One such recent opportunity for "Dad Time" was the adult equivalent of being let loose in the toy shop with an unlimited budget. Thanks to a fan of the band I work in, I was invited to an exclusive British Sports Car taster day in the Alpine town of Interlaken, Switzerland.
Being nothing short of a massive petrol head I was completely over-excited at a project of hooning around in some great motors in the Alps, so I polished my shoes, put on a nice pair of jeans, a shirt without raspberry jam on it and made my way to Interlaken.
I was met in the lobby of the Grand Hotel with a lovely breakfast buffet and got chatting to some of the other guests in the holding area, some were there to buy, some were there to try and some had no idea why they were there at all..whilst nosing around trying to find the Gents, I happened to go through a door into the courtyard where I was greeted by a fabulous sight....
1. McLaren 650s
2.Bentley Continental GT Cabrio
3.Bentley Flying Spur
4.Rolls Royce Ghost
5.Rolls Royce Wraith
These were the fabulous creations I had come to drool over, drive, and enjoy... As luck would have it I seemed to be in the right place at the right time, and was invited over to have a look around the fantasy garage, I started with something very subtle..
This amazing machine looks like it's doing 200mph when it's sat still, understated it is not and in the company of the other cars on offer, looked like a cartoon style superhero! I was invited into the cockpit with a warning to "Watch your head, Sir" as I unceremoniously fell in, past the doors, ass first over the deep sill into the carbon fibre tub, coming to rest in the very snug drivers seat. The cockpit is small but comfortable and beautifully upholstered in alacantra and leather with complementing orange stitching. There are a handful of control buttons on the carbon centre console along with a small screen and iPod style navigation wheel and directly ahead a single dial on the digital display dashboard. It's got all the mod cons with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Air-con, DAB Radio but, alas, no space for child seats :)
I was joined in the cockpit with my guide (Ralph) who was there to make sure I could operate the machine and keep an eye on me to ensure I didn't get into all sorts of speed related trouble and wreck his very expensive car. He explained all the controls and paddle shift gear box and then invited me to press the big START button...I did just that and was rewarded with a symphony of twin turbo V8 exploding into life just behind my head... it made me do this...
After being told we'd start with all of the driver aids switched on, Ralph told me to pull back on the right hand gear paddle and we slowly moved off..my heart in my mouth. Interlaken is a super touristy place and the picture book Swiss style buildings with a backdrop of the snow topped Eiger was no match for a bright orange McLaren making a sedate but noisy path out onto the main promenade..I felt like an A-list celeb as literally hundreds of tourists started taking pictures of the car as we drove out of the town toward the autobahn. Despite having the power of a planet, the 650s was really easy to drive at low speed through the small town roads, the steering light and pedals responsive to the slightest touch. As we headed down the ramp onto the autobahn, Ralph checked over his shoulder pressed a couple of buttons on the console and instructed me to change down 2 gears and give it the beans..
I did just that and the world exploded into a cacophony of noise and blurred vision as the McLaren suddenly turned from a sedate but noisy, town friendly sports car into a cross between a Saturn 5 rocket, Concorde and a heard of angry dragons..Utterly overwhelming, in seconds I was suddenly travelling at waaaaaay over the speed limit...
After calming down a bit, enjoying the drive, the power and the spectacle of the thing we exited the autobahn onto a small straight road where Ralph instructed me on the Launch Control function..
Press this, Turn that, Set the revs here and then let your foot off the brake....
Booom, once again the Saturn 5 rocket was hurling us down the road at a furious pace..Now stamp hard on the brakes, came the instruction...I obliged and was rewarded with a sensation akin to someone trying to simultaneously pull my face off and suck the internal organs out of my body... in a fraction of the time it took for us to reach ridiculous speeds, we were at a stand still and the only thing I could muster was a very eloquent..... Fuck Me!
Right, let's try the magic carpet ride next, suggested Ralph..The Rolls Royce Ghost
The Rolls is nothing short of enormous, everything about it is just huge, the radiator grille, the bonnet (The Hood for my US readers) the doors and of course the price tag! You do get an awful lot of motor car for your money. This beautiful example was finished in a deep midnight, metallic black lacquer with a complementing silver metallic bonnet (Hood) the picture does absolutely no justice to the beauty and finish of this vehicle. Climbing into the incredible interior is an elegant affair, none of the embarrassing drama of the McLaren, one simply climbs in through the power assisted doors and sits in what can only be described as the most comfortable armchair ever. It really is like the most exquisite lounge room on wheels. Once the door has gently closed itself, you are cocooned from the outside world in an almost silent and very comfortable atmosphere.
Right, lets go! said Ralph..
OK, how do I start it?
Its already running... he replied.
I couldn't even hear let alone feel that the huge engine was on, there was no indication on the dashboard, there was a just a large speedometer and a large power gauge and a temperature gauge.
I put it in drive, gently pressed the accelerator and we glided from a standstill, effortlessly out onto the road.
Despite it's size the Ghost was just amazing to drive, you hear nothing, you feel nothing you just breeze along at what ever speed you desire.... fast, slow, left , right...it's literally like you are flying on a magic carpet, it responds to the slightest touch with no drama and no fuss...it just wafts. The lack of usual sensations you experience in a normal vehicle are, at first, a little alarming but I soon got used to it and just enjoyed the experience....The only time I actually heard the massive Twin Turbo V12 was when I put my foot to the floor and saw the power dial shoot right up, there was a slight rumbling noise as the huge car literally surged forwards with frightening pace--The Rolls Royce Ghost can only be described as a unique and very special experience...intoxicating!
Next up, I channeled my inner Premiership footballer and mounted the mighty Bentley Continental GT Cabriolet. Ralph was happy for me to take this trip solo and so the first thing I did was put the roof down..it's a little rule of mine, I mean why buy a cabrio and ride around with the roof up?
It's a cracking car this, big yes but not planet sized like the two Rolls', plenty of room for the boys and Mrs S and I swear the boot is big enough to get most things in. It looks great, it sounds great and it's fantastic to drive...I wouldn't really fancy parking it in the underground supermarket car park on shopping day and I can't say Mrs S would be too happy about that either but at least we'd get everything in..A brilliant drivers car, a real sports GT and a proper show offs car :)
...and the Rolls Royce Wraith, beautiful but my least favourite vehicle in the pack, just seemed a little bit pointless, a massive 2 door sports car for people who don't want the sensation of driving a sports car..or for people who just want to show off...Perfect for your footballing types.
After tooling around in these incredible machines I was gifted some really beautiful coffee table books on the three marques as a souvenir of my day and headed home in my muddy Volvo XC60, not sporty, not fast but perfect for carrying drums, going skiing, mountain biking, going to the DIY store and hauling my little family around.
I made a good choice in my trusty Volvo but, if I had too, and if I had the means...the McLaren and the Ghost would be on my shopping list.....and the Bentley GT for summer alpine cruising....
Yeah right...dream on Pa, what's for tea?
Special thanks to Schmol AG Zurich