Now, girls, THIS is a class act

2011-07-22 00:00

Read I, recently, that a lady "must never be slutty, just a little nasty and always, ALWAYS, classy".

"But what is this 'class'", asked a young niece (16). I was at a loss to define that mystical element that turns a woman into a lady until - eureka!, I drove past the racy version of a lady that had me head over heals for her in the flush of my youth - the Princess 4-litre 'R'.

Now, the Princess I drove did not sport the R, had "only" a 3-litre engine and was already a grand dame with the cracks of 17 harsh African summers in her rosewood veneer... so what made her a lady?

Well, for starters, with those matronly lines, she was obviously never going to be slutty. But my oh my, when you poked her go-faster petrol she always rewarded you with a lot of growl... pushing the needle effortlessly upwards... smoothly shifting into overdrive in all her gears. (I'm getting a bit hot and bothered just typing this.)

As for her class, I needed only to point a bunch of second-year students to the rosewood tables with silver cup holder inlays that fold out from the back of her front seats. Proving there's hope for the future generation yet, these fine young men bowed in mute admiration.

As for the 4-litre R seen here, this Princes really was a breed apart.

To quote Martin Cannell and Craig Tiano in their "Brief History of the 4-litre R, "the car is a jewel of 1960's British workmanship.

Being Brits they are of the opinion that "the Vanden Plas interiors are as comfortable today as any modern car" which is true for space, but I have to point out that cars' ergonomics have moved on a bit in the last 42 years.

Messrs Cannell and Tiano are on the money, however, when the claim that the 3,909cc Rolls-Royce F60 engine "has performance and smoothness that unparalleled in any car of a similar vintage".

Sadly, and in perhaps the best example ever of the UK's no-sex-please-we're-British marketing, Rolls Royce intended for their 4-litre Princess to be sold behind a Bentley badge to the young American executive of the 1960s. Well ja no fine, the matronly body and young American men did not, as they say, compute, and only about 7,000 cars Princess 4-litre R models were crafted between 1964 and 1968.

Hence rust-free, well-preserved ones like this one are getting very scarce and a good investment too.

One man who recognised this is Patrice Kubheka, who is not just the owner of this Princes 4L R, but also of a Wolseley 6110; a 6160; and the old 3-litre Princess known for her, shall we say "fast" tail fins.

Kubheka, who trucks fuel for a living, rents out his fine examples of English engineering to chauffeur brides to their weddings and at just R900 for local events in and around the Pietermaritzburg area. At that price, it is the cheapest nostalgia to be had this side of the planetoid Sedna.

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