I recall a story about a man who was offered a lift home by another man, who said that his Rolls-Royce was outside. The grateful passenger was transfixed by the dashboard, with its array of technological gadgets and instruments, asking what each one was. ‘Well,’ he said, describing what each one did. ‘you’ve probably never been in a Rolls-Royce before’, with more than a whiff of condescension. ‘Not in the front seat,’ he replied.
What does a Rolls-Royce represent in this day and age? Is it still the first thing a rock-star/footballer/banker/lotterywinner/oligarch/sheik rushes out to buy when he or she hits the jackpot, even before the houses in the Cotswolds and Belgravia, the yacht, helicopter and Lear Jet? Certainly, in the past, this has been a trend and has been for decades. Having a ‘Roller’ equated with success, riches and social status. Then along comes Bentley, which used to stand for a dignified and gentlemanly demeanour, slightly racy, but still monied. Because of its motor racing heritage, the flying ‘B’ was a declaration of understated achievement and quiet success, rather than the social symbolism of R-R. Bentley, now no longer British, but German, seems to have courted the bling world of WAGS. Underneath the sleek bodywork beats the heart of a Volkswagen. Rolls-Royce was quintessentially English, like cricket, thick-cut Oxford marmalade, Trooping of the Colour and P G Wodehouse, but it now speaks with a German accent, so, if one was embarrassed by the way a great marque had lost its mojo, one can look to the great German powerhouse.
Chelsea Workshops not only buy and sell new and classic Rolls-Royce and Bentleys, they service, restore and repair them, and have done so for the past 40 years. Their business is a boutique exclusive garage for Rolls-Royce and Bentley motor cars with cars coming from all over the world for them to restore. They also offer a ‘Flying Doctor’ overseas service, which includes 36 of their staff, master technicians, travelling to most countries to carry out servicing.
Peter Eatenton and Larry Hawkins were both at school together, and between them, they have over a century of knowledge and experience in their field. In 1967 they started their career at Rolls-Royce as apprentice motor mechanics, two out of only 34 appointed each year, and became fully-fledged mechanics in 1971, before going overseas to trouble-shoot in Africa and Middle East, repairing cars that had done the unthinkable, namely, broken down; as well as looking after cars belonging to British Royal household and heads of state. In 1977 they set up their own company called The Chelsea Workshop, and by 1982, it was regarded as the largest independent Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialists in the world, with work premises on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverley Hills, California.They continued to service, restore and sell all post war models of Rolls-Royce and Bentley motor cars, and, at the same time, they travelled world-wide to buy Rolls-Royce and Bentleys. People have been known to buy cars from overseas without ever seeing them, althoughthey recommend that they should send someone over first to view a particular model.
They tell me there is no plural of Rolls-Royce, and the jury is still out on the plural of Mercedes and Rolex. ‘Zeroplural’ animal names are cited in Webster’s New World College Dictionary, which states that the plural of giraffe is giraffe and the plural of elephant is elephant. But the plural of lion is lions and the plural of leopard is leopards. The plural of fish is fish, unless you’re dealing with different species, in which case it’s fishes. So, the plural of Bentley is Bentleys and they make up a large percentage of their stock. As for investing in an older car, a 1995 Corniche IV would set you back £130,000, while an elegant 1963 S3 Saloon would cost the same as a new Audi, and would appreciate in value, rather than drop through the floorboards as soon as you drove it off the garage forecourt. They are egalitarian in their approach to any client, whatever status, class or wealth, and charge the same hourly rate for servicing of £80 per hour across the board, which is radically cheaper than taking it to a main-dealer, who would probably send it down to Peter and Larry’s anyway.
An even more grown-up car, such as a 1962 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II Mulliner Convertible, could set you back £450,000, but that would appreciate more than leaving one’s money in the bank, gathering minimal interest, and there is no Capital Gains Tax on classic cars. As it happens, The Chelsea Workshop have one such car at their premises in Draycott Avenue, in silver, with grey Connolly hide and a mere 40,000 miles on the clock.
One is allowed to buy and sell up to six classic cars a year before catching the eye of the Inland Revenue; any more than that, and one is classed as a dealer. A classic is any car manufactured before January 1976, and is eligible for historic status in the eyes of HMRC, as they are regarded as wasting assets. One does not have to pay road tax either, but who is going to fret about spending £450 when you have just forked out four hundred and fifty thousand on a motor?
Wine is considered a ‘wasting asset’ because it is ‘perishable’, generally reaching peak maturity after 25 years before declining. Wine, but not port, bought as an investment is exempt from both Income Tax and Capital Gains Tax, but only if it is stored in a bonded warehouse. So, the bottle of 1982 Château Lafite-Rothschild 1er cru classé nestling in the hamper in the boot of your Silver Cloud drop-head on your way to Ascot, to watch your CGTexempt horse romp home, would not attract CGT, either, nor would your new watch you just bought at auction, Paul Newman’s Daytona Rolex, for which you paid $17.8 million. Just think how many Bentleys and Rolls-Royce one could buy for that?