It’s almost 56 years to the day since The Who’s Keith Moon was reputed to have driven a Rolls-Royce into a swimming pool — on his 21st birthday, 23 August 1967, at the Holiday Inn in Flint, Michigan. For reasons that are self-evident, memories of the event are hazy and varied.
Moon told Rolling Stone magazine in 1972 that on reflection “it might have been a Lincoln Continental”. His bandmate Roger Daltry lamented the bill for $50,000 of damages that followed regardless of make and model, while John Entwistle denied any of it ever happened. “He couldn’t even drive.”
Broadly, it matters not. It’s rock’n’roll legend now, further immortalised 30 years later by the 1997 Oasis Be Here Now album cover. Like the death of Paul McCartney years ago or the moon landings, maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t.
What is certain, in my life and times, is that standing on the terrace of the fabulous Maybourne Riviera hotel in Roquebrune-Cap- Martin, looking down on Monaco and Monte Carlo, and confronted with the all-new Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II, we are — to misquote Jaws’ Roy Scheider — going to need a bigger pool. In hyper-luxury extended wheelbase form, the Phantom is almost six metres long, more than two metres wide and almost 1.7 metres tall. That’s a hell of a displacement.
Here’s the thing, though. Such is the epic scale of everything in, on and within this leviathan, the sheer size of the machine confers not only heft but status and presence, too. Size really does matter, and if — as Rolls-Royce often have — you want to lay claim to being “the best car in the world” then you better go big, or go home. And this Phantom menaces, with slim headlights sporting intricate laser- cut bezel starlights either side of the famed Pantheon Grille, in a way no other car can.
Having been handed the keys to a car in “extrovert” specification — sparkling purple paintwork and all — and pointed in the direction of the villages-perchés that dot the mountains behind Nice, it takes just a few miles riding those enormous wheels (sister cars sport the most delicious disc wheels that echo cars of the 20s) to realise this is something special, a car of absolutes.
First, even on broken roads at a decent pace there is nigh absolute silence within a cabin so insulated from the outside world it could be vacuum-sealed. Decades of work in terms of mechanical refinement has its payback and, coupled with a ride quality that feels more like flight than conventional forward motion, it’s a haven far from the madding crowd.
Second, it’s not just the quality of what’s around you that so impresses, but the sheer detail
of thought and execution: a starlight headlining that replicates the night sky, a dashboard that functions as an art gallery, the tactile pleasure of a thin-rimmed steering wheel (just made thicker, but still thin by the standards of others), a column shift gearchange that declutters the cabin but feels gloriously of yesteryear.
And all about is hewn from the finest materials: leathers and wood veneers of varying shades as standard (or silks and more exotic materials should you go bespoke), chrome with smoky reflections 10 feet deep, switchgear cast as solid ingots and rugs deep enough in which to lose a small child. This is a very special way to travel.
To the extent I realise, while lunching atop what used to be a diving board in Nice’s old port (as you do) and looking down at half-a- dozen Phantoms lined up kerbside (an unusual sight), this ultimate expression of Rolls-Royce is also — essentially — the ultimate car.
The alternatives aren’t other cars, but jets, yachts, or a third home, in Tuscany. With a pool, obviously. Just in case.
Rolls-Royce Phantom Series II
0-60mph in 5.1secs
For more information, visit rolls-roycemotorcars.com.
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