Dream Cruising a Rolls-Royce Phantom

10 Dec 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Dream Cruising a Rolls-Royce Phantom

Dream Cruising a Rolls-Royce Phantom

Upturned thumbs aplenty, no other digits noticed

Gary Witzenburg on 09.01.2006

Say Rolls Royce offers you a weekend loan of a $350K Phantom, one of the most rare and exclusive new cars on the planet. What would you do?

The Car

Its massive classic Rolls Royce Parthenon grille proclaims to all exactly what it is. Its wide rear doors open to the front and whisper shut electrically. Its sumptuous full-leather interior consumes an average of 17 quality hides, its rich wood veneers are book matched with alternating feature and straight grains, and its carpeted floor mats are plusher than the wall-to-walls in most folks’ homes.

The traditional round analog clock at dashtop center flips over to reveal a 6.5-inch screen for navigation, (BMW iDrive-type) central control functions and live local TV. The pie-plate-size center wheel caps are weighted so their big RR logos are always right side up. The legendary Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, once a collectors’ item for unscrupulous non-owners, retracts out of sight at the push of a button and when the car is locked.

Each new Phantom takes some 260 hours (10.8 days) for skilled craftsmen to assemble compared to 30 hours for the average new car. In 2005, 796 were sold worldwide, 382 of them in North America through 29 U.S. dealers, and one each in Canada and Mexico. Tiny as it is, that global number bested Mercedes’ rival Maybach by nearly three to one.

In reality, this car competes mostly with private planes, yachts and vacation homes.

Rolls Royce Phantom owners are typically multi-multi-millionaires with three or four homes and five or six other cars. Not counting royalty and heads of state, most are self-employed (famous writers, artists and athletes) or heads of privately held companies. Only about a third have names or faces we would recognize. Outside the U.S. about 80 percent of new Phantom owners custom-specify interior materials, like decorating a house.

In America, barely 20 percent take advantage of that opportunity. U.S. gamblers and liability lawyers who hit a big jackpot want their new Rolls Royces right away.

The Cruise

The Woodward Dream Cruise started 12 years ago as a one-time opportunity for local gearheads to relive the golden years of Detroit motor mania, when cruisin’ the famed eight-lane avenue between drive-in burgers and cokes often led to impromptu-and sometimes deadly serious-racing. Some summer nights saw people sitting along both curbs to watch.

So here I am with my borrowed super-status symbol, wearing a rented chauffeur cap for effect, wondering how it will be received. Amazingly well, it turns out!

Some fellow cruisers offer trades. One couple offers a beautiful Bentley racer replicar. A tightly packed group of four golden agers and three golden retrievers offer their mid-’60s convertible decked out with Golden Oldies signs.

They say they’ll throw in the dogs. I politely decline. Two guys (probably dealers) at GM’s Athens Coney Island hospitality area offer an employee discount on something new.

Off the avenue, approaching the toney Townsend Hotel in the upscale suburb of Birmingham, I watch the valets’ eyes light up then drop in disappointment as I cruise on by (that felt cheap, but strangely satisfying). I use the wonderful and very necessary front and rear park distance sensors and cameras to maneuver into a tight spot. A woman with an Eastern European accent asks to take a picture of the car. I take her picture taking the picture.

A man inquires about the color, a medium brown called dark sable that was once reserved for England’s royalty. An SUV-load of teens slows to ogle and shout, Nice ride! and some other hip superlatives I’d never heard before. Two guys say it reminds them of the evil killer car in the movie The Car.

The next day, my wife and I dock the Rolls in a discount house parking lot for a few minutes. Upon our return, some people take our pictures through the windshield. Guess they’d waited to see what multi-multi-millionaires look like.

Guess we disappointed them.

My $351K Phantom, actually $328,750 plus $19,000 worth of options and a $3,000 federal gas guzzler tax, achieved a surprising 16 mpg for the weekend, which included some 180 miles of high-speed freeway running. It had posed for a lot of pictures and had brightened a lot of days, including mine. It goes back tomorrow. So does the chauffeur’s cap.

Sigh.

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