In memory of our founder, David E. Davis, Jr., Automobile Magazine editors are choosing our ten favorite American Driver columns and will be posting one each day over the next two weeks.
Whitton Hall, Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England -- I spent 175,000 American Airlines AAdvantage miles for two first-class round-trip tickets to London, in celebration of my wife’s birthday. Whitton Hall is a wonderful English country house, owned by Christopher and Gilliam Halliday, and we will be here for three nights. There is at least one ghost, Gill’s food is nonpareil, and the farm that surrounds Whitton Hall is home to 140 registered Jerseys, whom we watched being milked after tea this afternoon.
We are here through the good offices of a wonderful travel agency called Frontiers, which specializes in hunting and fishing adventures all over the world, and must certainly be the finest company of its kind. I don’t know if you could just call the Hallidays and book a weekend at their home, but I fully intend to return once a year for the rest of my life, in order to shoot driven birds just across the border in Wales, to drive cars in one of the world’s most beautiful places, to visit with our esteemed correspondent and drinking companion Mr. Phil Llewellin (who lives nearby), and to further my own Welsh roots.
We drove up from London with six other American couples, all pals, in a four-door Range Rover, a two-door Mercedes-Benz 280GE Geländewagen, a Ford Scorpio 4x4, and a long-wheelbase turbo-diesel Land Rover County--the current model Land Rover that now shares engine and suspension with its more posh sibling, the Range Rover.
So far, everybody loves the Range Rover and the Scorpio--the Range Rover because it’s a full-fledged off-road utility vehicle that drives like a luxury sedan, and the Scorpio because it’s a full-fledged luxury sedan that drives like a sports car (and has the most comfortable rear seat in most of our group’s experience). Everyone in our little band is involved with cars, either professionally or as committed enthusiasts, or both, and their reactions are interesting. One guy, who devotes his life to selling General Motors products, sat in the driver’s seat of the Scorpio, ran his fingertips over the small controls, and said reflectively, “This car is what Ford’s ‘Better Ideas’ is all about. It’s so thoughtfully done, and everything works so well.” I agree, but I find it a bleeding shame that Ford doesn’t ship the 4x4 Scorpio to the States.
Our Land Rover suffers a bit in their estimation because of its diesel engine, and the Geländewagen is taking a bad rap because the British Mercedes-Benz organization turned it over to us with a blown exhaust gasket. The noise is absolutely ear-splitting, and the poor old G stops everything in every village we pass through. Nonetheless, it’s still a joy to drive, especially off-road. I love to play with the controls for the locking differentials, like some mad monk crouched over the out-of-tune organ in a mobile cathedral.