Experiencing Special Drives - A Classic Car Eulogy
by Michael Kliebenstein, Author and Automobilist
Those of you who have the good fortune of spending hours, days or even weeks behind the wheel of a well-sorted classic car will surely agree: it is a special and rewarding experience, only comparable to a day on a lovely RIVA boat, in the driver’s saddle of a - let’s say - a Vincent Black Lightning or behind the controls of a lovely Merlin-engined Spitfire.
Sometimes you find yourself spending many hours behind the wheel of a machine that was once driven by a famous person in motorsport-history, or sitting in the same seat as a celebrity or a socialite, who lived maybe 70 years ago.
This is all part of the experience. In the end, owners are able to live out their childhood dreams. Be it behind the thin-rimmed wheel of a Ferrari 250 GT SWB or the big Bakelite wheel of a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. Visually it is art; but driving them is pure emotion.
Experiencing classic cars from behind the wheel is intense fun. In this sense my career as an automotive marketing consultant, author and photographer has given me the opportunity to live the perfect mix of employment and enjoyment. In this I feel very lucky and I am grateful for that.
Most extraordinary driving experiences are as multifaceted as the cars themselves. Would you like to spend a day driving a Porsche 917, a sumptuous Rolls-Royce Phantom, a fast Ferrari Daytona, a well sorted E-type, a Citroen Traction Avant 15CV Six or a magnificent Kompressor Mercedes? Do you prefer Italian elegance or down to earth more laid back French charm?
As different as all the cars are, they all share a special spot in automotive history and offer a multitude of emotions and driving experiences. But - to me a Citroen Deux Chevaux is in the same league as, say, a Lamborghini Miura. I like them both. And I enjoy driving them both.
Something I really enjoy doing is travelling around Europe in a classic car to meet friends, collectors or even to discover hidden treasures in beautiful places. They are usually found in equally stunning places like Southern France, Scotland, around the Italian lakes or somewhere in Southern England, just to name a few typical locations. I think there is something amazing about entering the driveway of a lovely old house in a beautiful classic car, speaking to the owners and then discovering what they have hidden away in the barns and stables behind. It always gets me. Pure magic.
For example, I still remember vividly my drive in a magnificent 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental Drophead with body by Gurney Nutting. All the way from North London to Chichester in Southern England and back to see and photograph a lovely collection of hidden cars for my book. I immediately felt this was becoming a very special drive. It was a beautiful spring's afternoon on a Sunday, the roads were quiet and it all came together: it was one of those occasions when, if there was a motoring paradise, it was right here.
If there was a slower car to overtake, there was never anything coming the other way. If you kept the old Phantom moving in lovely fourth gear, it seemed to be the fastest car in England. The wafting sound of the big Phantom engine was fantastic and slowly but surely you got into this special motoring fantasy world - it makes you feel as if you are driving on clouds.
There started to be a real bond with me and that magnificent Phantom. And I just wished I had the money to buy the car on the spot. The collection I saw was equally stunning. I just loved this day.
With certain cars, and they are few and far between, you can immediately build a deep relationship with them.
And I think we are fortunate enough to live in a time when we can still drive and enjoy classic cars for their intended purpose - wherever we like and however we like without any restrictions [Apart from these exceptional times in most countries for a few months. Ed]. Long may these times continue.