|Vehicle:||1987 Rolls-Royce Camargue|
|Chassis Number Location:||Top of inner fender, right side plaque and upper door jamb driver’s side sticker|
|Engine Number Location:||Front of crankcase|
|Club Info:||Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club|
|Alternatives:||1974–89 Aston Martin V8 coupe, 1975–93 Jaguar XJS, 1978–95 Porsche 928|
This car, Lot 2076, sold for $85,800, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Sotheby’s Online Only Open Roads Fall sale on November 20, 2020.
Thinking about the Camargue reminds me of the 1938 Three Stooges classic, “Tassels in the Air.” The plot involves a nouveau riche woman who wants a famous French designer to redecorate her house, but mistakenly hires Moe instead. As is always the case with the Stooges, disaster ensues. There is a scene in which the wannabe socialite is introducing Moe to the friend she wants to impress, saying, “She is the one that said that your work is very recherché.” To which Moe replies, “Oh, anybody’s liable to make a mistake.”
This comic moment is how I like to picture the genesis of the Camargue, with whomever it was at Rolls-Royce responsible for recruiting Paolo Martin, the noted designer from Pininfarina, taking on the role of the socialite. Except that Martin can’t blame a bone-headed imposter for the Camargue’s styling, which was certainly a mistake.
An arrogant design
Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Pryor and cocaine, Cam Newton and the Patriots, Chris Bangle and BMW, and Pininfarina and Rolls-Royce. These all seemed like good ideas at the time. But not really.
Although I respect the concept, the arrogance of the design and the downright audacity of the risk taken, the final product was just shameful. Massively expensive to buy and by most accounts truly less than thrilling to drive, the Camargue marked a low point for this most traditional British marque. Meant to be the cutting edge and a new direction, it was, in fact, a massive gaffe.
There are positive considerations. In retrospect, I’m fond of most everything Rolls-Royce did in this era. I’m smitten with the 2-door Mulliner Park Ward Corniche coupe. I feel some nostalgic warmth when I see a chrome-bumpered Silver Shadow or T1 Bentley. These cars share the proven engine, transmission and their chassis, more or less, with the Camargue.
Rolls wasn’t known for building downmarket offerings, and the 6.75-liter motor and GM slush-box are a great match for providing luxury quiet. Listen to the clock tick-tock. If trundling around town in pure comfort is your goal, what car better to do it in than a Shadow from this era? For retro Tom Jones style and panache and a purchase price that can be relatively easy on your wallet today (if you buy a great one), it makes sense. But I’m talking spending $45k, not $85k.
If you never had to look at the outside of the Camargue, it would offer the same experience. Even so, our subject car at $85,800 doesn’t pass muster.
Kudos to RM Sotheby’s for a transparent presentation. If COVID-19 has taught auction companies anything, it’s how to successfully present a car in full detail online. The collection of photos here showed a car that was in less-than-stellar condition for 20k miles. It looked more like 120k miles to the trained eye. My worry is that if the cosmetics were that flawed, what was the mechanical condition like? A vague sentence about servicing indicated that some work was carried out, but nothing more than the minimum.
The refrigerator-white paint is arguably the worst color in the entire Pantone book to have slathered on this behemoth. Yes, let’s make it look even bigger while swallowing all of the design details! I’m trying to imagine it in dark blue or black. Or, you know, Lady Penelope’s FAB1 Rolls was pink and that worked.
Meanwhile, that white paint is cracked and crazed, the bumpers are a bit wonky, there are a few small dents, the windshield is delaminating, and the Everflex roof looks a bit shrunken in spots. Inside, the fake veneer is cracked and the leather is marred and shrunk. And why is the car armored again? Ah, yes, to go slower.
If you must, a Camargue will cosset you. It will glide along in (dated) luxury and comfortably accommodate three more adults to keep you company. I imagine one of them should be holding a white Pomeranian for effect while at least two others are smoking.
If you don’t believe me and my nonsense, go ahead and troll Rolls-Royce owners’ club forums — even the diehards have their reservations. Very recherché, indeed. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)