[...] it’s more than a little justified to dismiss Rolls-Royce as nothing but a brand. The modern idea of a brand is substantially younger than the jet plane or the digital computer. The purpose of a brand is to erase meaning via the pretense of creating it. The automakers talk about “brand DNA” which is, of course, a ridiculous idea. It’s all a shell game designed to help you define yourself via your consumption of products which are nearly identical to, but labeled differently from, the products consumed by others ...
Read the full column on Hagerty.com:
Bentley has been a recurring name in our family - grandfather, father, now grandson. So we stopped by Bentley of Newport Beach a year ago to beg some swag with the logo - maybe a calendar or promotional poster. What we were treated to was an astounding welcome, gracious tour of the models, and gifts galore of memorable value and meaning. The impression on my wife and I of the rare and astounding quality of the vehicles was literally emotional - that something of such soul and benchmark is still made in this world of computers and efficiency and mass production. Honestly never aspired to one of these nameplates because we aren't motivated much by status symbols, but we love perfection and engineering, and when it comes to those two qualities, there's a substantial amount of there there. Nice article Jack. These cars should be appreciated by all of us car lovers.
Did Rolls-Royce invent badge-engineering when they humiliated their one-time competitor by making it a discount companion brand?
The Silver Shadow was no antique when introduced in 1965. Sure, the Mercedes-Benz 600 was more ambitious and 25% more expensive, but the Shadow at least represented a sincere attempt to combine modern chassis engineering with traditional levels of isolation from noise and ride harshness. It had one of the best transmissions(TH400 IIRC), Citroen's innovative hydraulics, Detroit's A/C, and various attempts at a decent sound system. All of it was surrounded by wonderfully hedonistic touches like lambskin carpets, mirrored burl-wood veneers, organ stop vent controls, and finely finished cast switchgear. It is true that they didn't evolve and replace it like a Honda Accord, but it is also true that it competed with cars that weren't always improving as luxurious conveyances as they changed with the times. There was no successor to the Mercedes-Benz 600, Imperial died, Cadillacs and Lincolns were a shadow of what they were in 1965 by the '80s, and that left...the Maserati Quattroporte?
I think Car and Driver published many strong opinions that haven't stood the tests of time. I just saw a 1978 issue where each contributor picked what they thought was the best car in the world, and chances are you would only guess one of their six choices even if you could name 75% of the cars on the US market in 1978 off the top of your head. I'm also pretty sure that somewhere is an article where they pronounced the Bentley Turbo R to be one of the best reasons to get a real job.
I worked for a guy in the mid-nineties who had a Bentley 8 and a Rolls-Royce Corniche. The Corniche was 'triple white,' a combination we were told that they only built once a year, which apparently only caused me to question the choice. This man was a billionaire when billionaires weren't fighting over every house on Carbon Beach. He had(has? I don't know. He still uses the same profile picture on his eponymous investment bank's webpage now as he did then) a plane that flew his second wife's horses between his various vacation homes, which is what I thought of today when I saw someone commenting on the 'ridiculous' auction price of a Honda children's toy from 1986. I couldn't see him buying a BMW Rolls-Royce, but he did have a few Lincoln Town Cars back in the day. I never saw him drive himself in one, although his wife gave a VCU girl I shanghaied and I a ride to the Shelter Island ferry terminal in one. Maybe I should reach out and ask what he's got in his garages now. He might remember me from our numerous conversations about applications for orthogonal polynomials and Coxeter groups in financial analysis while I was virtually catatonic because we were on a several-day ocean passage across sharks-tooth waves, and I had broken some ribs on the way out of port.
I bet there were more than a handful of people saddened when Bristol closed the curtains. I've seen their most outlandish, Viper-powered "Fighter" torn down to chassis in a workshop. The quality of the frame was akin to a first-generation Miura. Hand welded, out of random pieces of tubing and plates, die-stamped speed holes and all. I'm not sure if it still had interchangeable parts with prewar BMWs. I bet it did. Like all Bristols before.
I'd also buy any of their cars in any shape, because I am sure I can fix them on the side of the road if need to be. Luckily for me, LHD examples are few and far between. The same fact keeps me out of TVR S2 ownership, by the way.
I'm sorry, but this thing looks like a Kia. It does however make my now ancient Silver Shadow sitting in the garage look even better. I did find references to the early Lexus and W140 somewhat interesting as I still have my Bentley Mulsanne S, but my 500SEL and GS300 have probably both been recycled at this point.