RREC Central Southern Section


Phantoms at Belmont House

Whilst assisting in the collection of Martin's PIII from the Rolls-Royce Plant at Goodwood, Fred Fruth invited Kate and I to accompany him to the South-Eastern Section Prize-Giving at Belmont House near Faversham, Kent on Sunday 27 July 2003. South-Eastern Secretary Stephen Beker confirmed the invitation and at 9am on the day a brand new Goodwood Phantom, driven by Fred and accompanied by his wife Monika, called at our home to take us to Belmont House. We drove in style to the event and parked in front of the House in the line up of a Phantom (Rolls-Royce Motor Cars), Phantom V (Richard Hollands), Phantom III (Martin Coomber), Phantom II (Michael Tyler), Phantom I (Peter Massey), Phantom (P&A Wood).

It was a really excellent event with over eighty Club cars parked on the lawns at the side of the house, splendid hospitality in a delightful venue with guided tours of a very interesting house including its extremely large collection of clocks.

But to the point of this news item. Doug Groves had had the privilege to inspect and drive a Phantom earlier in the year and has described some of the features in our Magazine. The general press has widely reported on the features and so there is no point in me repeating these, however...

On the outward journey Fred had said "I'll drive there and you drive back". After a most enjoyable day and with only a few members left Fred handed me the 'ignition key'. At such an opportunity I very slowly, gracefully and with great decorum -- leapt into the drive seat with one bound! Foot on the footbrake, a short press on the starter button mounted in the familiar ignition cluster and the twelve-cylinder engine purred into life. The driving seat needed no adjustment and the view through the windscreen was more along, than down, the bonnet to the Spirit of Ecstasy. One touch of the column mounted gearstick (the parking brake had not been used on this occasion), foot off the brake and the motor car glided forward. There was some clicking of cameras as we left Belmont House and then we made our way down the country lanes and roads to the M20 and the M26. That word Waftability sprang immediately to mind whether the throttle pressure called for a few or all of the sixty-seven horses. On kick-down the response was not to be thrust back into the seat, simply to be powered forward with more Waftability. We travelled at a very sedate pace to admiring glances but as we approached the junction with the M25 the pace dropped to a slow speed. I was by no means 'used to' this new motor car but it felt like the Rolls-Royce motoring I had come to know (Silver Shadow II, Silver Spirit and Silver Dawn) and love. The engine response to throttle pressure was smooth and positive either when power was called for joining the motorway or when we were reduced to a crawl in the congestion. The steering was all that you could wish for with the same adjectives applying, responsive, smooth, positive and of course light (but still having 'feel'). From the driving seat and on the road the motor car did not feel its size (19'5" long, 6'6" wide and 5'4" high) or its weight (2.44 tons unladen); it handles beautifully. My 1997 Silver Dawn is a delight to drive but I have to say that the Phantom exceeds even that delight. The congestion on the M26 and M25 gradually cleared and so we cruised, most smoothly home to Horsham near to the legal limit. Oh yes there was one open road moment when my right foot seemed to get stuck until 'er indoors said "that's enough"!

All in all a fantastic experience and I am most grateful to Fred Fruth and Goodwood for the opportunity to drive and enjoy a really super motor car.

Ted Meachem - Section Secretary