When a Rolls-Royce breaks down

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By Robert Harland


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

THERE’S a legend that Rolls-Royce will dispatch a special mechanic to aid a stranded motorist (a Rolls owner, of course), then afterwards disavow the incident, claiming, "Our cars never break down."

There's some truth to this, but not a lot. In 1968 when I worked for Robert Stigwood, manager of the Bee Gees, Barry Gibb was driving with friends along London's Regent Street in a maroon Rolls-Royce Corniche convertible with the roof down.

They looked quite a showy and glamorous sight until suddenly the car stopped. Much to the amusement of bystanders, it had conked out. Gibb and his guests were somewhat humbled as they pushed the car back to the Stigwood office.


The basis of the Rolls legend is the underlying presumption that Rolls-Royce cars, or Rollers as they are known by many Brits, are so well built they practically never break down.

Rolls-Royce itself claims at least some elements of the legend came true in 1932 when famed English writer Rudyard Kipling's Rolls-Royce 'failed to proceed' - the company would not use an expression like 'broke down.'

Kipling was in the South of France so he telephoned the Rolls- Royce distributor in Paris. By noon the next day, Kipling had not seen anyone paying attention to his car, so he asked the hotel manager to remonstrate most strongly with the Parisian service manager.

"But Monsieur," replied the hotelier, "the gentlemen from Rolls-Royce came last night and it was only a minor matter." Further questioning revealed that the mechanics had traveled through the night and had completed the repairs before dawn. They left unannounced, as they did not wish to disturb the great writer's sleep.

It's always embarrassing when you have a posh car and it breaks down.

Just ask businessman Rahul Thackreym from India's western Ahmedabad City. His Jaguar XJ, which cost him 53,000 British pounds (P4 million), has broken down so many times he hit on the idea of embarrassing Jaguar Cars by having it towed by a team of donkeys.

He says he went back to the dealership to get the Jaguar XJ model fixed on several occasions, but as soon as one problem was fixed, another cropped up.

"I was fed up with going back and getting them to put things right only to have something else go wrong," he said. "In order to make sure I could at least still use it and to let the dealer know what I thought of their cars, I came up with the idea of having it towed around by donkeys."

Even Queen Elizabeth is not immune from car breakdowns. In 2012 she was forced to hitch a lift after her Bentley limousine broke down while she was out and about on official visits in London. It happened again last year as she was leaving a church service on her Sandringham estate.

A few years earlier, the Royal Rolls-Royce broke down on its way to pick her up from Sunshine Airport in Australia to take her to open a Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on June 18, 2014.


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