Brave Pill marches to the beat of a different drum than the part of the motor industry that sells the dull, low-risk machinery which comes with comprehensive warranties and real new car smell, not just the air freshener version. Previously we haven't deliberately scheduled a Pill to coincide with the arrival of a modern equivalent, but this week the generation synergies have been overwhelming. So four days after reading about the all-new Flying Spur here's one that is pretty much 90 percent cheaper.
Based on five minutes of internet research this 2005 Spur isn't just the cheapest one on PH, but the cheapest in the country. Nobody here can remember seeing one for less which wasn't either wearing an insurance write-off marker or advertised with pictures that had clearly been taken outside a salvage yard. Despite being offered for a Bobby Moore under £17,000 there's nothing obviously wrong with this 66,000-miler beyond the fact the selling dealer chose to take pictures of it in the rain, and the cabin seems to have the sort of ground-in grime that suggests previous owners may have been more manky than swanky.
Closer scrutiny may well throw up some more substantive issues, of course; but let's stick with the dream for a while longer. Even if you spent a couple of days scrubbing it, or paid a professional valet to do it for you, you could still end up with a W12-powered four-door Bentley for considerably under the average options spend on a new one.
One of the advantages of growing older (beyond insisting you used to live in a cardboard box on't motorway eating gravel if you were lucky) is the ability to reminisce about the Good Old Days. In my case the fact I got to go on the press launch for the original Continental Flying Spur in 2005. This was in the happy days before the financial crash when even regular car introductions were lavish, and Bentley was determined to push the boat out even further.
Literally, as it turned out. The launch was based in Venice - so we could appreciate the car when surrounded by Renaissance art - with several cars being ferried across the lagoon to act as stage dressing. I didn't get to drive the car there - Venice would get damp quickly when stretching the legs of a 550hp saloon - but on mainland roads I confirmed that the Spur was both hugely impressive and largely familiar. Performance was towering, the speedometer still climbing as the needle reached the 300km/h mark and the W12 getting loud and fruity under hard use. But it was also clear that the Spur bore a very close relationship to the existing Continental GT Coupe, in terms of both dynamics and looks, being almost the same car from the A-pillar forwards.
The only surprising bit of the launch came at the press conference, where dozing hacks were startled to learn that Bentley executives reckoned the company could sell 3,500 Spurs a year. That was a figure that would have increased the size of the global ultra-luxury saloon at the time by around 600 percent and therefore seemed impossible.
To be fair, Bentley reached that number eventually, although it took longer than expected. The Spur had been on sale for several years before it broke big in China, affluent (but coupe-adverse) buyers realising it was perfectly suited to their tastes. Annual production peaked at 4,500 in 2014, after the heavy revision that was the second-gen Spur arrived, although they have been in steady decline since the Bentayga launched.
But in more traditionally minded markets like the UK, the first-gen Spur always had a slight image problem. While it was a much more technically sophisticated car than the Arnage (and later the Mulsanne) it was regarded as a poor relation. Most potential buyers planning to drive themselves preferred the sportier Continental GT, and the Spur soon seemed to be (unfairly) typecast as an upmarket limo; the sort of car to get booked for a wedding only if all the white Rolls-Royces in an area were already taken.
Yet for some the Flying Spur was always the more compelling choice than the GT, especially as savage depreciation turned them surprisingly affordable in short order. There's more of it for a start, with the 12-inch wheelbase stretch over the GT going entirely into rear legroom. The back of the cabin is every bit as special as the front, which is more than you can say for the coupe. As values fell, some canny buyers realised the Spur made an outstanding upmarket family hauler, with the W12 engine able to absorb high mileages without complaint if properly looked after.
The important word in that previous sentence was the if. The costs of routine Bentley maintenance are not for the faint-hearted, or indeed even the mildly dizzily hearted. Servicing is required annually and alternates between minor and major, with the bigger ones likely to be into four figures even from a specialist. That's before anything else is picked up. Which it pretty much certainly will be; the Spur having a glutinous appetite for consumables. This is a car that eats tyres, snacks on brakes and then picks its teeth with suspension components.
There's also the ten year service, which is the one that often leaves owners ashen faced as it requires the transmission to be drained and refilled. Anything under two grand for this one should be considered getting off lightly - small wonder that so many Spurs (and Contis)are moved on to unsuspecting mugs just before this anniversary beckons. Fuel economy that rarely rises above the low teens is just the icing on the cake.
Many owners have chosen to reduce running costs by the simple expedient of delaying or missing services, effectively spinning the bork roulette wheel. While this can be a semi-successful short term strategy, at risk of a dash filled with warning lights and an MOT covered in advisories, over a longer period such stinginess almost always bites hard.
Bringing us back to our Pill, and possible reasons for its accessible pricetag. The dealer selling it happily lists many of its attributes, but the words "service history" are conspicuous only by their absence from the advert. That's something that any potential buyer should probably choose to look at in forensic detail. There is also a sizeable gap in the MOT history, the car not being tested between July 2013 and February 2016, although there is also nothing excessively worrisome in the official record beyond confirmation of an appetite for tyres, friction materials and suspension bushes.
But if it was perfect it would be considerably more expensive. The seller has already priced a substantial amount of risk into this offer and it would be possible to have both this car and a sizeable contingency fund for less than you'd need to pay for some shinier Spurs of a similar age and mileage. The new Flying Spur is a hell of a car, but is it really nine-and-a-bit times better than this one?