for a 4-seater. He liked the 1995 Azure, which continued in various iterations for years. His options now, with W12, V8 and V10s available from stock, as it were, are wide and the Continental is a fine platform. The Complete Bentley recalled the first Azure (left).

By 1995, after the best part of a quarter-century, the Corniche-Continental’s time was up. When they drew up Project 90 in 1985, (below) which had evolved into the Continental R, Heffernan and Greenley conceived a convertible which as a result had been waiting ten years. Despite a good deal of strengthening and reinforcement, scuttle shake was endemic in the old Corniche, so it had to be done away with for the Azure. Basing it on the Continental R instead of the old Corniche brought a 25 per cent improvement in torsional stiffness.

Manufacture however was not straightforward. A joint project was arranged between Crewe and Pininfarina in Turin under which Park Sheet Metal in Coventry, which made Continental R body shells, sent sub-assemblies to Italy for completed bodies to be painted and have the intricate power-operated hood mechanism fitted by specialist Opac before being shipped back to Crewe for completion. Bodybuilding was done at Pininfarina’s San Giorgio Canavese factory, where Cadillac Allantes had been put together. The unitary hulls still had to be strengthened to make up for the absence of a roof, with an additional 190kg (418.9lb) of reinforcement under the rear floor, deeper door sills, thicker A-posts and screen top rail.

All that remained of the Corniche’s shivers, I recall from a 1995 road test, were tremors that could still be seen in the rear-view mirror and vibrations felt through the steering column. Door sill plates proclaimed Bentley Motors’ and Pininfarina credit for the structure, in particular the power hood designed to close in 30sec, although one famously failed on the Cote d’Azur press launch. The Azure’s interior was furnished like the Continental R with traditional veneers and leather, woollen fleeces on the floor and, by virtue of a 1992 co-operative agreement with BMW, electrically operated front seats with integral seat belts from the 8-series coupe.
Final Azure 2005

Several generations of fast turbocharged Bentleys had transformed road behaviour, from the early tentative 1970s when Bentleys carried the legacy of Rolls-Royce town carriages, to the dawn of the 21st century when they were more able to compete with fast rivals. Steering was now 2.9 turns from lock to lock, faster, sharper, with more feel; braking more progressive with ever-bigger discs, and body roll, although by no means eliminated was less pronounced.

INTRODUCTION Geneva 1995.BODY Convertible; 2-doors, 4 -seats; weight 2610kg (5754lb);
ENGINE V8-cylinders, in-line; front; 104.1mm x 99.1mm, 6750cc; compr 8:1; 286kW (383.53bhp) @ 4000rpm; 42.4kW (56.86bhp)/l; 750Nm (553lbft) @ 2000rpm. ENGINE STRUCTURE pushrod overhead valves; hydraulic tappets; gear-driven central cast iron camshaft; aluminium silicon cylinder head; steel valve seats, aluminium-silicon block; cast iron wet cylinder liners; Garrett AiResearch TO4 turbocharger .5bar (7.25psi); intercooler; Zytek EMS3 motormanagement; 5-bearing chrome molybdenum crankshaft. TRANSMISSION rear wheel drive; GM turbo Hydramatic 4-speed; final drive 2.69:1
CHASSIS steel monocoque, front and rear sub-frames; independent front suspension by coil springs and wishbones; anti roll bar; independent rear suspension by coil springs and semi-trailing arms; Panhard rod stiffener; anti roll bar; three-stage electronically controlled telescopic dampers and Boge pressure hydraulic self-levelling; hydraulic servo brakes, 27.94cm (11in) dia discs front ventilated; twin circuit; Bosch ABS; rack and pinion PAS; l08l (23.75gal) fuel tank; 255/55-WR 17 tyres, 7.6in rims, cast alloy wheels DIMENSIONS wheelbase 306cm (120.47in); track 155cm (61.02in); length 534cm (210.24in); width 188cm (74.02in); height 146cm (57.48in); ground clearance 14cm (5.5in); turning circle 13.1m (42.98ft).EQUIPMENT 2-level air conditioning, leather upholstery, pile carpet, 8-way electric seat adjustment, galvanised underbody PERFORMANCE maximum speed 249kph (155.1mph); 64kph (39.87mph) @ 1000rpm; 0-100kph (62mph) 6.0sec; fuel consumption 19.3l/100km (14.64mpg) PRICE £215,000 PRODUCTION 1311

PICTURES above right 2003 Limited Azure edition. Left Road test GTC chez nous

Clive Jacobs 1939-2014

Clive and I worked as colleagues on BBC Radio 4’s Going Places and BFBS motoring programmes, as well as a 1970s venture in stereo recordings of motor racing called Competition Cassettes. I marvelled at his professionalism in live studios. I was a hesitant broadcaster, but with Clive you knew there was never going to be a crisis. His rich voice would intervene in its deeply measured way and you were out of trouble in a trice.
You weren’t always out of trouble with Clive. We drove together sometimes on press launches and at least once, when he was at the wheel of a right hand drive car, we faced disaster in a left hand drive country. Meticulous, precise restorer of clocks and watches, Clive made models, loved cars and revelled in their rectitude. He could afford good cars although he had to suffer incredulity with a few, such as his AMC Pacer, at least with grace although not invariably good. This Rolls-Royce was one of his better ones.
Clive and I, you could say, were related by marriage. I was sorry he wasn’t at my recent birthday party; when he wasn’t able to come we knew things were serious but he was cheerfully represented by his son Blair and family. Clive was a great stepfather to Craig, invariably kind, and an everlasting friend.

Rolls and Royce

Inseparable as Gilbert and Sullivan or Victoria and Albert, Rolls and Royce created the world's most recognisable brand name 110 years ago, Wednesday 4 May 1904. They met at the Midland Hotel Manchester not only producing “The Best Car in the World” (Rolls-Royce was never modest), but aero-engine excellence throughout the Second World War and ever since.
Right: Merlin in a Spitfire.
Only a little of the credit belonged to The Hon Charles Stewart Rolls, (below) an Edwardian gentleman to his elegant fingertips, complete with uniformed chauffeur and mechanic, but famously stingy. The late Sir Thomas Sopwith described him as, “curiously unlovable.” Rolls felt he had little to learn from Royce, a northern engineer, a crane manufacturer with an infinite capacity for taking pains. But as an ardent balloonist and aerial adventurer Rolls’s lifestyle was expensive, and the sales company set up with £6,500 from his father, Lord Llangattock, needed a new line to augment his imported French cars. Flying exploits were his undoing. Rolls achieved the melancholy distinction of being the first pilot killed in a British air crash at Bournemouth on 2 June 1910.
Workaholic, obsessive, sickly Frederick Henry Royce’s pursuit of perfection knew no bounds and, ill from overwork, he dismantled his Decauville to make it function properly. It was a car, he concluded, “...marred by careless workmanship,” so he set about designing something better. The result was an experimental car Rolls drove out of the Midland Hotel's carriage court (demolished in the 1930s to make way for a reception area) and realised that this 2-cylinder was as smooth and quiet as a 4-cylinder. Rolls instructed his partner, Claude Johnson to take on the Royce car, and negotiate for C S Rolls & Co (Royce below)to have exclusive rights.
The great engineer and the parsimonious aristocrat signed their agreement on December 23, 1904. Claude Johnson thought double-barrelled names had a ring to them, and made his contribution to the motoring lexicon, inserting a clause stipulating that the cars would henceforward be known as Rolls-Royces.
Later one of the 40/50 cars was painted silver and called The Silver Ghost. It was the fashion to apply names to individual cars, rather like ships. The title stuck, and the Silver Ghost remained in production for eighteen years. Phantoms, Wraiths, Shadows and Spirits followed. Rolls-Royces were always beautifully made although scarcely inventive, and never above taking somebody else's component (an automatic transmission from General Motors, or a patent suspension from Citroën) and adapting it to its own exacting standards. An engine from Munich, transmission from Friedrichshafen, even an aluminium body from Dingolfing, has not been entirely out of character.
In 1914 the Admiralty instructed Lieut Walter Owen Bentley of the Royal Naval Air Service to find out why its new French aero engines were overheating. By 1916 he had designed one himself the Bentley rotary (below), which saw service in Sopwith Camels, and was used by the RAF until 1926.
After the war Bentley wasted no time getting into car production. His 3 Litre appeared at the London Motor Show in 1919, yet the foundations of the Bentley legend were laid at the Le Mans 24 Hours race in France. Bentleys won it five times against opposition from Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, and Bugatti, but following the 1929 depression even the extravagant Bentley Boys had to economise. In July 1931 Bentley Motors called in the receiver.
Napier had not made a car since 1925, it was now predominantly an aero engine manufacturer, but was so impressed with the new 8 Litre opened negotiations to buy Bentley Motors. In September The Autocar confidently announced that an agreement only awaited formal approval. The receiver called for sealed bids, but the mysterious British Central Equitable Trust dashed Napier’s hopes. Weeks later the subterfuge was revealed. Rolls-Royce, learning of Napier's interest, had pre-empted its rival.
Bentley never forgave what he regarded as Rolls-Royce's deceit, and although he joined Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd soon left, forbidden from ever applying his name to a car again.
In 1933 Rolls-Royce announced the Derby-built Silent Sports Car, and with a few memorable exceptions, Bentleys became little more than badge-engineered Rolls-Royces. The exceptions included the splendid Continentals of the 1950s, with sweeping lines inspired by a contemporary Buick, and the new Continental developed by the VW-owned company. More in The Complete Bentley, Dove Publishing Ltd. (right, WO Bentley bust at Bentley Motors, Crewe)


Lancaster at Scampton, BBMF Spitfire and Hurricane, heated debate in The Telegraph about which was greatest. Yet they all relied on the Rolls-Royce Merlin. It is 70 years since the dambusters and 80 since drawings for the Merlin were completed the very day Sir Henry Royce died.

WO Bentley was instrumental in getting Rolls-Royce into aero engines. Working under Commander Wilfrid Briggs, head of the Admiralty Air Engine Section, he was sent to Derby, where Rolls-Royce made air-cooled Renault aero engines. WO recalled, “…a friend of mine tipped me off that one of the 1914 Mercédès racing cars, which had won the French Grand Prix, had got stuck in England at the beginning of the war and still rested at the Mercédès showroom in Long Acre. I told Briggs about it and together we went along, representing the British Crown so to speak, with a ‘search warrant’. The place was in a fine old mess, but in the basement lay a 4½ litre Grand Prix Mercédès. We dug it out, and soon it was being taken to pieces by Rolls-Royce at Derby.”

Ernest Hives (later Lord Hives) studied the Mercédès cylinder design and WO persuaded him that the resulting 200hp water-cooled Rolls-Royce Eagle engine should have aluminium pistons. In 1919 two Eagles with Bentley’s pistons were used in the Vickers Vimy that made the first non-stop crossing of the Atlantic.
Merlin in a Spitfire, Duxford
Henry Royce set up drawing offices with teams of technicians at St Margaret's Bay Kent, and later West Wittering, creating a dynasty of aero engines of the 1920s and 1930s that culminated in winning the Schneider Trophy races outright. In 1931 Royce accepted a baronetcy in recognition of his design but it was soon apparent that the RAF needed something that could be made in large numbers.

In 1932 the ailing mechanic (Royce preferred “mechanic” to designer or even engineer) persevered with a new V12 in the face of Air Ministry indifference and prevarication. Rolls-Royce could see the need for it, calling it PV for Private Venture because the government wouldn’t pay for it. Developed from the Kestrel, and the R-type that had been successful in the Schneider Trophy Supermarine S6 seaplanes, the Merlin was not named after King Arthur’s wizard, but was one of a series designated by birds of prey. A merlin is a small falcon but as an engine it was straightforward, upright, of a sort with which the Derby firm was already familiar.
Merlin in a Hurricane, Brooklands
Later ones were developed to produce substantial power increases at high altitude, and by the end of the war specialist versions produced 2640bhp (1969kW). Rolls-Royce did not have capacity in its factories at Derby, Crewe, and Hillington Glasgow to meet the demand. Four times as many Merlins were needed to equip bombers like the Lancaster, so Packard made them in America and Ford set up a plant at Urmston, Manchester, not far from Trafford Park.

Rowland Smith of Ford guessed it would cost £7million, telling chairman Lord Hives that Ford could not possibly build engines from the drawings Rolls-Royce supplied. The tolerances were much too wide. Ford production machinery would work to much closer limits than Rolls-Royce, whose hand-finished engines were often widely different in power and reliability.

Drawings for the Merlin were completed on 22 April 1933, as Royce breathed his last. Yet weak and frail as he had been, the engine (after teething troubles had been fixed) was a masterpiece. The first ran on 15 October 1933 and Royce’s vision resulted in one of the most significant aircraft power units of the Second World War. Besides Spitfire, Hurricane and Avro Lancaster, Lincoln, Manchester II, Tudor and York, the Merlin powered de Havilland Mosquito, Handley Page Halifax and North American Mustang X as a replacement for its Allison. The Mustang continued to use Merlins in the Korean War of the 1950s.

SPEC: 12-cylinders, 60deg V; front; 5.4in (137.16mm) x 6in (152.4mm), 1,648.8cu in (27,021cc); compr 6.0:1; 1030bhp (768kW) @ 3000rpm @ 16,250ft (4940m) Merlin I to 1480bhp (1104kW) @ 3000rpm @6000ft (91830m) to 12,250ft (3740m) from Merlin XX; weight from 1385lb (629kg) Merlin I to 1450lb (647kg) from Merlin XX; 1640lbs (744kg) for 1565bhp (1167kW) Merlin 61 on.
STRUCTURE 4 inclined 45deg KE965steel valves per cylinder (4 valves parallel from Merlin G); sodium-cooled exhaust valves; Stellited ends to inlet valves; double valve springs; Silchrome valve seats screwed into heads; one shaft and bevel gear-driven 7-bearing overhead camshaft per bank; two two-piece cylinder blocks cast in RR50 aluminium alloy; detachable cylinder heads; wet high carbon steel cylinder liners; aluminium crankcase split horizontally; twin choke updraught R-R/SU carburettor with anti-ice heating; gear-driven centrifugal supercharger, 2-speed from Mark X; liquid-cooled intercooler; two mechanical fuel pumps on quill shafts; two magnetos; one-piece six-throw chrome molybdenum steel 7-bearing crankshaft; dry sump lubrication; 70 per cent water 30 per cent ethylene glycol cooling; centrifugal pump; electric starter; air compressor take-off for aircraft services
TRANSMISSION single plain spur 0.477:1 or 0.42:1 reduction gears to propeller from front of crankshaft.
PRODUCTION over 30,000

School for Chauffeurs

If only Mellors had been Lord Chatterley's chauffeur, and trained last century by Rolls-Royce, the vexing business with her ladyship might have been avoided. Gardeners were under no obligation to avoid eye contact with the master's family. It was forbidden for chauffeurs. They could proffer an arm to assist elderly or infirm passengers, with the hand clenched to look reassuring, never outstretched. That would have been too familiar. Well-bred chauffeurs did not swivel round when reversing. They sat upright, turned slightly, or kept their hands on the wheel and used the mirrors. Sticking a head out of the window looked bad and they would never put an arm round the back of a passenger’s seat. The chauffeur’s handbook advised on how to address nobility, diplomats, and people in holy orders including, if he happened along, the Pope. (Above) Back seat chauffeur. 2007 chairman and CEO of Rolls-Royce Ian Robertson, with the owner of the 3000th Phantom.

Caps were doffed for royal personages, and replaced when back behind the wheel. Mellors would have been in no doubt about his place. Rolls-Royce’s handbook said firmly, “Avert your eyes from lady passengers wearing revealing clothing.” Advances from Lady Chatterley would have been rejected and, with his eyes steadfastly downcast, the relationship would never have flourished. Chauffeurs, a French term for firemen or stokers looking after the boilers of steam locomotives, would sometimes get airs, regarding themselves as analogous to the skipper of a gentleman's yacht. They were among the best-paid liveried staff, often selected from coachmen accustomed to looking after carriages and were crucial to a well-ordered household. When an Edwardian car was put away for the night, the fuel tank had to be de-pressurised, the clutch braced so that it would not seize, the radiator drained and sundry items greased or oiled. Drive chains were removed and boiled in tallow, the brass burnished, and the coach varnish needed constant attention.

(right) Original Silver Ghost much polished.

In the 1920s the Duke of Bedford employed 16 chauffeurs, but motor servants got a bad name and the press was full of grumbles about their bossiness, dishonesty and bad driving. “Much of the horror of motoring is centred on the chauffeur,” ran a complainant in 1906. “It is his convenience that must be consulted, it is he who gives the word to stop and to go on, he who decides that you must sleep in Coventry when you intended to go on to Shrewsbury. You may not make plans without consulting him; he is ruthless in his discouragements; he spends your money with a fine liberality.”

With its customary solemnity, Rolls-Royce set up a school for chauffeurs in 1907 which, by the 1980s had developed into a week-long course costing £1,400. It included maintenance, car care, security, first-aid, etiquette, and driving on the road and on the skid-pan. A maintenance lecture included advice on checking fluid levels, changing light bulbs and keeping records. There was a technical briefing, and car care started with washing and polishing - Rolls-Royce advised lots of water, a hose and sponge, and working downwards from the roof. Polishing was encouraged even though its new automated paint plant provided a high-quality gloss. “We take account of the chauffeurs of older cars as well,” said a principal. “There are good practical reasons for keeping a car polished. You can tell if it has been tampered with. Car washes were not recommended and only one newspaper seemed to have the right consistency for cleaning windows, - The Financial Times.”

American chauffeurs only. 1924 Springfield Silver Ghost Salamanca by New Haven, chassis 112JH.

Security was a separate course and included defensive driving. Rolls-Royce would have preferred owners to be unlikely to get involved in that sort of thing, but discreet armour and bullet-proof glass could be provided. Driving standards were strict. Nothing short of Institute of Advanced Motorists or ROSPA Grade 1 was expected, while safety and smoothness were taken for granted. Rolls-Royce chauffeurs were expected to avoid bumping over catseyes, and to know the owner's favourite radio station or CD. Procedures were laid down with care. A well-bred chauffeur knew how to alight, pocket the keys, walk round the back of the car - a relic of coaching - and open the door. He (it usually was a “he”) knew how to wait, not to eat in the car and never smoke. Only suitable material could be read while waiting, such as the car handbook or highway code and certainly not a tabloid newspaper. “Owners do not expect to pay a person to waste time.” There was not much to show at the end of the course except a certificate, a cap badge, a log book and the famous manual. The certificate could be a passport to a job and the course paid for in upper-class wages.

(Above) Torsten Müller-Ötvös 2012 CEO Rolls-Royce.


Clever: The closing ceremony convertibles were pure genius. Understated, profound, best in the world. Just like the games. Clever BMW to get the most out of its Olympic sponsorship. Great detailing. First new badge on a Rolls-Royce for 108 years. Shows how Britain has changed. Closing ceremony didn’t have the deft touch of the opening one. One tweeter decided only acts giving 20% discount could be hired, another cheerfully hoped the Spice Girls might be shot into space from the cannon. Well, Rio will be different. I thought it might have made a better show with a carnival float or two, but what a challenge to match London as a backdrop. Sunday’s marathon was worth watching if only to marvel at the streets and the buildings and the matchless organisation.

Daddy's Rolls-Royce


Number one daughter on left waves a toffee-wrapper. Number two has missed out what number one is chewing. Neither is impressed with the Rolls-Royce Silver Spur.

RRM1 is a cherished registration Rolls-Royce Motors keeps for press demonstrators, sold afterwards, no doubt, to customers who wouldn’t like to think they’d been handled by mere hacks. Or ignored by toffee-chewing daughters.

Relaunching the Blog I have spent two months working on a series of four ebooks, a Vintage Archive Tetrology, Quadrology Quadrille even, Eric Dymock on Cars 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992. They are collections of road tests, features, my choice of 100 best cars, in short the entire year’s output, save for the major books, TV and radio scripts, and some other items that did not seem very interesting. Watch this space. One is already in the public domain, Eric Dymock on Cars 1990 is available from Amazon at an introductory price.

What did I write about the Rolls-Royce in a business magazine?

If you have to ask the price, they say, you probably can’t afford it. But so that the company accountant can send off the cheque, a Silver Spur, is £62,778, give or take a personal foible or two such as special body colours or fancy figured leather. A more modest executive might go for a Silver Spirit at £55,240, four inches shorter, which means less room in the back but otherwise not a lot different. There is an up-market Silver Spur at £68,278 for captains of industry, or one of the better-off aristocrats who may not want a hand-built Phantom, or company chairman who wants a glass division to keep the chauffeur from overhearing. This has a small, well-equipped but discreet drinks cupboard; Rolls-Royce prefers the term cocktail cabinet, perhaps nostalgic of an era when all cars had leather seats, and nobody thought of a facia in anything other than figured veneer.

Without being unkind, other aspects of the Rolls-Royce are just as old-fashioned. Frederick Henry Royce began his working life in the Great Northern Railway Works at Peterborough; locomotive engineering dies hard at Crewe. Silver Spur doors clunk shut like those of railway carriages and locknuts hold things together in impressive engineering orthodoxy.

Well, it was 1984. Daughters have grown. Search Velocette on the blog for number one, Charlotte. Here she is at Goodwood Revival, suitably Vintage-clad.

Number two Joanna now has to share toffees with number two grandson Jasper.

To see other grandson Teddy: - search blog:- Number One Grandson.

Silver Spur continued:

More modern cars go faster and handle better. Some are more comfortable and soak up road bumps more smoothly. Yet there is no car in which it is better to be a passenger. Keen drivers  can by-pass Rolls-Royces; they would be better with a Daimler Double-Six at less than half the price, or even a decent Mercedes-Benz and spend the change on something else - high living, or a Porsche for a favourite secretary.

Yet if you want a badge of success or a symbol of prestige nothing else will do. Even cars of the same price but lesser merit won't do - they merely mark you down as eccentric, flashy or, perhaps worse, both. Rolls-Royce merits of longevity, build quality, luxury and finish barely require repetition. They are the justification for the price tag and a judgement on their value depends on the circumstances of the buyer.

A more fundamental question, perhaps, is whether the maker is serving its own interests by a policy of engineering extravagance in the face of increasingly formidable opposition. It is all very well having the world’s most valuable prestige symbol, but are there enough customers left who simply want to ride around in the back? Their numbers have been diminishing and the trend seems likely to continue. It is not as though the Rolls-Royce is wholly dull. It has a top speed getting on for 120mph and will reach 60mph in ten seconds, a reasonably lively performance.

Its best achievement is probably the way it insulates, almost isolates the occupants from road rumble and traffic noise, difficult without building an immensely big and heavy car. Success in this even seems to elude Mercedes-Benz although the Daimler Jaguars manage to be at least as quiet as the Rolls-Royce. Yet it is a car that imposes its own driving regime. It is big and heavy, and it is difficult to disguise its own momentum if you drive it fast. It is better to slow down and opt for grace and style. Rolls-Royce will argue they build cars to be driven that way because that is how the customers want them. But the fact remains that you can drive a Mercedes or a Jaguar slowly if you want to, the comfort is undiminished, and most drivers enjoy the choice. I doubt if Rolls-Royce would know how to make a car that handles well, such are the conflicting requirements of the great weight of railway engineering. Such luxury and refinement might simply be unattainable.

“Porsche for a favourite secretary” sounds patronising. It was 1984. I wouldn’t write that now.

Royce, railway engineer, a vocation shared with WO Bentley.

Phantom Phantastic

Rolls-Royce sold more cars last year than ever; 3538, a third more than in 2010. The previous best was 3347 in 1978,which makes 2011 the best in 107 years. Great achievement. Scarcely expected in times of hardship. More surprising for cars with the aerodynamics of a house-brick costing between £200,000 and £300,000.
Anybody shopping for a Rolls-Royce should go for a 1998-2002 Silver Seraph. You could probably get a decent one under £50,000. By the 1990s the V8 felt lumpy and the first fruit of the BMW relationship was a V12 as silent as a Rolls-Royce should be. Well proportioned and dignified, the Seraph was the last Crewe Rolls-Royce. Only 1,570 were made.

But where the Seraph was graceful and sleek, the Phantom is big and square, with mean-looking rectangular headlights. The 6.8litre V12 is supremely quiet, immensely powerful, the interior magnificent as ever it was under the old regime at Crewe. Yet old Rolls-Royce made a virtue of understatement and there is nothing understated about the Phantom. It is big, slightly vulgar, with trick features like rear-hinged rear doors emplying electronics to prevent them being opened into the path of oncoming cars. Why would you want rear-hinged doors? They allow Phantom owners to make graceful exits on to red carpets, displaying limbs or whatever else to paparazzis’ flash bulbs.

Chairman and chief executive Ian Roberston shares a rear door with new owner of the 3000th Phantom.
Rolls-Royce thought it smart to have the RR logo on wheel hubs made so it was always upright. They didn’t whirl round when the car was moving and always stopped right way up. I thought them tasteless even though perhaps they suggested Rolls-Royce still had a sense of humour.

Graham Biggs’s sense of humour failed when he read Scotland on Sunday on 28 May 2006. He was Rolls-Royce PRO and got po-faced when I compared them with a flash kids’ fad for big shiny wheel discs. These were aftermarket stick-on accessories that didn’t rotate when the car was moving. They made it look as though the wheels were stopped. Once the car did stop the plates kept spinning so it then looked stationary with the wheels still going round. Most people thought it funny.

Rolls-Royce kept 100LG for the press car. The first one I drove was Silver Cloud III in The Motor road test of August 21, 1963 (above). There was trouble when I almost set the brakes on fire: “both fade tests showed the brakes in a poorish light,” was all I was allowed to write. Rolls-Royce was very sensitive about its brakes. Below is a later 100LG, a Silver Shadow with a young Mrs Dymock at the wheel.

Targa Siciliana by Camargue

Rolls-Royce must have had a Mafia mole. Briefly in 1975, Sicilian speed limits, it seemed, were suspended. We flew in a BAC 111 from Gatwick to Catania on January 15, for the press launch of the Camargue; driving round island roads in a sort of luxury Targa Florio*. Sicily was good in January, warm, sunny and we stayed at a spectacular hotel, clinging to a cliff in Taormina, Mount Etna one side and the Ionian Sea on the other. I drove with Roger Bell, an engineer from Rolls-Royce in the back. We never discovered if he was merely an observer, watching over his car or over us. We drove on dry, dusty mountain roads, then raced along empty half-finished Autostradas, which pierced rock faces with twin tunnels. It was an exciting journey in air conditioned comfort, the motorway bits mile after mile at an indicated 120mph. We weren’t sure that the man from Rolls-Royce enjoyed it, but he never complained. Roger was head road tester and a trusted former colleague at The Motor, an accomplished saloon car racer we often drove on press launches. We knew one another’s driving. The poor engineer didn’t know us at all.

Did you know there was a Bentley Camargue? Just one. A Bentley Pininfarina designed for Lord Hanson in 1967 and the Rolls-Royce Camargue eight years later, were not highly regarded at first. It was a decade or two later before the eye caught up with their high waistlines and flat sides. Sergio Pininfarina had worked to strict limits. His design brief from Crewe was unlike the free-ish hand given him for the Fiat 130 Coupe, which, as with the 1947 Cisitalia, was an exemplar of crisp contour and elegant proportions. This time he had to adhere to the 1960s T-series/Silver Shadow floor pan, engine and transmission. Furthermore he was required to keep the generous seating plan. Rolls-Royce decreed that the proportions of the radiator could change (they had altered several times since 1904) and, as a special concession it could be tilted forwards, but by no more than 4 degrees from the vertical. Camargue looked bigger than the rest of the range and although no taller, it was a substantial 10cm (3.94in) wider. A striking innovation to the facia was Pininfarina’s clever adoption of aircraft-style instrument bezels, at one stroke taking the ambience of the car ahead by a generation. Something of a new experience for Crewe was meeting safety legislation, largely American thus far, which required destructive testing of bodies and components. More power was needed to make sure the larger frontal area would not affect performance, so after car 31 the engine was supplied with a German-made Solex four-barrel fixed choke carburettor. For markets where stringent emissions regulations were being applied, such as the United States and Japan, the two SUs were retained along with a lower compression ratio of 7.3:1. Crewe and Mulliner Park Ward in London shared Camargue production until summer 1968, when Motor panels of Coventry was contracted to supply completed body shells and production commenced at Crewe. Prototype Camargues ran with Bentley disguises and a turbocharged Bentley had been considered for production, but the car came on the market as a Rolls-Royce. However Sir David Plastow said that the company would be happy to quote a price for a Bentley version if anyone wanted. It was an offer one customer took up. Enquiries to identify the individual came to nothing. Was there a Sicilian connection?
INTRODUCTION 1975 produced to 1986
BODY Saloon; 2-doors, 4-seats; weight 2347kg (5175lb)
ENGINE V8-cylinders, in-line; front; 101.4mm x 99.1mm, 6750cc; compr 9:1 later 8:1; 164kW (220bhp) @ 4000rpm; 24.3kW (32.57bhp)/l.
ENGINE STRUCTURE 2 pushrod overhead valves; hydraulic tappets; gear-driven central cast iron camshaft; aluminium cylinder head with steel valve seats, aluminium block, cast iron wet cylinder liners; 4-choke Solex 4A1 carburettor, later 2 SU HIF7 1.87in; coil ignition Lucas Opus electronic ignition distributor; two SU electric fuel pumps; 5-bearing chrome molybdenum crankshaft.
TRANSMISSION rear wheel drive; GM400 3-speed automatic with torque converter; hypoid bevel final drive 3.08:1.
CHASSIS steel monocoque with sub-frames; independent single transverse arm top wishbone front suspension; coil springs, anti roll bar; independent trailing arm rear suspension, coil springs; anti roll bar; rear automatic height control; telescopic dampers; hydraulic servo brakes, 27.9cm (11in) dia discs, 2 single callipers front ventilated, dual calliper rear; triple circuit; Saginaw recirculating ball, later rack and pinion PAS; 107l (23.5gal) fuel tank; 235 70VR 15 radial ply tyres, 6in rims
DIMENSIONS wheelbase 305cm (120in); track front 152.4cm (60in), rear 151.4cm (59.6in); length 517cm (203.5in); width 191.8cm (75.5in); height 148cm (58.2in); ground clearance 16.5cm (6.5in); turning circle 11.6m (38ft).
EQUIPMENT Connolly hide upholstery; Wilton carpet with nylon rugs; air conditioning; laminated windscreen; Bosch Frankfurt AM FM radio £77.46 extra
PERFORMANCE maximum speed 190kph (118mph); 42.1kph (26.2mph) @ 1000rpm;
0-100kph (62mph) 10.1sec; fuel consumption 22.6l/100km (12.5mpg).
PRICE, 1975 Rolls-Royce £29,250
PRODUCTION 525 Rolls-Royces and 1 Bentley (plus 4 prototypes and 4 experimental cars all scrapped)
*Sicilian road race. This blog based on The Complete Bentley, Dove Publishing Ltd, now widely available as an ebook from Foyles, Waterstone, Amazon and more.


Twenty-one years ago Rolls-Royces were still made in Crewe. They were a decade away from fundamental change. Yet their dignity seemed unshakeable as this motoring column from 17 June 1990 shows. And 'personal imports' to beat Car Tax and VAT was still newsworthy.
SUNDAY TIMES: Motoring, Eric Dymock
Upwards of a thousand Rolls-Royces are converging on Castle Ashby in Northamptonshire today for the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club Annual Rally. It will be a meeting of hearts and minds as well as cars. Rolls-Royces are as close to Britain's soul as Big Ben or Land of Hope and Glory, yet as with other pillars of the establishment, it is easy to expect too much of them.
Dignified and regal, beautifully made and long-lasting, Rolls-Royces are as imposing as ever they were. You are more likely to be taken for a pop star at the wheel of one nowadays than a Member of the House of Lords. They tend to be bought more by 'new' money than by the old aristocracy who seem to be happier in Range Rovers and green wellies.
Adjusting one's expectations means not assuming a Rolls-Royce will handle like a Mercedes-Benz, nor be as quiet as one of the new Japanese luxury cars. It means driving them in a fitting manner, not too fast, and avoiding harsh braking or acceleration. The older parts of the suspension were not designed to avoid the diving and leaping that go with clumsy driving.
Rolls-Royce chauffeurs like Rolls-Royce cars are expected to keep their composure at all times. At the chauffeurs' school they are instructed how to open a door, then shut it with a satisfying clunk, like the door of an old First Class railway carriage, as the passengers sink into the Connolly-leather chairs, kick their shoes off, and curl their toes into the shaggy carpet.
Rolls-Royce's tradition of naming cars after ghosts began in 1907, when Claude Johnson, responsible for the creation of the marque as much as the two euphonious partners, had their thirteenth 40/50 finished in aluminium paint, and the carriage lamps and fittings silver-plated. It was named The Silver Ghost
The latest Silver Spirit is less ethereally quiet. It is probably noisier than some of the graceful old cars gathering at Castle Ashby, the difference is that it does 120mph, and accelerates to 60mph in a vigorous 10 seconds.
Its worst shortcoming is the tiresome hum from the air intake of the 6.75 litre V-8 engine which would pass unnoticed in a Sierra or a Cavalier, but as in the tale of the princess and the pea, quite spoils the cushioned luxury of a car that costs £85,609, and does between 12 and 15mpg. With a little effort you feel the fuel consumption could reach single figures.
The heavy thirst is the result of the blunt aerodynamics and the car's weight of 2350kg (5180lb, 46cwt). The controls are all light, but at seventeen and a quarter feet (5.3metres) it is a large car. The ride is now extremely good, with the new adaptive ride control which senses speed, steering, and the disturbance made by road bumps. The sensors then stiffen or slacken the springing within milliseconds, making this the best-riding and best-handling Silver Spirit yet.
Body roll on corners is firmly checked, and the old floaty motion has gone.
The interior of the Silver Spirit is of matchless quality, with further refinements to the two-tier air conditioning system. Unlike those of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, it divides horizontally, giving the occupants the choice of warm feet and a cool head as opposed to a cool driver and a warm passenger.
There is usually so much noise in a car that the quality of an elaborate stereo system is squandered. The Silver Spirit is quiet enough for pop stars to appreciate its ten speakers (two tweeters in the demister panel, mid-range and bass units in the front doors and tweeter and mid-range units in the rear doors) and, for those of their lordships who still have them, to hear Today in Parliament in perfect peace.
ENDS 661w
SUNDAY TIMES: Motoring, Eric Dymock
Rolls-Royce has at last had to concede that machines make cars better than people can. Sir Henry Royce, whose engineering credo was that, "There is no safe way of judging anything except by experiment," would probably have agreed. He would go to any lengths to achieve excellence and had he known about it, he would have embraced computer-controlled machining with enthusiasm.
Changing the habits of a lifetime has not come easily. The old wartime factory at Crewe still has machinery, which still looks as though it made Merlin engines for Battle of Britain Hurricanes and Spitfires. They did, and are gradually being replaced by automatic cutters and drillers to turn out better components than the most skilled craftsman.
Rolls-Royce offers the production engineer a singular challenge. It is relatively easy for robots to turn out thousands of identical parts, but Rolls-Royce made only 3,243 cars last year, just under 70 every working week, so it does not want thousands of anything very much. What it does want is seventy or so axle casings, or cylinder blocks, or exhaust manifolds machined to a consistent accuracy that befits the car.
This could no longer be accomplished with the relics of industrial archaeology on which Rolls-Royce Motors had to rely following the receivership of 1971. Like Ferrari, Rolls-Royce has had to adapt to changing circumstances, which meant commissioning a highly automated paint plant a year ago, and bringing in sophisticated new machinery, the latest of which was brought into operation only last week.
Unlike Ferrari, in which Fiat has invested heavily, Rolls-Royce has had to generate its own resources. Profits have gone up from £14.1 million in 1984 to nearly £25 million last year. Sales are up 18 per cent world wide, the Pacific basin is doing well with sales in Japan up, North America holding its own, and the UK up by over 8 per cent.
Just over half the cars made by the company are Bentleys, and when the new model arrives by the mid-90s, the Rolls-Royce and the Bentley ranges will separate for the first time since 1945. The pre-war "Silent Sports Car" will have an identity of its own again, with a separate body style.
More pressing however is a new engine to replace the thirty year old V8, which is neither as smooth nor as efficient as a Rolls-Royce ought to be. Vickers, Rolls-Royce's parent now owns Cosworth Engineering which is not only an outstanding manufacturer of racing power units, but also notable in the production engineering of engines.
Among Cosworth's notable achievements was successfully designing and producing the 16-valve heads for the outstanding Mercedes-Benz 190 2.3-16, in an astonishingly short time. Rolls-Royce is fully extended making cars - it makes most of its own components down to the Spirit of Ecstasy on the radiator shell. Cosworth, rich in talent, would not find it difficult to design and engineer a new power unit adaptable for a 1995 range of Bentley sports cars and Rolls-Royce limousines.
Meanwhile the crafts at Crewe which even the cleverest robots could not replace, continue to thrive. Ferrari lost none of its cachet through installing modern production methods and neither will Rolls-Royce. Ferrari quality and reliability has improved and so will Rolls-Royce's. The irreplaceable features, the sumptuous leather and the carefully-grained woodwork which no manufacturer in the world does as well, will give the cars their own distinctive character for generations to come.
ENDS 600w
SUNDAY TIMES: Motoring, Eric Dymock
Mrs Alberto Pirelli will flag off 125 pre-1966 cars taking part in the 2,000 mile Pirelli Classic Marathon from Tower Bridge at 0800 today. The third annual Marathon which commemorates the old Alpine Rally travels through six countries in seven days, finishing in Cortina Italy, on Saturday.
The 15 special tests, start at Lydden Hill, Kent at 11.00. Spectators will be admitted to a slalom-style event which will decide the first day's leaders before the cavalcade sets sail for the first overnight stop at Ypres, in Belgium.
Stirling Moss has declared himself fit to drive an MGB following his recent motorcycle accident but has not yet discarded both his crutches. Victor Gauntlett has withdrawn his £200,000 Austin-Healey which leaves Indianapolis star Bobby Unser's rather special Jaguar E-Type as probably the most valuable car in the event. Together with all the other precious classics, the Jaguar will be put to some strenuous tests such as a timed climb of the famous Stelvio Pass, Italy's highest Alpine road, nine miles with 48 hairpin bends, which will be specially closed for the occasion.
ENDS 195w
SUNDAY TIMES: Motoring, Eric Dymock
Despite a recent rise of 3.3 per cent, BMW claims that the prices of its 3-Series cars are much the same in the UK as they are in the rest of Europe. Taking the prices of extra equipment into account, optional in Germany but not always optional on the UK market, personal imports cost the customer more.
BMW allowed £300 to cover petrol, hotels, and ferry fares and local taxes were taken into account. No allowance was made for any administrative expenses, but BMW calculates that on an exchange rate of Dm2.8 to the pound the costs are as follows:
personal import UK retail extra cost of personal import
316i £12,525 £12,425 £100
320i £15,638 £15,550 £ 88
325i £19,179 £19,175 £ 4
The more expensive the BMW, the more BMW says you save by buying it in the UK.
ENDS 161w