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Why London can ignore a Rolls-Royce parade

Posted by Clifford Atiyeh  February 7, 2011 02:54 PM

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A road tour of classic Rolls-Royce models slips past Piccadilly Circus in London.

In western London, three things are certain: overcast skies, perfectly-measured pints of beer, and exotic cars parallel-parked like Vauxhall hatches. On any given day in the "W" and "SW" codes — where Princess Diana lived and Hugh Grant sputtered his way through the film "Notting Hill" — it's de rigueur to spot dozens of high-end cars in the most unwieldy traffic.

Open-top Porsche Carrera GTs idle behind double-decker buses, Lamborghini Murcielagos roll in rush hour, 911 Turbos go to the supermarket, and Jamiroquai's Ferrari Enzo sits curbside. The BMW 5-Series is so common it's the standard patrol car for the Metropolitan Police.

Since I left six years ago as a study-abroad student — after stopping all the Mercedes-McLaren SLRs I could at crosswalks — it's even more the supercar paradise. Last year, after the Qatari royal family purchased Harrods — an Egyptian King's tomb masquerading as a department store — Londoners became more jaded than New Yorkers. Where else but London could you buy a Burberry scarf and walk past a booted $2 million Koenigsegg? It takes too much torque to turn heads there.

Rolls-Royce probably figured as much when it hosted a parade Sunday to celebrate, of all things, a hood ornament. The "Spirit of Ecstasy," the winged chrome angel atop every straight-bar Rolls-Royce radiator since 1911, has turned 100. Owners, journalists, and other VIP-types took 100 cars on a road tour through the city, starting a few blocks from Harrods and ending up further west at a conservatory in Syon Park. To mark the occasion forever, all 2011 Phantoms and Ghosts will have a special "Centenary" inscription on the base of the ornament.

Early 20th century Rollers aren't average fare for Piccadilly Circus, but aside from painting them hot pink, the Rolls-Royce PR team couldn't have done more to get noticed. Forget about how Chrysler and Eminem paint Detroit — for automakers, London is one tough city.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
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About Boston Overdrive reports the latest trends, auto shows and wrings out the newest cars in our city's hellish maze — and across the great roads of New England.
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Clifford Atiyeh is an automotive writer and car enthusiast . He has spent his entire life driving cars he doesn't own.
In the garage: 1995 21-speed Iron Horse, 2002 Jeep Wrangler X (by association)
Bill Griffith is a veteran Boston Globe reporter, having reviewed cars for more than 10 years and serving as assistant sports editor for 25 years. He was also the paper's sports media columnist.
In the garage: 2006 Subaru Baja
AAA's Car Doctor, John Paul John Paul is public affairs manager for AAA Southern New England, a certified mechanic, and a Globe columnist. He hosts a weekly radio show on WROL.
In the garage: Hyundai Sante Fe, Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible
Craig Fitzgerald has been writing about cars, motorcycles, and the automotive industry since 1999. He is the former editor of Hemmings Sports & Exotic Car.
In the garage: 1968 Buick Riviera, 1996 Buick Roadmaster, 1974 Honda CB450
Keith Griffin is president of the New England Motor Press Association and edits the used car section on He also writes for the Hartford Business Journal and various weekly newspapers in Connecticut.
In the garage: Mazda 5, Dodge Neon
George Kennedy is a senior writer for WheelsTV in Acton, which produces video reviews for Yahoo, MSN, and other auto websites.
In the garage: Lifted 1999 Jeep Cherokee
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