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Swellboy on… Grande luxe motoring

In thrall to a parade of automotive exotica

Swellboy on… Grande luxe motoring

Image: Brijesh Patel

August 05 2010
Nick Foulkes

One of the pleasures of London in the summer is the change in traffic: there is less of it, but it is of higher quality. Rather like the Serpentine Summer Party and the Cartier Polo, this automotive pageant is one of the newer additions to the summer season. And I for one rather enjoy the spectacle as the streets of central London become a sort of free open-air motor show of high-priced and (potentially at least) fast-moving metal.

Maybachs are two a penny, Lamborghinis in various acid shades snarl menacingly down Park Lane and along Knightsbridge, and the other day while stuck on Bond Street I got to make a full and rewarding inspection of the convertible Rolls-Royce, complete with the decking over the back that doubtless serves as a sun terrace when parked up. This gratifying close-up was vouchsafed by a young man, who, to judge from the Dubai number plates, was a visitor from the Persian Gulf, as are a good many of the young men to be found at the wheels of automotive exotica, who quite sensibly eschew the heat of the Middle East for the balmy British summer.

It got me thinking about my own flirtation with grande luxe motoring. About 10 years ago, when I had a little money, before my children took it upon themselves to receive an education, I bought a Bentley and, after 10 days, planted all four corners of it into the side of a bus on the way into Heathrow airport. Undeterred, I fought my way from the gnarled wreckage and got on the phone to Jack Barclay to order another one, before instructing a local garage to remove the smoking remains from the Heathrow slip road.

There followed an entertaining and expensive three or four years of automotive bliss and financial pain – I could just about afford the repayments, but by the time I had filled up the swimming pool-sized tank and driven the car into something (usually a taxi, but on one memorable occasion a deer outside a friend’s stately home), I was out of pocket. And when looking longingly at these beautiful new cars I must remind myself of this. Still: it does not stop me planning minor improvements to my current daily drive – inspired by my young friends from the Gulf, I am thinking of having some decking laid on the spring-loaded wire parcel shelf that juts out over the rear wheel of my Pashley bicycle.

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