Although not an owner of one of these magnificent beasts I am fortunate enough to have driven one, in comparison with its bigger and older brother the Continental Series, no less.
I had always been a fan of the Continental; its raw powerful looks and sheer road presence always allured me.
I was always so impressed by the way that whenever you see one on the road, it seems to be going past at great speed yet appearing totally unruffled, a task mimicked well by the ‘smaller’ Arnage.
So, when a Cardiff dealer offered me the chance to take part in a test drive day in the grounds of a luxurious hotel, lining up the whole Bentley and Rolls Royce range next to a chartered helicopter and sumptuous servings of quality food, I couldn’t resist.
It would be ungentlemanly to refuse, wouldn’t it?
So I got my chance in a Continental.
The keys, a full tank and a stunning twenty-mile route to savour. And I did.
The car was very special, as you might expect for a quarter of a million pounds.
Forget the opulent interior – it was the engine that impressed.
Bentley (and Rolls-Royce) didn’t formerly tell anyone about the engine size, merely pointing out that it was ‘adequate’. They should have added ‘for towing a 5 bedroom house.’
The torque was storming.
Try to imagine someone pushing the back of your chair right now. Into the next room. Through the wall. Then into the next room, without hesitation, even quicker. All more speedily than you could read this.
Yes, forget horsepower. From now on, I buy my cars based on torque, whatever a Newton Metre might be.
There was one caveat to the Continental though – the Arnage.
At nearly half the price the Arnage wipes the floor with the Continental.
When I tested it, it came in two flavours. I’m talking engines again, by the way.
The traditional V8 lump and the newer BMW-sourced straight 8.
Bentley helpfully made it easier by labelling them Red and Green, quite literally.
Go for the Red one. I’m a new fan of all things BMW but this car needs the V8. I just wish it wasn’t named after the cheapest tea in Tesco.
The Arnage shares all the grunt of the bigger car and sets it all to a modern theme.
From the outside, the car does resemble a weather-worn brick but inside, you realise this can compete with the best-finished modern cars.
Some comment that it can’t match a Mercedes-Benz’s build quality and to an extent, they would be right.
When the floor carpet is pulled back around the accelerator, you do not expect to see the trimming work of a six year old. But when the carpet is reinstalled the thick pile helps to remind you that you are in a special place.
The drive is modern, easy and relaxing, even when applying that torque.
The interior ambience is impressive although the modern devices we all need in cars today are not as well accommodated as they might be.
Designed before the satellite navigation era, you will have to suffer the indignation of a pop-up screen spoiling the sweep of the dash, but I suspect you will be more likely looking at the array of dials and switches, many designed and styled to feel good, solid and traditional.
The only gripe is that because customers can select from a huge range of colours and trims (The ‘brochure’ was a hand-finished solid wood briefcase), getting a used one to suit you perfectly may be a problem. Burgundy leather seats trimmed with cream piping and mixed with a black dash don’t quite do it for me.
The drive is solid and reassuring and belies the car’s two ton size.
Forget you are in a limousine and treat it the way Bentley intended. It is a sports model after all. If you want to float everywhere, get one with a small silver statue at the front.
The Arnage will flick through corners and holds the road like the tarmac’s melted. You don’t even get to hear the rubber ripping. Very strange. Very addictive.
But the best bit is sitting deep in those accommodating hide armchairs and looking down at people next to you, even those in four by fours.
In both ways!
Gripes? Well there are always some.
On the pre-2005 model I drove, I don’t think the headlamps suit the nose, the fuel consumption is for those who never care about it, and it costs £150k.
At least it’s better than that Continental I always wanted. Thanks Bentley, you have saved me £100k. Now save me another £30k by making the new baby Bentley even better.
Author: Vince Poynter
From the Cars section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 23 Feb 2018 but first published in the website in Feb 2005. All photos added in 2018
Also published by Channel 4 Car Road Tests around 2005 (but now no longer available)
The first image shows part of the Bentley line up presented by a generous Cardiff Bentley Dealership in the grounds of Miskin Manor in 2000
The second image shows the author parked up during a road test of the fabulously expensive Bentley Continental in 2000
The third image shows the Author’s wife, Lynda, with the Bentley Arnage in 2000
The fourth and final image shows a Bentley Arnage, parked in a service station car park, photographed in Jan 2012
Maybe you were transported here by a strange new time machine, or even from another computer. Any how you came you are welcome to read why I have chosen the next ten vehicles as my favourite of all time.
It is an eclectic mix of transport that I have either used or lusted after with envy.
Cyclists will note that I have not included a bicycle in the list. After all cycle technology is now futuristic and sexy so I could forgive a lack of motorised power. However I refuse to forgive saddle technology until I can actually ride a bicycle further than ten metres.
Of course, when compiling a list like this the rejected ones are nearly as interesting.
For instance you may wonder how I could have a list like this and not include a Ferrari. Easy really, there’s none there. A few may qualify on the grounds of looking fantastic but underneath is just a lightweight Fiat. I’m not fooled, nor are many of the owners. Check out the Owner’s Documents on any used Ferrari and you will be surprised to see so many names. The hype doesn’t live up to the reality. Great red though but this isn’t a favourite list of colours.
Keeping on the subject of cars, in the past I’ve swooned over the fantastically brutish Aston Martin Vantage and may still get one yet but how could I include a car that if a generous benefactor offered me a swap for any Aston from any time I’d really have no second thoughts about choosing the brand new, phenomally quick and beautiful DB9.
Some of the DB9’s details are cheaper than a crate of canaries although I’ve never been one to turn down a beauty because of a few small imperfections. Mole on Demi Moore? So what.
Another plus would be: “Blonde, James Blonde”. What a great introduction.
As you will be able to tell generally I’m not into classic vehicles. I’d rather own a modern Bentley Arnarge than a 4½ litre supercharged model from the 1920s. Unless I can sell it of course. Plus, impressive that the 4½ litre Bentley behemoth is the most attractive classic car has to be the Jaguar SS100. But still not as good as a couple of dozen modern vehicles.
I love bikes, it’s in my genes, whether I currently have a bike or not. It’s all to do with the lack of a cycle when I was young and the freedom that my first moped rides brought me. So I need to include bikes in this ultimate vehicles list and the Ducati 900 Monster was one of the first that I thought of. The reason why this strange naked retro was considered is that it re-vitalised my interest in bikes in the nineteen nineties.
I hadn’t had a bike for a while and the squared-off eighties styling never persuaded me to renew my interest. The Monster 900 was a breath of fresh air. It seemed so stylish and raw with an exposed engine and trellis frame it made me want two wheels again. Thinking back, I can’t think why I brought a Yamaha Diversion 900 instead.
Oh yes. Italian electrics, Ducati clutches and a saving of about two grand. And when you are able to make a choice based on such trivial reasons the original option doesn’t really deserve to be in a top ten.
And second best is why I cannot include a First Class dining experience aboard a ferry. As you can tell from other entries I do like being spoilt. So many cannot handle an obsequious waiter or fawning Maitre-d but I’m willing to be waited on hand and foot. It’s not a case of being better than those who serve but the fact that it makes a pleasant change. I’ll happily have a beer with the waiter afterwards.
A First Class dining experience on board a ferry, such as the cross channel version is a thoroughly pleasant way of passing the time. But two reasons keep it off the top ten. Firstly, the QE2 is infinitely better and secondly the QE2 doesn’t end up in France!
My final rejection is an oxymoron. No, not the Ford 2-litre Oxymoron, but a genuine oxymoron from an age where such a beast could exist. A cute war-plane.
Nowadays war planes are stunning, agile weapons of mass destruction but back in the 1920s at the dawn of flight the planes were not overly effective. However, one stands out above the others, including the Red Baron’s exciting Fokker Tri-plane.
The Sopwith Camel first came into my life as a child. If you were born a male in the late fifties or early sixties you would be familiar with Airfix kits. Plastic self-build models that filled many a wet weekday after school. They are still available but this tactile hobby, along with most other hands-on experiences, have become side-lined by the ubiquitous electronic games. This is a shame as building a model is a very satisfying skill and I still fondly remember the first one I built – a Sopwith Camel.
This little bi-plane had all the ingredients of a favoured vehicle. The styling was right with the curved leading edge to the wings, dual forward gun synchronised with the propeller and rounded tail plane. A cute war plane, such an oxymoron.
So, onto the actual vehicles making my top-ten.
1969 Cooper F1 car
Formula 1 racing has always held a certain appeal. The fast cars, obscene money and glamorous locations keep the sport in my mind even if the last few years Schmedious results have kept it off my TV. So it is natural that I should include a car from this pinnacle of motor sports.
I suppose it is a symptom of age that despite the obvious appeal of modern cars there is an era of racing that seems more glorious and it dates around the time I first got an interest in the sport. I have chosen the Cooper F1 from the 1969 season as it was this car that, to me, epitomises open wheel racing.
The rear tyres look properly wide, the engine is exposed and the newly added wings were just right. I like the front spoiler jutting from the actual nose and the rear spoiler was better looking mounted low on the engine.
I’ve never driven one, nor am I likely to as the price of classic F1 racers nearly match their modern counterparts but I can dream.
My next choice is not so far away from the car above and is probably chosen because of the similarities. But instead of a having to be Ray Parlour’s wife to afford a classic F1 motor this blatant facsimile costs a more reasonable £30-40k. Still a lot of money for a weekend car with no panels but well comparable with its natural opposition.
I love the Atom’s Meccano build and raw energy and can personally testify to its ability to deliver the goods that the look promises. Short on comfort but very long on desire, the Atom deserves its place in this illustrious crowd.
Nearly as quick as the Aston but with seats like a Business Class jet and the torque to match. I have never experienced power like the Bentley Arnarge delivers and in back to back tests with its bigger brother the Continental it wins on every count, including saving £100k. The Continental may have the classic looks but I’m sure I can find an Arnarge to beat it.
The best car in the world. Full stop.
Note that a full appraisal of my time with a Bentley Arnage will eventually be posted on this website
My first aeronautical choice is probably in the list of everyone who has ever seen the Concorde. Breathtakingly beautiful, stunningly quick and well out of the reach of the hoi-poli. Marvellous.
The only problems are it’s cramped interior and that it has disappeared from our skies.
Worth every bit of pollution.
In the top ten? No doubt at all.
The second most beautiful plane in the world [see above] hails from the time just before the second world war but its lines are just so perfect. I love the fat fuselage, strong wing arrangements, classic twin prop design and sturdy tail.
Still operating in many places around the world today the McDonnell Douglas DC-3, known as a Dakota in the UK, is living proof that if it looks right then it probably is right.
I’ve yet to catch a flight in one of these beauties but guess that the reality doesn’t quite live up to the glamour. Particularly as I’ll probably be in South America when I get a go in one.
Eurostar Best Class
I’m not much of a train buff. For many years I rarely travelled on one thinking they were too expensive and inconvenient. Also, with 8 miles between my home and the nearest station, thanks to Beecham’s cuts in the 60s, I never had cause to use them.
Not that I had no contact, my wife spent most of her career with a railway company and we took advantage of the odd subsidised trip.
Things have changed recently though as I now work mainly in London and the train is the only viable option. I estimate that I have travelled over one hundred and fifty thousand miles sat on a train. This experience, in all its sordid glory is why a trip on the Eurostar in the best carriages is such a delight.
I have travelled three times in First Class and on every occasion I have thought it most pleasant. The large seats, at seat service and quiet comfort is reminiscent of travel tales of old.
Just don’t think that the modern version of First Class is the same. For some peculiar reason, probably to do with the French translation, Business Class is the new premier travelling style and ‘mere’ First Class is a poor relation.
Now, how do I say ‘contravenes the Trade’s Description Act’ in French?
Honda CBX Moto Martin
The first bike in my top ten list is a hybrid vehicle and I’m not talking dual fuel.
In the late seventies Honda produced the stunning CBX with its fantastic transverse six cylinder engine. Wider than a Cockney car salesman with a penchant for iced buns this behemoth was a dream machine.
Except two problems. One, was the name. Now Honda is a make to be respected for its engineering excellence and reliability but much like my Miele washing machine I don’t exactly look at the product with love. The other problem with the CBX was the handling – the stock Japanese flexi-frames could never harness the engine outputs at the time.
Moto Martin, a small French custom builder came to the rescue by taking the engine and putting it in a stylish trick frame mounted with swoopy body parts with twin-headlamps. All par for the course today but 30 years ago this was enough to make me tear out the advert and hang it on my wall. Praise indeed.
I own one.
Need I say more?
Note that a full appraisal of my Jaguar XJ8 4.0 will eventually be posted on this website
Who wouldn’t be impressed with one of the traditional Queens of the sea?
I have travelled the Atlantic on the QE2 and can confirm it is all that you would expect, then more. One trip and I’m a confirmed cruise fan. A tall order for the QM2 replacement to beat.
For more details about my experience on this most magnificent of vehicles see my separate story. And be prepared to be jealous.
Note that a full appraisal of my time onboard the QE2 has already been posted on this website [8 Dec 2017]
Vincent Black Shadow
Last, but not least, this list would be incomplete without the vehicle I was actually named after. My father told me this, whilst saying I should have been grateful that he didn’t like Francis Barnetts.
Although this bike now looks a little quirky I am actually quite proud to be named after such a phenomenal bike from the nineteen fiftes, with a great reputation amongst those that know such things.
If only I could afford one now. Think multiple grands. And then some.
Fantastic name though.
Author: Vince Poynter
From the petrolhead section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 23 Jan 2018
First Published: Version 1.03 in Feb 2005 and reproduced here in full, unedited
The images all taken by the author, except the one he is in. Obvs