A toast for the friendly Ghost

A toast for the friendly Ghost

When we asked Philip Rodney, chairman of law firm Burness Paull, if he’d like to test drive a Rolls-Royce Ghost, he was apprehensive. But he was able to put aside his reticence and briefly savour the joy of driving a true classic.

There is an old Yiddish joke told to illustrate the two meanings of the word “schmuck”. Mr Shapiro, an elderly widower, was having a lonely time in Miami Beach. He observed a man of his own age who was never without female companionship and constantly enjoying
amorous advances.

One day he worked up the courage to ask him the secret of his success: “Mister, excuse me, what should I do to make friends like yours?”. The man sneered and said: “Get a camel. Then ride up and down Collins Avenue every day. Before you know it, everyone in Miami will be asking who that man is, and you will have to hire a social secretary to handle all the invitations.

So Mr Shapiro bought a newspaper and looked through the ads. As luck would have it, he read of a circus, stranded in Miami and in need of capital. So he phoned the circus owner and within the hour he had bought a camel. The next morning, wearing khaki shorts and a pith helmet, Mr Shapiro set out on his camel down Collins Avenue. Everywhere people stopped, gawked and pointed. Every day for a week he rode his trusty steed.

One morning, as he was about to get dressed, the telephone rang. It was the parking lot attendant to tell him that his camel had been stolen. Mr Shapiro called the police. Sergeant O’Riley answered.

“What…you say someone stole your camel?”
“That’s right”, said Mr S.
“I have to fill out a form”, said the sergeant, “How tall is the animal?”
“From the sidewalk to his back, where I sit, a good six feet.”
“What colour is it?”
“Camel colour, a regular camel-coloured camel.”
“Was it male or female?”
“Was the animal male or female?”
“How am I supposed to know that?
Wait a minute. Yes, it was a male.”
“Are you sure?”
“But a moment ago you said you weren’t sure.”
“I’m positive, officer, because I just remembered…Every time and every place I was riding on that camel, I heard people yelling: “Hey, will you look at the schmuck on that camel!”

Rolls Royce Ghost 02

Approaching the road test of the Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II, which I had been invited to do by BQ, I was a bit worried about being Mr Shapiro. In honesty, I was apprehensive about what people would say if they saw me in it.

To put this into context, my daily driver is a two year old VW Up which according to WeBuyAnyCar.Com has a value of £6,265. Turning up at Rolls-Royce Edinburgh and seeing the car that was going to be ‘mine’ for 24 hours was a wedding car white with white upholstery and specced with 21 inch polished alloy wheels didn’t exactly dilute my anxiety.

Sad to admit, I have had a lifelong love of cars. As my family will confirm, I will always find an excuse to walk through a car park to get somewhere rather than follow the most direct route.

Over the years, I have been lucky enough to drive other prestige cars such as Ferraris, Bentleys, a McLaren, a Maserati and various Porsches. However, I had never driven a Rolls-Royce (I refuse to refer to it as a “Rolls “ or a “Roller”).

The closest I had ever got was in the 1960s, as a wee boy, sitting in the driver’s seat of my great uncle’s Silver Cloud III while it was parked in his garage. I can still remember the smell of the leather, the smoothness of the chrome switches and the comfort of your shoes sinking into the lambswool rugs.

It also had a record player in the front which played singles. I imagined my uncle saying to his chauffeur, “Would you mind putting on ‘Itchycoo Park’ by the Small Faces?” and Mr Thomson (for that was his name) struggling to put on the disc while driving through the rainy streets of Pollokshields.

Sitting in the Ghost, the similarities were immediately evident (except for the lack of a record player). The dashboard has the sheen of a Bosendorfer grand piano, the seats look like Linley armchairs and the air vents are controlled by aluminium organ stop levers that you just want to play with all day. And the lambswool rugs – forget 0-60 in 4.8 seconds or a top speed of 155mph – this is what a Rolls-Royce is all about.

I carefully manoeuvre out of the forecourt and gingerly make my way onto the M8 to head back to Glasgow. While initially it feels XXXL, after a few miles it’s just XL – rather like a comfy t-shirt that you buy one size too large.

As you accelerate, the prow rises. Where the Spirit of Ecstacy points, you follow. The suspension cossets. It’s hydraulic and only has one setting – comfortable. The 6.6 litre engine produces 563 bhp. The numbers are irrelevant. The V12 has a perfect resonance. At 70mph it’s hardly turning over. Rolls-Royces don’t have anything as crude as a rev counter, but the power reserve dial says you are only using about 5%.

It is loaded with tech, but if there is anything that disappoints, that’s it. Whereas the cabin
is unique, the hardware is generic BMW. It works brilliantly of course, but I want it to feel different from a 3 Series.

I hit the rush hour traffic. It crawls. That brings a surprise. When I want to change lanes there is no aggression from other drivers, just respect. The next morning I take Jamie (18) and Max (14) to school. They make me drop them a couple of blocks away. Arriving in a Rolls-Royce is apparently not cool.

When I get to the office, I find a problem. It’s too big to fit in the lift for the car park, so I have to park it on the street. At lunchtime I drive back to Edinburgh to return it.

Spalding Gray in his monologue ‘Swimming to Cambodia’ talks about searching for that perfect moment. I had one driving back, at a leisurely speed listening to David Byrne on the hi-fi, feet set to warm and head to cool and seeing a beauty in Harthill that had previously been missed. I wasn’t thinking about how quickly I could get to my destination; I was concentrating on enjoying the journey. One of my friends once accused me of liking cars that were brutal and stupid.

If in my dreams I had £250k to spend on a car, I would no longer buy a Lamborghini. The Ghost has redeemed me.

The car Philip Rodney drove was a Rolls-Royce Ghost Series II in English White and Seashell interior. The OTR price for the car is £263,465 and was supplied by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Edinburgh, Bankhead Drive. Edinburgh, EH11 4DJ. 0131 442 1000