COLUMNS: 2008 Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe - Dyer Consequences

November 24, 2008
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Fact: Rolls-Royce's target customer has liquid assets deep into the eight-figure range. That's how much cash is readily available should one get the urge to splurge on a new solid-gold bowling ball, a platypus-hide humidor, or an invisible hovercraft. This is the demographic that owns a large room equipped with a pool filled with money, except they don't even swim around in it, because they have people to do that. Eventually, these tycoons, moguls, and scions are going to want to travel somewhere inaccessible by hot-air balloon or sedan chair, and for that, they'll need an automobile. I humbly suggest the Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coup.
The Phantom Drophead exists for no other reason than to please its owner and impress everyone who sees it. The car I drove-admiral blue with the optional $17,000 stainless-steel hood and teak rear deck package-exhibited craftsmanship on a level I've never before seen in a production car. The power-retractable Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament automatically dives down into the grille if some unwashed cur tries to grab it. The forward-opening doors, which close at the push of a button, are always a hit. The center caps of the wheels display the Rolls logo proud and upright, even when the car is in motion. The organ-stop vent knobs actuate electric motors that gently open or close the ducts-as opposed to the directly connected organ-stop dash vents common in such rude and vile machines as the Bentley Continental series.
The leather in the interior comes from bovines raised on high-altitude ranches in the Alps, in locations where the hides will never be marred by mosquito bites or barbed wire. Now, I know what you're thinking: why go to all that trouble avoiding insects when the cows are just going to get pregnant and get stretch marks all over your interior? Good point, and that's why all the hides come from bulls. So if you're ever hiking through the Alps and you see a bull wearing a mud mask and getting microdermabrasion treatment, now you'll know why.
Helming the Phantom Drophead is something like driving an outsize convertible BMW 760Li, which makes sense, because it's the 760's near-silent V-12 that provides motivation. The car floats down the road, its skinny steering wheel's thumb grips positioned down at four and eight o'clock to encourage dignified, elbows-down driving. You're keenly aware that people are looking at you, all the time. Strangely, this Roller is so over-the-top and conspicuous that it doesn't even incur resentment the way a nice BMW might. At one stoplight, a guy in a Daewoo said, "That is awesome, man, just awesome. Good for you." At another light, a guy in a Chevy Lumina asked me for Grey Poupon. I replied, "But of course," but I didn't really have any. After that, I began carrying a jar in the console.
People will want to know how you can afford this car, which in my case meant being ready with a lie. One response, deployed to an incredulous waitress: "Have you ever heard of the zipper? Well, prepare for it to be obsolete. That's all I can say right now." I replied in the affirmative (and quickly sped away) when asked if I was a movie star. I told people that I own the company that makes the plastic grass that divides takeout sushi rolls.
The Phantom Drophead isn't perfect. For instance, the interior door chime is the ubiquitous BMW boo-wong sound, when it really should be a recording of a cash register or an English butler quietly clearing his throat. And the seats in the car I drove weren't air-conditioned, although I suppose the frames are thick enough that, if you were inclined toward customization, you could probably squeeze a young street urchin with a palm frond in there.
An outing in the Drophead requires planning. One friend in the city let me park in her garage, which easily houses her Jeep Grand Cherokee. The Rolls barely fit. I became a patron of valets, neurotic over what to tip them for not driving the car. Given this vehicle's $442,390 sticker, the unfortunate local valets probably expected more than the $9 that I handed over at one restaurant. I think that's a fairly solid tip, given that a fiver is pretty much industry standard, but still I felt like a cheapskate. With the Drophead, burdensome expectations are created.
The Phantom Drophead doesn't go 250 mph or climb mountains or set lap records. It doesn't do anything particularly special, but everything it does is accomplished with utmost style. It's an imposing, exquisite Gatsby of a car, and it might not be your cup of tea. But maybe once you make your first $20 million, you'll understand.

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