They sure don't make them like they used to. Some customizer outfit in Wisconsin named VGD is offering to transform a Bentley Arnage into a Shooting Break for an extra $170,000 over sticker. What a travesty. You know you're out of class when even the freakin' Robb Report, calls you out for being tacky. This rig sports a wood veneer-lined bed--with a $29 DVD player smack in the middle--and seat covers held on with snaps salvaged from the naugahyde armrests of an Econoline captain's chair.
The Robb Report's only logical rationale for buying a VGD is exclusivity: "Bentley owners in places such as London, Greenwich, and Los Angeles have been faced with the hitherto bizarre occurrence of seeing cars identical to their own with unsettling regularity." Frankly, I'd be more unsettled to see two people drop $400,000 on this rig and think they look like anything other than a total tool.
It wasn't always that way, though. The Rolls Royce custom coachwork tradition runs long and deep, and for every Baghwan Sri Rajneesh who orders his seats covered in Rainbow Sherbet-colored Connolly, there's a Queen of England somewhere getting sensible jump seats installed for her Corgis.
When Mr. John Ballentine of Connecticut took delivery of his Silver Cloud Estate Wagon in 1959, it was probably just the thing to do; he had no idea it'd be one of master coachbuilder Harold Radford's last, rare independent designs before his firm got swallowed up by Mulliner.
Now, a couple of owners and a Pebble Beach-worthy restoration later, it turns out to be one of just three surviving Radford Estates. It's available right now [price on request, naturally], but it's not my speed. The Silver Clouds always seem a bit cliched, and best suited for wedding limos these days.
The Silver Shadow, on the other hand, is a perfect daily driver of a Rolls. Late great Tampa Rolls Royce collector Millard Newman commissioned his 1969 Silver Shadow Estate Wagon in 1970, and he kept it for 30 years. I missed it when it sold, but at least I know it's out there somewhere, keeping itself in shape until I can come along and bring it home.
[02/08 update: while the link below is now inactive, the pages are still viewable at archive.org. The earliest links have more pictures. The car appears to have sold in Feb. 2005, at which point the published asking price was a mere $37,500. It hurts to type that. Eh, you know what, I'll just post some more highlight pics]
SOLD - 1969 Rolls Royce Estate Wagon [vintagemotorssarasota.com via dt reader jj daddy-o]
1959 HJ Mulliner-style Radford Estate Wagon [vantagemotorworks.net]
Concours photos [conceptcarz.com]
No kidding: Riding To The Hounds - VGD Shooting Break [robbreport.com]