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Cars you won't forget - Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith: Alpina boss as butler James

Cars that you won't forget - Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith
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J ames wears uniforms. The hat, jacket and white gloves were made by Moss Brothers, the finest servant outfitter in London. His movements seem confident and agile - as if he had just come from the School of Instruction, where you can perfectly learn how to use a Rolls correctly in two-week courses.

The running culture of the noble British brand is not just a story, but a legend

It is a hot summer day in the mid-eighties. We want to drive from Buchloe in the Allgäu to Lindau on Lake Constance, around 100 kilometers, of course on country roads. The old Silver Wraith with its monumental radiator grille and the gently rounded, fat rear end is already ready. Despite the pitch black paintwork, it successfully resists the heating of the interior with its small and mostly vertical windows, even without air conditioning. I'm sitting in the rear compartment with my legs crossed. What a lavish abundance! A slight jolt goes through the Hooper body, then silence again. James started the engine, a 4.6 liter six-cylinder engine with a 114 mm stroke and 92 mm bore with an extremely long stroke. The machine is powered by a Stromberg carburettor and works alternately. While the intake valve hangs in the cylinder head, the exhaust valve tries to do its job in a standing position. The shape of the combustion chamber is jagged and inefficient. Mild deflagrations throw the pistons down, traditionally there is no official performance rating.

James knows his way around six-cylinder in-line engines and estimates that there is a maximum of 100 hp that meet the two and a half tons of car weight. I lean back while James uses a delicate hand lever to command the automatic transmission to direct the flow of power to the south. When starting, the Rolls lifts up a little at the front, but nothing can be heard - no change-over control, no suction, no exhaust. The running culture of the noble British brand is not just a story, but a legend. The automatic tugs a little when shifting up, James is uncomfortable. 'The brake bands,' he calls into the far-off rear seat compartment, 'they have to be adjusted.' We turn into the main road and go to travel speed. The Smith instrument, which is stuck in deep, expensive root wood, shows barely more than 50 miles.

Even a Rolls-Royce is not infallible

Should they beOthers drive faster, those who can't afford an old Silver Wraith. These cars chase past like insects, but they all have better straight-line stability. Old Rolls is struggling with the ruts, James in his white gloves is constantly correcting the thin black steering wheel with its three spokes. First short rest on the summery B 83, the photographer traveling in an accompanying car has something to report. It is not one of the usual complaints (car too black, light too bright, traffic too dense), but a damage report. 'If there is a left flashing,' says Hans-Peter Seufert, 'it flashes right. And vice versa.' Good to know and easy to correct. Even a Rolls-Royce is not infallible, maybe even a Rolls. After all, the electrical failure of the Silver Wraith is not a real glitch, as it moves quietly like its own Shadow.

A small wooden cupboard limits the knee room at the front, I check the contents unnoticed by James. There are four crystal glasses and two bottles of the best red wine, a Château Latour and a Château Mouton Rothschild. Outside, the landscape gently passes by, workers at a construction site reverently lower their beer bottles in view of the silently approaching black figure. It's still cool in the rear. Only a fly that got on during the rest disturbs the peace. She has no idea what she is being driven into and hums as usual as in a seat. James rarely overtakes because there isn't much to overtake. Most of them are faster than us and in a hurry. A cutting noise penetrates the interior, initially indefinable. It's a noisy little two-stroke, James has overtaken a moped. These are the easier maneuvers, with trucks it becomes more difficult. The Rolls is right-hand drive, overview and power-to-weight ratio are poor.

The Rolls Royce Silver Wraith burns 25 liters on our 100 kilometers

'Free?' Asks James under his visor. 'Wait a minute,' I reply, leaving the shady corner at the back on the right, measuring through the knee room with a few steps and providing an additional overview of possible oncoming traffic. The old car slowly shifts into the fast lane, James has lowered the delicate gas pedal towards the floor pan, the antiquated six-cylinder responds to the unfamiliar and completely unexpected exertion with a dull slurp. A little acceleration can be felt, but it is not much. You can see the world from the Silver Wraith, especially from the rear compartment. The farmers mow the meadows, and the smell of hay penetrates through an open window into the classy interior.

We have now been on the road for an hour, the Alps appear on the left in the picture, and the fact that they wobble a little is of no importance. The old Rolls has discovered a new ruts, James countered routinely, the mountain range calms down.The streets get narrower, the mountains steeper. The machine does not like gradient percentages, the misshapen combustion chambers are busy. Although the speed level is barely higher than that of a Citroën 2 CV, you will have burned 25 liters on our 100 kilometer excursion. Then a hill at the gates of Lindau, the Wraith is parked under shady chestnuts that are even older than it. The heat wafts over Emily's hood ornament, James serves a glass of Rothschild’s red wine decoratively on a silver tray. Even in a Rolls-Royce, the best place is at the counter.

Who is James?

There is only one question left: Who is James? There is no less a person than Burkhard Bovensiepen, today senior boss of Alpina, the company that has been making BMW automobiles faster, more elegant and more expensive for decades. Bovensiepen spontaneously remembers our excursion to Lake Constance, the Rolls are still around. He is definitely on the old age. Is he still running? 'Very rarely,' says the man who was James.


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