‘We wafted serenely as if transported on magic carpets of sublime comfort and rocketed along with the confidence of Fangio and James Bond’
I THOUGHT I HAD got it out of my system (see Spear’s passim) but, alas, my automotive obsession is beginning to show signs of its return. I say alas, because although I have derived a great deal of entertainment from my cars, the automotive industry has — in return — derived a fair bit of money from me.
Rather predictably I have that man-and-machine thing that has one believing in gender stereotyping: it does not matter whether it is a gun, a watch, a lighter, or in extremis a computer. If it has moving parts and a spec sheet, you can be pretty sure that I will fall for it. They are not machines into which I pour petrol, lighter fuel or lubricants (pace the computer) but rather vessels in which to carry my imagination.
My car weakness is a well-rehearsed Sisyphean struggle with which I wrestle on daily basis. Sometimes I am granted a reprieve but more often I am caught between the Scylla of my parsimony and the Charybdis of my vanity. However events dictate that this dilemma requires a degree of resolution, as even I have had to admit that the guano-covered mobile death-trap that is the family 4×4 is no longer fit for purpose.
Already a contender for the automotive museum at Beaulieu, it garnered a further patina when a very nice man inadvertently placed his pick-up truck in my boot, rendering the doors sporadically inoperable. Since then a hammer has been installed in the glove compartment so that in the event of the doors malfunctioning during an accident those of us left alive could at least smash our way out, or if trapped inside could tap out SOS messages in Morse code on the bodywork.
Breaking and entering
I tried to persuade my wife that this was a charming addition to the informal chic of our motoring, and I even suggested that we should try emulating the General Lee in The Dukes of Hazzard by welding the doors shut and entering through the windows, but she failed to see the charm in this suggestion.
Pictured above: Aston Martin
Then, last winter — which was neither brief nor mild — the heating packed up. Of course I pointed out that this was a great opportunity to wear fur. To which she rejoined that she did not have any. By the beginning of the summer I had caved in and called my friends in the industry to see if I could test-drive a few cars.
So began an aestival kaleidoscope of motoring experiences as Audis, Jaguars and Aston Martins came and went — we wafted serenely as if transported on magic carpets of sublime comfort and rocketed along with the confidence of Fangio and James Bond; we toyed with paddle shifts and automatic gearboxes; we marvelled at all the things the modern motorist takes for granted, such as being able to access the mobile phone via the satnav while watching catch-up TV projected on to the inside of the windscreen as the car drives, cleans, parks and services itself.
But of course I need to be practical about these things, so I found myself leaning towards the metallic tangerine-coloured Vantage V12 as, with its ample boot space, it is just the ticket for collecting the weekly shop from Waitrose — while as far as four-door cars go the Rapide is both as swift as its name suggests and also like driving around in a tourist attraction: stop it anywhere and within seconds it is surrounded by a crowd of admirers.
It is of course this buttressing of the self-esteem that makes the idea of a fancy car rather appealing — as, unlike you gentle reader, my sense of self-worth is lamentably susceptible to the amelioriating magic of a swanky motor.
It was with these eminently practical thoughts in my mind that I set off to fulfil my duties at the Cartier Style et Luxe at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, where I have been a judge for about a generation. And there I saw it, the future of the Foulkes family on four wheels: a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, the last word in automotive technology… at least when Edward VII was on the throne.
The best part of it was that, with button-backed seating that would not have looked out of place in an Edwardian bordello, no doors to speak of, barely anything in the way of fenestration and no roof, I no longer needed to remember to bring a hammer every time I set out for a drive.
I rang P&A Wood, the marque specialists who had restored the Ghost, the very next day and asked them to find me a similar car — or at least I would have done, only I realised that with the Ghost’s alfresco approach to bodywork I fear that come winter I may have to buy my wife a fur coat.
Maybe I should just test-drive a few more Jaguars, Astons and Audis… or buy a Fiat Panda… or invest in a tandem…