ALL I NEED IS A PHANTOM I and a SatNav to steer her by!
David D loves his Phantom 1 and has enjoyed many roads and long distance adventures in various countries as well as being vintage car tour organizer extraordinaire.
When the Rolls of Monmouth Golf Club decided to run a charity day to raise funds for Help the Heroes and Multiple Sclerosis, someone suggested that having some Rolls-Royce cars at the Hendre to give rides in exchange for donations would be very appropriate. When an old Army chum of mine told them he knew someone with such a car, the organisers leapt upon it and contacted me. What he didn’t tell them is that I live 130 miles from Monmouth! However, the causes were very worthwhile and the Phantom 1 needed a good run having only pottered about since a rally in Spain.
South of Hereford
So, I roped in Anthony and his Phantom I and set off one sunny morning to meet him at the Hendre. I hate motorways at the best of times, but in an open car they really are awful. What is the good of having a lovely silent car and be surrounded by roaring, whooshing moderns bent on getting to their next destination (or the next accident) in the shortest possible time? So where possible I chose the back roads and wafted my way south. I have to say that, whatever they say about Ghosts, it is hard to beat a Phantom I when ‘on song’. P is for Phantom, Power, Purring, Presence, Peace, Pace, Panorama, Paradise …. sorry, I am getting carried away, even before I reach Perfection. Of course they are big cars, with steering that becomes quite heavy at slow speeds, which is not what you want with a turning circle of around 50ft.
Once you are properly under way however, everything is much easier. The steering becomes “light and precise” and there is so much torque from the 7.6 litre engine that you can start from rest in top gear and accelerate all the way up to 70mph. In fact I demonstrated this to one set of passengers as we drove around the golf course roads. I admit to cheating slightly by starting on a slight down slope, but only to protect my clutch. On that subject, double-declutching has to be mastered, but compared to smaller cars the Phantom does not require so much changing down and will happily sail through decent sized roundabouts in top. I do tend to drive pretty much straight across those small mini-roundabouts painted on the road.
The phrase “Taking the pretty route” is often used in jest – i.e. you got lost – but it really is the way to go in an open R-R car. Plan ahead, as I did with my trusty SatNav Miranda (I call her that because she takes me ‘mirandering’ around the countryside) and take your time, leaving your arrival time flexible! Being a tourer of course affords unrestricted views which, in Wales, are everywhere.
Narrow roads are not much of a problem as other motorists tend to acknowledge their place in the cosmos and back up to the nearest passing place. This does not however apply to tractors with trailers! You get a lot of smiles and waves from other road users and from people in towns and villages, which is nice. It is disconcerting at times to find a vehicle overtaking you, but then holding its position alongside to allow passengers (and sometimes drivers!) to take photographs. One drawback can be inability to overtake a vehicle travelling at, say, 50mph, unless there is a nice long, clear stretch ahead. Still, if you are not in a hurry, relax and enjoy the drive.
So my drive down to Monmouth was uneventful. The weather was good and the car was going beautifully, so it was a pleasure. The organisers at the golf club looked after us very well and Anthony and I did about five trips each for the golfers, who obviously enjoyed the experience very much. Altogether the event raised over £7,000 for the charities and the club gave both of us a bottle of champagne as a thank you.
I extended my outing by a couple of days and visited some old friends in Somerset and Oxford. It made the round trip about 500 miles. The car was doing about 13mpg and it is easy to work out the cost of that. But you cannot easily quantify the amount of pleasure provided by one of Henry Royce’s finest.
Descending into the Vale of Clwyd)
Vale David Dudley — July 2016. You were a great tour organizer, editor and true enthusiast. You will be greatly missed but many have appreciated, respected and learnt from your example.