Rolls Royce - the Best in the World

"A Rolls in the desert was above rubies..." - Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia knew what he was talking about. During World War I he commanded a squadron of 12 Rolls Royce armoured cars in the desert. They were quiet and reliable, and immensely powerful. That made them worth more than jewels to this once world-famous phantom commander of the burning sands.


That that's the last memory I have of it. It might have been stolen - but I think it just go left behind where I last played. And there it lies, perhaps. Still waiting beneath the burning sand for another little boy to find it again.

I may have lost the car but I never lost the dream.

The interest grows

My interest in Rolls Royce grew when I discovered some of my father's old toys when we moved to my grandfather's house. Among them was a blue Rolls Royce Silver Cloud, which I immediately liked more than all the others. I have no idea how many "miles" I put on that car while I was growing up, but it must have been many, for it was always my favourite. When I eventually outgrew playing with toy cars it became an ornament. Above my bed there was a shelf that was draped with the skin of a lion. And on it stood my blue Rolls Royce to remind me of the most beautiful car in the world - and that I was meant to own one when I grew up. Somehow that car never left me. Today it sits on a shelf next to my desk where I often admire its uniquely beautiful proportions and graceful design. It may be scarred and dented by many hours of play, but none of that matters to me. Every time I see a Rolls Royce on the road I admire and stare - and then smile inwardly and think: "Pretty - but still not like my blue Cloud..."

How it started

My interest in Rolls Royce motor cars started with a toy car. I was no more than five years old when I was given a red Rolls Royce Silver Ghost as a present. To me it was inarguably the most beautiful car in the world. And I treasured it above any other. Somehow I just knew that when I grew up one day I had to have my own. I frequently even said so. I couldn't say an "r" in those days, so I invented a curious way of rolling a substitute "r" in my cheek. The grownups found that cute and often asked me to say "Rrrrolls Rrrrroyce." When I did, it made them laugh. And when people laughed it made me happy. No wonder I grew to love the name.

My grandfather had a cattle farm in Swaziland. One day my father had to go there to make his rounds. I remembered playing in the red sands of Swaziland with my Rolls Royce.

My father's tin toy car. Battered and rusted now, but it had always been my favourite.

This is the 1958 Rolls Royce Silver Wraith of my good friends John and Susan Haresnape from England and Cape Town. At the summit of the Montagu pass we had to let the Wraith puff for a while. She had grown hot from the long journey and was puffing steam when we opened her cap.


I never liked small cars. I still don't. American cars were huge and bulky and macho and simply grand in every way. But the interior of this limousine is what strikes me as a goodly "family-sized."

My grandfather believed in British and American cars. He drove Jaguars and Buics and was so passionately against cars made by Axis nations after World War II that my father only dared to buy a Mercedes Benz when he died.

Rolls Royce of today

I was always a lot like my grandfather. And like him I am an old-fashioned style patriot and my loyalty still lies with British and American vehicles, although I will readily admit to the superioty of German luxury vehicles in some ways. Yet charm and style doesn't necessarily arise from engineering excellence. The grace and beauty which had once typified American cars has sadly degraded during modern times. But no automobile maker in the world has succeeded in maintaining its unequalled aesthetic beauty and appearance of timeless elegance as Rolls Royce. They - almost alone in the world - managed to maintain aesthetic excellence during the transition into the modern era.

Mercedes has built cars that combines technology with luxury to an unparalleled degree. Ferrari and Bugatti have built their screaming fantasies. Lexus has built ugly cars that drive like a dream. But no car maker in the world has ever matched Rolls Royce's overall elegance. None ever had its charm and aura of ageless sophistication.


The Rolls Royce Silver Cloud II is still to me the most beautiful car in the world.

It is a sad fact that Rolls Royce is no longer a British-owned gem in the crown of England. But to the lasting credit of the current owners I will admit that they have managed to continue producing uniquely beautiful designs, and have married them to the best that modern engineering technology has to offer. If you have a million or five in your car budget, then I would not think about buying any other brand.

Teenage fascination

Many boys like to have pin up posters of cars and girls on their bedroom walls. But over time as they grow older, the posters tend to disappear as their attentions shift and  as they gave a more discreet expression to their interests.

I didn't really have posters on my walls, but I did retain my interest in Rolls Royce as I grew up. When I was about 15 or so, my great uncle took us to the Marula Sun casino. It was the first time in my life that I went into a casino and the experience was fascinating. I looked old enough to pass for 18, so I managed to venture R20 at the slotmachines - which I promptly lost. Thus cured of my desires to gamble, I proceeded to walk the casino floor and look around. And then I saw it - a beautiful brand new cream coloured Rolls Royce Silver Spirit. It was very different from my favourite blue Cloud, but still beautiful enough for the sum of all desires to surface.

The car stood next to the R5 poker slotmachines - and it was there to be won - but on those machines only. Somehow I just knew I would win that car. I only had two problems. I had absolutely no money left, and I had no idea how to play poker. Inflamed by an unreasonable conviction that I would win it, and practically lightheaded with the fantasy of driving home with my family in this beautiful creation, I set off in search of that unfailing bank provider by nature - my dad.


What a beauty to open those un-pressurized radiators that never spout and scald your hand.


Above: Proceeding up the old Pontagu Pass. If you are a genuine Rolls Royce lover, you will understand what "proceeding" means in Rolls Royce language.

Left: The Rolls Royce Silver Coud - unce upon the time the fastest four door car in the world, and the first to be labelled as both "the best car in the world" and the "most quiet car in the world." 

I can still recall the breathless excitement with which I told my dad about what I had just discovered. He even agreed to come with me and have a look at it. He walked around it once and then nodded and looked away into the distance.

"So can I have a R5 pleeeeaaze?" I asked.

My dad squinted back at me, looking sympathetic, but bored. He was no gambler, and to him it seemed like a bad waste of good money. I would have liked it if he had at least uttered one of his timeless wise sayings that I could remember and repeat to my kids one day.

But all he said was a curt but decisive, "no."

There were no theatrics at all. He didn't feel like wasting money on a Rolls Royce, and besides - he also didn't know how to play poker. And he seemed frustratingly lacking in the kind of faith that I had in my luck at that point in time.

I knew better than to nag. I was too proud to grovel and my dad was too stubborn too yield. We had had the contest of will before - and I usually lost. It was 400km back home - and all the way I kept on thinking how much better it would have been to be whafting along in a Spirit in stead of a diesel Mercedes.

Plans for the future

It may be be a while before I'll be driving home a brand new Phantom of Wraith. But in the meantime one of the older classics will do perfectly well.


The Spirit of Excstasy flying through the clouds. Generous chrome and a big square badge always reminds that you are now in the company of design that sets its own standards.

They are still prized objects of art, even cars of 60 years old remain luxurious and a pleasure to drive, they are powerful and stylish, and they are astonishingly reliable if well looked after. If fortunate favours me there should be a good Sillver Cloud II in my garage one day. But if fortune favours me in an obscenely special way there will probably be three: A late model Gost, a drophead Phantom, and blue Silver Cloud, just like the one that's standing on my shelf. That much I have learned from my father:

If it is a dream and you keep staring at it for long enough, it tends to become reality. He had not only taught me the theory. He also showed me in practice.

The dream

But the best dreams usually contain an adventure also. And mine is no exception. I may have fallen in love with my Cloud, but throughout all these years I never forgot my red Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.


You can keep your titanium strips and black piano panels if I can keep my old English wallnut veneer.

And so for me there remains this final dream - to pack a drophead Ghost (or a Phantom if we must) and take her overland from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. All on dirt roads. The long way round. The very long way. Many incredible cars have come and gone throug history, but on the short list of the most phenomenal cars ever built, the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost will always feature. Even today its astonishing reliability and robustness makes it a unique tribute to old British engineering excellence. No wonder the Gost was not only a luxury limousine for kings and emperors - but also a practical touring car for overland safaris.

One day I hope to make that journey the way it would have been done before the first Great War. I have travelled across the deep countryside a long time now and I have seen places, heard of legends, and been invited by colourful characters that the tourist books have never heard about.

You don't go after those romantic mysteries in a modern four wheel drive with airconditioning. The ships of dreams can never be built in Japan. They can only come from England. And the most romantic one of all could only be a Ghost. A red one. Just like the one that I once left beneath the sun-baked sands of Swaziland - hoping for a little boy to find it and carry it home one day.







































































































 My Rolls Royce Pins

A good story of a young man who got his Rolls:

Expedition cars: