There is nothing more dangerous than being in Great Britain. Your telephone quickly goes dead because you cannot plug it into a British socket, Russian accents are mistaken for indigestion sounds, and your day risks ending in a head-on collision – here it is customary to drive on the “right” side of the road. But it is precisely because of this irrational conservatism that the British are the strongest believers in tradition, etiquette and aristocracy. So when the model Rolls-Royce chauffeur Rennie Burnside came to Moscow, we were the first to sign up to be his pupils. Maybe now my mother will be satisfied with how I drive?
Before me is an 80-year-old Rolls-Royce school transcript for one M. Morgan, a young 22-year-old gentleman of Irish descent who was trained as a chauffeur from September 14-26, 1931. “Steering: very bad. Braking: harsh. Compliance: nil,” the instructor wrote in his cursive handwriting and ended with a dry, purely English summary: “The young gentleman showed poor mental ability and was so bad at writing that we had to take notes for him. Morgan showed little progress during the course.”
Inept driving and poor maintenance of the car could negatively affect the reputation of the young British brand, so as early as 1910 a demonstration class for drivers was opened, and two years later there was a specialized school.
Poor driving and maintenance would damage the reputation of the fledgling British brand, so a demonstration class for drivers was opened as early as 1910, and a specialized school was opened two years later.
How the fate of Morgan’s passengers turned out, history is silent. Perhaps they lived happily, but died on the same day. Anyway, Rolls-Royce quickly realized that bad driving can spoil the impression of even the best car, and in 1912, it organized the first specialized driving courses. That is, only six years after the founding of Rolls-Royce Ltd, when British cars were known not so much for their luxury as for their reliability.
According to legend, Henry Royce was driven mad by the breakdowns of his French De Dion, and Charles Rolls received constant complaints from buyers of the Peugeot he imported from continental Europe. The relationship between neighbors on both sides of the Channel is well known: according to sociological surveys, the average Briton would not even trust a Frenchman to look after his cat. That is why Rolls and Royce simply took and built their own car. Made in Britain.
Passenger waiting time is best spent cleaning the car and reading. But you can also sleep in the back seat – Renny sees nothing wrong with that.
So Mr. Rennie Burnside, answering a question about Princess Diana’s accident, begins with the phrase, “Well, first of all, the chauffeur was French.”
The irony is that the very name of the profession of hired driver came from the French chauffeur, a stoker. In the early days of the automobile industry, engines were often steam-powered.
Renny greets new passengers with a friendly, “Good afternoon. My name is Renny Burnside. Although the British Chauffeurs’ Guild – there is one! – recommends introducing oneself in the manner of a butler – without the last name. Mr. Burnside then elegantly pulls the door handle and stands perpendicular to the car to keep an eye on the safety around the car and not on the back of the infiltrating passenger. After all, it could be a girl in a short skirt. Or the queen herself.
At sixty-two, Rennie trains Rolls-Royce chauffeurs around the world and is also an accredited examiner for the British Automobile Sports Association racing license.
Once the passenger door is closed, Rennie walks around the back of the limousine exclusively out of respect for the lady with wings crowning the radiator grille. Eleanor Velasco Thornton, the secretary to Baron Montague, who owned one of the first Rolls-Royce, was her prototype. Rennie diplomatically remarks: “Eleanor is said to have been more than just the Baron’s secretary,” and “the Baron, from all appearances, was not a true gentleman.” Anyway, when their voyage together on the Persia liner in 1915 was interrupted by a torpedo from the German submarine U-38, only Montague had a life jacket. Yes, yes, a real Rolls-Royce chauffeur should know a bit of the brand’s history as well.
The weighty figurine of the flying lady is called Spirit of Ecstasy. It is based on the work of sculptor Charles Sykes, who decorated Baron Montague’s Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. That car is now in the National Automobile Museum in Bewley, Britain.
After making sure that I am comfortably seated in the back seat of the Rolls-Royce Ghost and know how to use the climate system, Rennie takes a seat behind the wheel and very delicately takes off – the Ghost automatic does it from second gear. The huge car literally hovers over the pavement and attracts no less attention from the surrounding people than the Ferrari 458 Italia standing by the side of the road. Painted in the most popular color among the Russian clients of Rolls-Royce – black. Apparently, not to stand out.
As I drive out onto the road, the Rennie accelerates – smoothly, but decisively enough so that I’m slightly pressed into the softest leather of the seat. A total of twenty German cow skins went into the interior, but I try not to think about it.
Rolls-Royce cars have long been an international product. Aluminum for them is supplied from Denmark, leather from Germany, and the radiator grille is made in Italy.
It was only 50 years ago that Rolls-Royce employees would write “enough power” in the specifications of the cars, although in reality it could be inferior, for example, to a much more affordable Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL sedan. But now under a hood of the Ghost is not less “horses”, than in the same Ferrari 458 Italia: 570.
It seems that Rennie doesn’t do anything special behind the wheel, but it’s like with a good dentist – you shouldn’t notice the work of a real professional. The passenger doesn’t have to think about the curb post coming too fast – he needs to mind his own business.
Rennie’s hand position on the steering wheel can’t be called classic: his left hand rests in the nine o’clock grip area, and his right hand simply holds the rim from below.
But his graceful, soft intercepts are a true car aristocrat.
Table of Contents
Renny Burnside’s style guide
The driver’s gaze travels between the mirrors and the windshield, but never to the rear sofa – it’s the passengers’ private area. The mere sight of such a driver inspires calm, and when a Daewoo Nexia zigzags in front of us in a frenzied bugaboo, Renny only raises one eyebrow. “Sometimes we look like swans floating on a lake, but underwater we’re frantically shifting our feet,” he says, hinting that the chauffeur’s tension should never be transmitted to the passengers. Even to the dust-covered road workers who try to move us away from the construction site near the Luzhnetsky Bridge, he does not hesitate to answer in English: “Yes! Yes! We go!” Without the slightest doubt that someone might not have understood him.
With a brief glance in the mirror, he gently pulls away again, and his gaze is already somewhere around the next intersection. “The farther you see, the less unforeseen problems,” Rennie adds. And that seems to be just one of the many rules of life for a true Rolls-Royce chauffeur.
~ Renny Burnside’s Ten Rules
- Gentlemen drive politely.
Before you drive, you should check the cleanliness of the body, the condition of the tires, and the amount of fuel in the tank. Also, set the climate system to an average temperature and the slowest fan speed.
- Always be equally courteous, whether you’re a queen or a homeless person who won the lottery for a ride to the nearest bed-and-breakfast. If a passenger was disrespectful, don’t take it personally, and beat a pillow with your fists when you get home.
- What happened in the car stays in the car. Whether it’s Dr. Evil’s plans to enslave the Earth or a marijuana-smoking rock star.
- The perfect chauffeur drives the car so that the passenger doesn’t even feel the moment when the car has moved and finally braked.
- Talk to the passenger only if he or she starts the conversation himself or herself. Busy people talk so much in meetings and negotiations that the car is the only place for them to take a break.
- If a passenger asks to go faster, the driver of the Rolls-Royce should go faster, not break the rules. At the very least, you can press the gas pedal sharper and brake sharper – the passenger will have a feeling of a more dynamic ride.
- If you hit a pothole, apologize. Everything, what gets under wheels of the car – on conscience of the driver. That’s why it’s better to keep the distance, as pits are seen from a distance.
- Improve your driving skills. The chauffeur does not have to master the techniques of active driving and have experience driving on the race track, but once they can help you avoid problems.
- It is not a shame for even a good chauffeur to use navigation. But it’s even better to drive the intended route alone beforehand to check the road for repairs and other problems not noted in the navigation.
- And, yes! Rolls-Royce never breaks down, and you won’t even find a spare in the thickly piled trunk. 20-inch wheels with Run-flat tires will get you to the car service, no matter what the puncture. In the old days, the norm for changing a tire was seven minutes, so that the passenger doesn’t have a big deal thwarted