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Original Issue


The latest model of the Rolls-Royce, the world's most famous car, is now available in the U.S. Since its introduction in the United Kingdom the Camargue, as it is known, has been a stunning success, the first 150 having been snapped up long before they were finished. Reputation, it seems, matters more than cost. In the U.K. the Camargue is priced at $62,560, in the U.S. at about $90,000.

Can any car be worth that much, even one that is so lovingly crafted that it takes six months to build and uses only fancy grades of walnut bought in Italy in its interior? A difficult question to answer. You can't compare the Camargue with anything, certainly not the half dozen or so other cars you could buy for the same price.

If you can afford the Camargue, which bears the name of an idyllic French region, you are buying something rare and an object that you will appreciate. Even a 10-year-old Rolls commands at least its original purchase price and can go for much more. There is no reason to believe the same would not be true of a Camargue. It looks rather like its predecessors, the Corniche and Silver Shadow. At 17 feet front-to-back, it is the same length, but because it is about 140 pounds heavier than the next-heaviest Rolls, it has a slightly slower top speed—a plenty speedy 116 mph.

But the foregoing hardly does the car justice. The quality of a Rolls-Royce is a byword. Nobody ever admits that a Rolls breaks down, but that is no more than you would expect from a firm so pernickety that its staff inspects 4,000 cowhides in order to find the eight perfect hides needed for the leather seats and steering wheel cover of each Camargue. Nothing will force Rolls-Royce to speed up manufacture. The firm will continue to make about two Camargues each week, even though the demand is for perhaps 10 times as many.

Pampered as Rolls-Royce owners always have been, those that purchase the Camargue will be even more coddled. A sophisticated air-conditioning system will blow hot air on the feet and cold air on the face of a passenger reclining in a front seat while he listens to the quadraphonic tape player, the stereo radio or simply the classy hum of the whispering engine.

As in other Rolls models, the handbrake is in a backbreakingly well-concealed and awkward position, but that is nitpicking on the grandest scale.