Rolls-Royce: The Ultimate Status SymbolWhen a car costs as much as a Rolls-Royce you expect a lot in return for your cash. What you get is more than a form of transport. It's a feeling of wealth and success you can't get from anything else wrapped up in your own personal slice of Great Britain.
Having a passion for cars isn't limited to those who can afford the most expensive rides on the market. It's something shared across every level of society. And no matter who you are and what means you have at your disposal, anyone can own a car. All cars pretty much do the same thing-- fill them up with petrol and put your foot down, and you can get to your destination. But the amount of money you can spend varies from Barkin Basement to Small Fortunes. Why is that the lucky few who can afford it or willing to pay much more for cars when something a fraction of the price can do virtually every practical task just as well? Really, we all know the answer. A car is something to be seen, and we use it not only as an expression of our own personalities, but in the case of the priciest of vehicles, it's evidence of wealth and status. Humans aren't equipped with peacock-like tails or tusks, antlers, or any of the other devices used in the animal kingdom to denote dominant specimens. We have cars. And if you're trying to seem like someone of note, an expensive car is a good place to start. But are you getting something that's worth the amount it's costing? Fashion, food, arts, these are all examples of items that can cost an absolute fortune without necessarily being better than the cheaper instances of the same thing. A painting sold at auction for $50,000 didn't take the painter longer to make or tell a deeper truth than the painting thrown in escape in a house clearing. It's subjective. What's worth a huge amount and what's worthless are merely an opinion apart. But is the same thing true with cars? If you're paying top dollar, are you getting something that only has subjective value? Or are you getting something truly special? Research shows that when a product being offered to someone is very expensive, and that person is told that it is expensive, our brains actually prepare our bodies for the experience of pleasure. This can trick those people who have paid Â£60 for a bowl of soup that they've made a wise decision. The only way of testing if the same applies to cars is to take something out that cost the equivalent of a house to buy when it was new. So, we went to the Classic Car Club in London to borrow their 1973 Rolls-Royce Corniche to see if it would have been money well spent. Rolls-Royce was founded in 1904 and very quickly made a name for themselves as manufacturers of some of the most luxurious cars in the new emerging market of motor vehicles. By the '70s, Rolls Royce was a name synonymous with quality and luxury, and it becomes immediately apparent when you get in this car and start to drive. This car was built for a certain kind of gentleman drive or someone who knew what they wanted in life and have the means to get it. It's not meant or racing, it's not meant for speed, it's not meant for acceleration. The comfort is built for it, the luxury is built for the ease of driving. It's completely different to any other manufacturer's aim in life. Rolls-Royce sets itself aside from every car manufacturer in the world by providing that level of luxury and the level of power not there to thrill you in speed, but to make sure that you've got power to spare to get you up to cruising speed at low revs and smoothly. The suspension isn't there to make the drive exciting. It's not there to make cornering better. It's there to make it soft, it's there to make it feel like a magic carpet ride. There's a reason why people say "if something is the greatest, it's the Rolls-Royce or something." Well, this is the Rolls-Royce of cars. And it's a Rolls-Royce. Driving around London, seeing all the London icons-- Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus. The Rolls-Royce just fits in. There's nothing more British than the Rolls-Royce. Even today, I mean, it's owned by BMW, but it's still made in Britain. It's still British passion that goes into it, and people still feel when they're buying a Rolls-Royce, that they're buying a piece of Britain. More than any other car with any other country, the Rolls-Royce sums up the best of what Britain has to offer. I can't think of any other brand that does that for their country. If you see a Rolls-Royce driving around town, you see people looking in the windows going, "Is that someone I should be paying attention to? Is that a famous person?" Quite clearly in this case, the answer is a resounding "No." But it's nice to pretend. This car comes with more than four wheels and a lot of luxury. It comes with the unwritten suggestion that you're a person of note, that you've got to the higher echelons of society and that people should pay attention to you. But where does this feeling come from? Is it purely brought on by the legacy of the Rolls-Royce name? Because we're brought up knowing that Rolls-Royce is the pinnacle of automotive excess do our minds tell us that this is how we should be feeling when we get behind the wheel. Or is there genuinely something better about this car that justifies the owner's sense of pride? A clue to this is in the age of the car. The fact that this car has survived for 40 years is, of course, down to a combination of the original build quality and how well it's been maintained. But the fact that it still drives so smoothly makes you feel like it hasn't lost an ounce of comfort or performance to the sands of time. It's doubly impressive when you consider the circumstances that were present at Rolls-Royce when this car was built. 1973, the year that this car is from, was a difficult time for Rolls-Royce. They've been nationalized two years earlier because they've gone broke trying to develop a particular jet engine. And the government that built them out have split them into two separate companies-- the Rolls-Royce that builds cars, and the Rolls-Royce that builds plane engines. Even while the British motoring industry was going through incredibly difficult times, Rolls-Royce still managed to make some really, really great cars. And this is just an example of how in adversity, you can still do some amazing stuff. The effort that goes into making one of these, the detail, is unheard of. The image Rolls-Royce created for itself is unique. There are no sportier models, there's no low-end options. Just full-on luxury. For most of its existence, Rolls-Royce owned Bentley. And the moment Bentley broke free, when Volkswagen group took over, it reinvented itself. Bentley Continental GT is a far more sporty car, aggressive car. Rolls-Royce has never had any interest in changing. Why would they need to change? The world has changed around it, but the demand for Rolls-Royce is as high as ever. The new emerging China market loves them. The British engineering, the British class, it's not something that can be replicated or duplicated. It's not something that can be borrowed or be used to inspire something else. There's just something about the way these cars get put together that is just British. And that's the Britishness that's for sale when you buy a Rolls-Royce. It brings with it all the best and the worst of the class system. The notion that you can prove yourself to be wealthier and more powerful than those you pull up next to a traffic light. It's you message to the world that you're important and successful, and you don't care who knows it. However, unlike the expensive jeans or the over-priced meal, making that statement with the Rolls-Royce also shows that above everything else, you know quality when you see it. And you know that this is more than a peacock's tail. It's a magic carpet.