There are many, many fine days in the life of a motoring journalist, but none finer than one that involves the name, Rolls-Royce.
I never really participate in media drives as I think that it is unsuccessful in allowing me to connect fully with the product. The hectic schedule, long list of activities, and limited avenues for proper photography don’t fit the ethos we envisioned for Opus Macchina. BUT, and it’s a big but, when it’s the pinnacle of the automotive world ringing on my phone — you can count me in even if it means that I’d have to wear an abysmal event t-shirt and make an ass clown of myself by hitting the karaoke with everyone. Of course, with a brand like Rolls-Royce, no such requirements were even on the table.
It was a serene and unflustered waft to the Qi Wellness Spa, where a seven course meal awaited us. A white Ghost and a gourmet tasting menu for lunch sounds a little better than heaven to me. I have never been a fan of the Ghost, but this particular Series II blessed with an ocean of the finest crimson hide was the absolute business. I’ve always said that I would never buy a Ghost for the simple reason that it is inherently a 7 Series in a Tuxedo, except it isn’t. To say that they are cut from the same cloth, is to claim that a navy blue Zara suit is no different from a bespoke William Westmancott piece — they are not.
And if I’m honest, the bigger reason I never got behind the Ghost is that it makes you look like a peasant who couldn’t afford a Phantom. That is, until I drove it. It accelerated, braked, and handled better than I expected — but sporty it isn’t. The thick-rimmed steering wheel was a telling sign that this was something that you could occasionally drive when the chauffeur decides to go on a holiday. It’s a little more Ingrid Bergman than Grace Kelly. It delivered a decadence that only a Rolls-Royce can. I reckon that from the rear seats of the Ghost, you’ll only feel difference of the Phantom when there’s one that you can compare with side by side, which of course there won’t be — and neither will there be a Ghost.
How was lunch, you might ask? It was a gastronomic feast — a squirting orgasm in the palette. More importantly, this was also the time wherein we were formally invited to the 2019 Goodwood Festival of Speed. You see, there are some world events like the NBA finals, the Masters at Augusta, and the Super Bowl, which you know you’ll always see through the screen of your smartphone. It’s one of those things that you accept as a matter of fact, and for petrolheads, there isn’t a bigger event than the Goodwood Festival of Speed. I did my best to keep my composure, but my soul was weeping inside. How could a day as perfect as this be the same one where news of this magnitude was broken to me?
A culinary love letter.
To top it all off, I had the chore of having to drive home in a little coupé called the Wraith. Life is almost too hard to bear at this point. Getting behind the wheel of the first Rolls-Royce I’ve ever driven will always be a momentous occasion. While I don’t believe in the saying “you never forget your first time”, because some experiences are forgettable — this most certainly was not. I used to think that a Wraith was nothing more than a Ghost with two less doors and a more powerful engine, but that assumption couldn’t be further from the truth. I never had the pleasure of testing them back to back until today, and they are completely different.
In the Wraith, you feel that you’re seated ‘in’ the car and not ‘on’ it. It is a cocoon of an unhealthy amount of leather that flirtatiously caresses you, one that whispers — power, sex, and wealth — provocatively. Whereas in the Ghost the experience is catered to its passengers, the Wraith is for the driver. Your fine long-legged date has the privilege of sharing a moment in the fastest Rolls-Royce ever produced. It is ruthless, chauvinistic, and egotistical. The power delivery is smooth as silk and is fuelled by liquid gold. By the time I arrived home, I thought to myself, “Surely, days aren’t going to get any better than this”… Except, they do.
The bespoke life.
Two months later, I am 38,000 feet above the Mediterranean Sea, sipping a glass of Dom Pérignon in a starlit Emirates cabin — en route to London Heathrow. By the time we had landed, Europe was suffering from a record-breaking heatwave. Not the most exciting news, but the United Kingdom was one of the least affected. This also meant one good thing — perfect weather for the trip to Goodwood. Like any self-afflicted automobile and motorsport enthusiast, it was challenging to get a good night’s rest. Apart from the sun setting at a disorienting 9:45pm, I could already hear the shrieking sound of Ayrton Senna’s McLaren MP4/4 on the iconic run up the hill. The arrival at Goodwood was better than I had dreamed it up to be. The outdoor parking lot were hosts to the likes of a $2 million Aston Martin DB5 parked in the company of a Ferrari 488 Pista.
Walk some more and you’ll find a James Dean Porsche 550 Spyder hiding behind a Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II. The lot alone made the trip well worth it, but since we were guests of the Spirit of Ecstasy, we were to trek our way to the house of Rolls-Royce. The walk was long, yet not a single part of my body was complaining. Not my knees, not my back. Not this time. I was with beautiful company. Through this biblical pilgrimage, the sound of high pitched Ferraris and Porsches filled the air with an orgasmic noise that made me shiver. The mood was absolutely electric and festive. People dined on lobster rolls, fresh oysters, and bottles of bubbly. I was in complete ecstasy, for in this space, were like-minded automotive aficionados. They run everything at the festival, from classic MINIs to a behemoth Rolls-Royce Phantom. Heaven on Earth does exist.
At one point, we made a pit stop at the iconic Goodwood House to give our bodies a little bit of rest. While having a cigarette and a can of Coke Zero, I looked up at the porch. Suddenly, my knees buckled and fizz from the soda started seeping out of my mouth as if I had overdosed on something. In that single terrace stood, former Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, 1998 and 1999 F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen, former Ferrari team boss and current FIA President Jean Todt, and Corina — the wife of 7-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher whose career was being honored at this year’s festival. If I were to paint “The Last Supper”, they would all be in it.
Still unable to grasp what I had just witnessed, we marched on. As we made our way past million dollar historical cars, we finally made it to the house of Rolls-Royce. Front and centre of their display was a supersized version of Eleanor, more fondly known as the Spirit of Ecstasy. The figure was so imposing, I had to genuflect. Keen on surprises was the Autohub group, in which we were led to the rear exit where a group of brand-new Rolls-Royce Cullinans awaited us. It was time to tour their factory. Yes, the United Kingdom, the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and a set of Cullinans to shuttle us through the woods. This is not the real world, Enzo.
House of ecstasy.
Seemingly jet-lagged and extremely intoxicated on opulence, we had finally arrived at Rolls-Royce’s Goodwood plant. This was holy ground. The plant is quiet, sterile, and clinical. If I dropped a fork, everyone would stop to look. Throughout the extensive tour, I had drawn up a conclusion. The brand is so anal and so thorough in the way they go about the engineering and mechanical aspects of their product, that the owners who spend a fortune on these cars can simply enjoy them for what they are.
What everyone sees is the impeccable quality of their leather hide, the identical woodgrain on every panel of their car, and the eccentric paint that the clients request for. And while one side of the factory looks like a leather goods atelier with a climate-controlled cellar to preserve wood panels in perfect condition, I’ve recently learned that they are a group of engineering perfectionists. They are brilliant at masking extremely technical bits in the guise of art and beauty, but make no mistake about it — they are mechanically sound.
Take for instance the hood ornament that disappears from the top of the radiator grille at the push of a button. All we see is a party trick that tucks away the hood ornament to protect it from thieves, but there are actually 24 linkages and bearings that operate that simple motion just to ensure that it works flawlessly — every single time. The V12 engines had to faultlessly revolve 750 million times before it was given the go for production. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The details and the customisation options are near infinite. For as long as you have the cash to blow, there isn’t much they won’t do for you. Crushed diamonds on your paint finish are all in a day’s work. You may even opt to have the starlight headliner on your Phantom specced precisely to match the constellation pattern on the evening of your wedding night.
The peek inside the factory was a revelation to the mystique that surrounds the British marque. Walking through the plant was a privileged experience limited to a select few. In this short lifetime, I have been blessed to turn impossible experiences into checkmarks on my bucket list. As for Rolls-Royce, they are the undisputed flagship of the automotive world. They have engineering prowess brought down to an art form. It is difficult to reconcile with the price tag of these automobiles until you see the amount of work that’s put into every single detail. At the end of the day, a Rolls-Royce is a dream, and it will remain that way if not for the fortunate few. It isn’t fair, but that’s how life is. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Phantom VIII waiting to waft me back to the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Goodness, wake up, Enzo.
Once in a lifetime.