As a guy who’s spent his entire life in North America, growing up on the Saskatchewan Prairies, it was a real treat to see “how the other half lives” during a recent trip to London and Paris. Like a lot of “car guys” I’ve grown up watching Top Gear UK and later Grand Tour, always admiring the European Cars that have never come to North America, and I finally got a chance to see a lot of them in person!
To see a Lamborghini or Ferrari in Saskatoon is a rare site… not so on the streets of London. Within ten minutes of arriving at our hotel I spotted the Bentley Continental GT you see below – simply parked on a street in the middle of the city. I Think there may be 1 or possibly 2 of these in the entire province of Saskatchewan, so amazing to see one right away. The next car right around the corner was the beautiful black Rolls Royce Ghost complete with V12 engine, suicide rear doors and hideaway “Spirit of Ecstasy” – the hood ornament on all Rolls that at a touch of a button retracts in to the nose of the car for safe keeping while parked. This car starts north of $350,000 Canadian and it was sitting right in front of me!
There were very few classic cars on the roads, but I did manage to spot a mid 60’s Hillman Super Minx in robin egg blue and white. Clearly the car had been restored as it was in perfect condition. These were imported to Canada in small numbers, so there are a handful of Canadians that are familiar with these tiny cars. The other classic was of course the Queen’s own Daimler on display at the Royal Muse – the place where the horses and carriages are kept at Buckingham Palace. The car is still in working serviceable order!
I’ve always been jealous of the options and variety that Europeans have in their market that simply don’t exist in North America. Take for example the new gun metal Ford Fiesta ST spotted in a parking lot near Hampton court Palace. Ford North America has announced the cancellation of all cars and will very soon only produce Trucks and SUV’s with the exception of the Mustang. Canadians have had access to the Fiesta ST, Focus ST and Focus RS which are exceptionally fun to drive however, all of those models sold in North America have only come with 4 doors, as if North American’s would never buy 2 door models! Where does this idea come from? It frustrates me to no end that the market that supported 2 door models through most of the 20th century has somehow now gone cold I have a hard time believing that there is no appetite small 2 door cars. I digress…
Probably the highlight was the Mclaren P1 spotted parked on the streets on London near Her Majesty’s Theatre. I couldn’t believe my eyes. A car I had only every dreamed of was right there and on a busy street with people walking all around it. This car has 990 horse power and is worth 1.2 million Canadian! I guess if you can afford a car like that you can afford to park it anywhere and not worry if it will get backed into or dinged up.
There was no shortage of eye popping, head turning cars in Europe!