Which Rolls Royce?

BY JAMES CAMPBELL

New Rolls Royces are so beautiful and splendidly engineered that I’d feel nervous getting into one, let alone driving one. The Dawns, Ghosts, Phantoms and Wraiths are the cars of Queens and oil-rich Sheikhs. They are all perhaps a tad too luscious for the likes of me. Even wearing a chauffeur’s cap I’d feel like I didn’t quite belong in one.

I mean, how do you really feel sitting in a car worth the same as a house when you’re stationary in traffic alongside some homeless bloke on the pavement?

I just don’t have the brazen panache that a Rolls-Royce owner must have. Even though the homeless bloke couldn’t see me through the darkened glass, our spirits would surely know.

So, which Rolls for me?

A Phantom Drophead Coupé? A Silver dawn or Silver Wraith? A Corniche or Seraph perhaps?

A Rolls-Royce Shadow II with all its deep-pile carpet, rich wood and polished silverware – now that to me is all the Rolls-Royce an ordinary soul like me could ever wish for. (And you can occasionally pick them up for less than ten grand or so nowadays, which is not bad at all considering what you’re buying for that money.)

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I drove one last week just outside of Shrewsbury and it was perfect – like riding on a pile of silk cushions atop a magic carpet. Move the three-speed column change selector to Drive, release the “umbrella” handbrake located under the fascia and, as Rolls-Royce likes to say, we proceed. The Rolls doesn’t so much move off as gather up its considerable skirts and soar away. Acceleration is occurring because the speedometer indicates as much.

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We’re moving because the leather in the cabin is creaking, expensively. Out in open country I call the engine room for more power and the Shadow responds politely, piling on the revs slowly but surely until it’s time I applied the brakes. They work well too: a little too well-mannered at first but with real bite once they grasp your intention. Equally surprising is how agile the 2-ton, 17ft Shadow is and how controlled the ride is over undulations.

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From this vantage point you are master of all you survey with a clear view of the car’s vast bonnet concealing a 6.75-litre V8 of undisclosed power, tapering to the best view in all England: that classic radiator and the Spirit of Ecstasy crowning it.

This is a beautiful car.

I am smitten.

When I get home, I cannot possibly mention my newfound love affair to my wife. I know what her answer will be: “choose something sensible not a gas-guzzling Roller, Campbell!”

Us lesser men can hope. We can dream.

The Shadow II is an attainable dream.

One day, Shadow, one day sweet chariot, you’ll come for to carry me home.

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