The Classic Car Club has a British Racing Green Mulsanne Turbo R. Now you can’t call it beautiful, but it is imposing, huge and magnificent. It is Downton Abbey on wheels.
I had time to get used to it on the run back from London. At the club, Jacob had carefully shown me all the exquisite details. He was clearly rather more in love with the car than the 10 year old Alfa he had just bought – and which he told me would barely go 200 miles without another major component failure.
Even crawling in traffic, a Bentley is a calm and civilised place to be. Radio 3 seemed to be the most appropriate, and equally soothing soundtrack. You don’t need to know the news when you are in Crewe’s missile.
I collected our American visitors from Colchester railway station the following morning. Their jaws visibly dropped as they spied their ride. I was very pleased. Well done Classic Car Club.
The Bentley has one of the biggest and best appointed boots I have ever seen. It happily looked after their luggage in a very Jeeves-like manner. If you have the misfortune to be kidnapped, check the bad guys have a Bentley before you allow them to bundle you into the boot. Then at least you’ll be comfortable. It is fully lined in Wilton carpet and features a set of gloves to protect your hands in the event of something as demeaning as a wheel change.
The view from the driver’s seat is rather better of course. The dashboard is exquisite walnut and has lots of nicely old fashioned dials. These include a fuel gauge that, at the touch of a button, also tells you your oil level. The hoi polloi have to open the bonnet and check the dipstick. Poor things.
The Bentley really delivers in depth. Everything that look like metal is polished steel and chrome. Everything that looks like leather is deepest Connolly hide – including the roof. Everything that looks like wood is walnut with inlayed marquetry veneers. The Bentley relaxes you with the thought that everything is what it should be in the best of all possible worlds.
Provided you are Downton Abbey rich of course.
We took our visitors to Dedham, otherwise known as Constable country. If Constable were painting today he’d replace the Haywain with a Bentley. We then collected my dear mother to take her for a cream tea, which meant the car had to accommodate six adults. But you don’t need a common people carrier when you have a Bentley, four lounged nonchalantly across the back seat as you can see.
Unlike most Bentley drivers, I thought I’d inspect benath the bonnet. Inside lies a huge V8 with the same look as a Le Mans Bentley from 90 years ago. The 6.75 litre turbocharged engine marked the return of the ‘Blower’ and it provides the effortless power to transport the six of us around Suffolk. You don’t rush a Bentley, but when you need it to, this amazing dowager duchess simply picks up her skirts and flies. There is no fuel consumption meter. This is the ‘R’ version, where the letter which stood for Roadholding. Hardly a Lotus around the lanes but surprisingly agile for two tons.
I had to be back in London early on the Monday morning and my American visitors gladly took theirs seats – at a very ungracious 5am. The younger family members awoke as we reached the tube station from whence they would continue their UK tour. If I’d have been them, I would have refused to get out of the car. But sadly, the Bentley was only two miles from the Classic Car Club and the dream was nearly over for all of us.
It was soon time to get back on the Brompton. As always a slight contrast.
I had not expected to love this anachronism as much as I did. An old english aristocrat with rakish charm but real ability too.
Over a quarter of a century old, and just warming up…