Spotting the Phantom of the opera (well, a West End show anyway)

| 17 Jan 2012

This weekend involved another trip to London see a West End show (The 39 Steps – very funny) but not, sadly, in an old car. Once again 50mpg had its attraction and there was not even the fallback position of the cream W123 because I sold it just after New Year to about the most delighted buyer I have ever encountered – he even liked the fact that it was red under the bonnet and cream on top.

Had the Fiat 130 been around I'd have taken the mpg on the chin and driven that, but it’s away in Maidstone at the moment having a modern gearbox fitted. On the way down I spotted a nice looking 2002 cruising down the M4 just to make me feel guilty for driving a diesel Skoda and then, in the Hammersmith fly-over snarl up, a really smart Mini Clubman. Don’t they look just tiny now? 

In town I managed to feed my habit by taking a trip to Motor Books in Cecil Court off St Martin’s Lane. It seems to be operating on a lesser scale now, no doubt due to internet sales, but it still occupied me for 40 minutes and I managed to dig out a Brooklands book about six-cylinder E3 and E9 BMWs which reminded me of a call I got from a guy called Jim in Kent before Christmas who had quite a feasible sounding 2500 4-speed manual saloon for sale.

A nice smoker to replace the 200 saloon? No, keep focused. Two door Range Rover... two door Range Rover... two door Range Rover.

After the show I was delighted to see a 1965 Phantom V parked outside a theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue with an ‘official car’ badge on its screen. It looked so elegant and almost self-effacing compared to its bling modern counterpart and I fantasised about hopping on to the West of England cloth back seat and taking a snooze as I was driven back to the Cotswolds.

Instead, with energy flagging, we took a long walk through the West End back to Kensington, popped into an unbelievably posh bar in Knightsbridge where I wanted to punch nearly everyone (nice toilets, though) and was finally permitted to take to my bed at 1am, lulling myself to sleep with Bill Boddy's assessment of a BMW 2500 saloon in Motor Sport.

Next morning it was a tour of the charity shops – I discovered a great one devoted to books where I found a presumably quite rare autobiography of Shelia Van Dam.

This week I’ve got to get to grips with the engine running on the Mercedes 300SE (or decide whether to send it off somewhere) and weigh up the future for the manual XJ-S I’ve bought.

More soon.