Alan Judd

Motoring | 23 August 2008

Hopeless romantic

Some at least of the 71 vehicles I’ve owned (68 if tractors don’t count) are probably best excused by a weakness for romantic impracticality. It was never inherent impracticality that attracted me but something else about them — rarity, unusual histories or locations, coincidence, the appeal of rescue. Hence the Daimler Conquest Century convertible, the Austin Gypsy fire engine, the Majestic Major mayoral limousine and the clump of stinging nettles in Oxfordshire marketed as a Series One Land-Rover. Recently there have been signs that the condition afflicts me still.

The week began with a tour of the Rolls Royce factory at Goodwood, West Sussex. Nicholas Grimshaw’s design is an inspiration, quiet, clean and airy, with imaginative use of natural light and camouflaged by eight acres of living roof comprised of thousands of sedum plants. The factory produced 1,010 cars last year, with prices starting at around a quarter of a million — rather more than all my 71 added together. The astute and congenial party I was with could probably have bought a brace each without too much hardship, but for me the experience scored pretty highly in the romantic impracticality stakes because it left me yearning more than I’m earning. It’ll doubtless score yet higher when I drive one next month.

But then to go from Goodwood to the other end of the (still) United Kingdom and motor 500 miles through northern Scotland in the new Bentley Brooklands coupé upped the romantic ante even more.

This nimble 2.7 tonne Leviathan was reviewed on its Italian launch (Spectator, 19 April) and re-acquaintance did nothing to dim first impressions. It remains one of the best-looking, best-performing and most satisfying cars to drive on the planet. And since they’re making only 550 its gratifyingly high emissions (465g/km) will do nothing whatever to hasten our planet’s demise.

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