Image: Brijesh Patel
October 15 2011
The other day I was able to combine two of my favourite things – Cuban cigars and Crewe-built cars – albeit in a way that would have been familiar to Tantalus, King of Lydia, who was condemned by Zeus to stand in a pond above which dangled fruit he could not reach.
I was summoned to Jack Barclay to sit in the new David Linley Bentley, and the oxymoron of this test drive was oddly appealing; the car was in the showroom and while Jack Barclay is large and airy as car showrooms go, I would scarcely have been able to get up to 60 miles an hour before I had piled through the plate glass and into the middle of Berkeley Square. Moreover, as this test non-drive was being conducted indoors, I was of course unable to make use of the key Linley feature of this vehicle – a centrally mounted rosewood humidor with integrated Dunhill lighter, Linley cigar cutter and sculpted steel receptacle that converts a cup holder into an ashtray just about capable of accommodating a Cohiba Robusto.
Bentleys are among the fastest, most comfortable cars it is possible to drive – even writing one off is a relaxing experience, as I found when I polished off my first Bentley Turbo R on a damp slip road to Heathrow airport. Kenneth Tynan, who was fond of his Jaguar XJ12, put it rather well when he said that “quite often I have the impression that it is very kindly giving me a lift”, and I can identify with his description of its behaviour in the wet: “Its waltzing (whenever there is a drop of rain on the roads) has improved in verve and abandon, and I am considering entering it in the Formation Dancing Contest for Saloon Cars that is to be held in Woolwich Car-park on the next wet Sunday.” Alas, in any automotive Strictly Come Dancing, I would have literally crashed out in the first round.
As I cannot bear to blame myself, I hold Bentley responsible for the financial pickle that now sees me getting around on a bicycle while I wait for my Freedom Pass: you see, I just had to have another one after the first one’s demise and, given that I had already borrowed money I could ill afford to finance the first one, I know exactly how Greece’s finance minister must feel.
I cannot help feeling slightly miffed that my wonderful Turbo R did not come with a humidor factory-fitted; I had to bring my own cigars, which was just as well, as I was able to enjoy a vintage “Hamlet” moment by the side of the Heathrow slip road as I waited for the emergency services to tow away the smoking remains of what had been my car.