London, England - Like most drivers, I usually have nothing exciting in my boot. But this week was a bit different. I had £3.3 million (R56 million) of heavy gold bullion in two large crates sitting in the back of my hatchback.
That’s because Britain’s biggest gold bullion refinery marked the opening of its new underground vault by sending its largest-ever bullion shipment, worth £10 million (R168 million), across the capital in a trio of 300km/h Porsche Panamera estates, which also served to demonstrate the practicality and adaptability of Stuttgart's big sports tourer.
I helped deliver the gold, riding ‘shotgun’ in one of the cars, carrying a third of it on the nerve-racking 20km, hour-long route through the capital’s traffic. We manoeuvred the load from bullion dealer Baird & Co’s refinery in East London’s Docklands to its new vault in Hatton Garden in the heart of the jewellery quarter.
Baird is the UK’s largest gold refiner and though it normally uses armoured cars, it also occasionally uses normal cars when the move needs to be incognito.
All this took place 50 years after the filming of the classic crime caper film The Italian Job starring Sir Michael Caine as amiable small-time crook and anti-hero Charlie Croker.
The Porsches were painted red, white and blue: the colours of the Union Flag used for the Minis in the film. But this was "The London Job".
The Porsche Panamera Turbo Sport Turismo can accelerate from rest to 100km/h in just 3.6 seconds - outpacing a Ferrari F40 - making it the perfect getaway car. But rather than steal the gold, as in the film, our job was to deliver it safely. So security was exceptionally tight.
My Panamera featured a turbocharged four-litre V8 petrol engine linked to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and developing 404kW, equal to the power of five Ford Fiestas.
Boot capacity of up to 520 litres - expanding to 1390 litres with seats down - proved more than sufficient for two hefty crates, weighing 60kg each, and air suspension meant the vehicles remained level throughout.