Rock 'n Roller: The best of BritishComment on this story
More than a century after the launch of the Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, here I am, powering genteelly up the M4 along Durban's North Coast in its direct descendant.
It's one of those perfect winter days, where the sun is shining brightly on to the gently undulating ocean on my right, and only the smallest clouds can be seen scudding through the atmosphere on the horizon.
It's a great day for a Rolls, and a blow-your-hair-back pedal-to-the-metal blast up the coast. And while conditions outside the car are pretty much perfect, there's even less to fault within the cabin. The driver's seat feels like one of those big fat Gomma-Gomma type recliners. Brilliantly comfortable.
Every inch of the gorgeous leather is inspected by Rolls-Royce craftsmen to make sure there are no imperfections. Only A-grade bull leather is used, “to ensure the upholstery and trim in your Ghost will have no unsightly scars or stretch marks”, they say.
At least eight hides are used for each interior, they add, and to ensure perfect consistency of colour throughout, they all come from the same batch. Added to this, the hides are dyed rather than painted, so that the colour permeates right through the leather.
The contrasting wood trim is available in a range of grains - and each dashboard is made from a single plank, split lengthwise to produce two mirror-image, perfectly matching halves. Likewise the capping strips on the doors, front and rear.
But you have to drive the Ghost to believe it.
Powered by a direct-injection, twin-turbo 48-valve six-litre 6.6-litre V12 mated to an eight-speed auto ZF gearbox, this is one of the most outstanding cars you could ever hope to drive.
With 420kW on tap at 5250rpm and an immense 780Nm of torque at only 1500rpm, it delivers an almost incomparable ride. Despite its girth (it weighs in at just under 2500kg) the Ghost will do the 0-100km/h sprint in less than five seconds and swoosh onward to a (governed) 250km/h.
Smooth, quiet, unbelievably luxurious, it's made for long journeys, and so beautifully designed and proportioned, your combined cycle wouldn't work out to more than about 13.6 litres per 100km (quoted by Rolls-Royce). The tank holds about 82 litres, so you could drive for hours without having to top up.
A potted history for the uninformed: Rolls-Royce Limited was created over lunch in 1904 when former railway engineer Henry Royce struck a deal with the Honourable Charles Rolls, owner of one of the first car dealerships. The ensuing series of two, three, four and six-cylinder cars broke the mould for engineering and craftsmanship.
The Silver Ghost was launched in 1907 and remained in production until 1925. Originally powered by a 7036cc six-cylinder engine, this was increased to 7428cc in 1909.
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It's the incredibly thoughtful and aristocratic touches that make a Roll-Royce so special, and the Ghost didn't disappoint: the rear coach doors open and close silently behind you when you're inside the rear compartment.
Then, open the centre console between the two back seats to find a mini cooler-box that offers convenient storage for two standard-sized champagne bottles. And in typical British fashion, there's that neatly furled Rolls-Royce umbrella tucked into a cylindrical compartment in the driver's door.
It is a truly memorable motor car and, without doubt, the Honourable Charles and Sir Henry would nod their approval of this latest interpretation of their breakthrough model.
Oh, and if I had buckets of wonga to spare, like about R5 million, I would invest in one.