After a long flight, it's always a good idea to let the jet lag ease a bit before jumping into the pricey car that doesn't belong to you, in the foreign country where the roads are scary narrow and the steering wheel is on the wrong side.
I gave it a night, settling into The Fish House, a cozy Chichester pub and inn nestled in England's lush West Sussex downs. It was a welcome retreat from the elements on a rainy winter day. By the next morning, the rain had miraculously blown off. The early morning sky was hazy with the ghost of a crescent moon lingering in the bright blue sky. The roads were still damp, but the somberness of leafless trees faded in the brilliance of emerald fields and roadside grasses, making it look much more like spring than deep December.
It was perfect for a long drive in the newest Rolls-Royce, the Ghost.
"Ghost" is a hallowed name in the 105 storied years that Rolls-Royce has existed. The 1907 Silver Ghost was, in fact, the first R-R with a name. It was actually the publicity model of the new six-cylinder 40/50 HP, painted silver and evocatively nicknamed "Silver Ghost" by the firm's managing director, Claude Johnson, in deference to its exceptionally composed demeanor. This Ghost was also the car for which the phrase "Best Car in the World" was first coined, either by The Autocar or by Rolls-Royce itself, which raised the banner "Best Six-Cylinder Car in the World" over it at the 1907 British motor show.
With the Phantom line fully realized in the past three years by the additions of the elegant Coupé and the positively theatrical Drophead Coupé, there was no question that a smaller Rolls-Royce would be next on the drawing board of chief designer Ian Cameron and the team that mostly came with him from BMW.
How to shrink a Rolls and maintain its presence? The task sent the design team into three months of seclusion in the dining room of a country inn down the road from the factory and headquarters, on the Earl of March's Goodwood estate. They met so many times at West Stoke House that the proprietor, former London adman Rowland Leach, just gave it over to the designers. "We were socked away in here for January, February, and March," says Cameron, clearly relishing the memory of that intimacy. "From breakfast through supper."
"They burned the midnight oil," recalled innkeeper Leach. "Actually, they burned the curtains! One designer became a father here." Presumably not in the dining room, although a great work was made there.