The Grand Tour

James May is selling a Rolls-Royce Corniche he bought for ‘Mondeo money’

Keen fans of old Top Gear among us might recall a sort of mini Cheap Car Challenge which took place back in Series 11, Episode 5 which saw Jeremy Clarkson and James May each purchase a classic car for ‘Mondeo money’. Armed with £25,000 of his own money, May went out and bought a 1972 Rolls-Royce Corniche – a vehicle which he described as being everything he looked for in a classic luxury car.

“Its quiet, supremely comfortable, and quintessentially British,” May said of his purchase. “Frankly, if you have £25,000 to spend on classic luxury and don’t buy one of these, you’re an imbecile,” May added, right as Clarkson rolled into view driving the 1963 Mercedes 600 Grosser he’d bought.

The concept of purchasing a car for ‘Mondeo money’ goes like this – for the money you were going to spend on a boring mainstream Ford Mondeo (around £25,000), you could have an old Porsche 911, Lamborghini, Ferrari or any number of classic cars that take your fancy. Vehicles such as these enable you to be different from everyone else, and express your credentials as a true motoring enthusiast.

But May has never agreed with the idea in principle, because he says if you’ve only got Mondeo money to spend on a car, the best car available is, in fact, a Mondeo. And if you were to rush out and purchase an old Mercedes 600 just like Clarkson did, you could potentially bankrupt yourself with the maintainance and running costs of the vehicle.

Despite the risks, May reveals that he did purchase an air-cooled 911 eight years ago for a bit less than Mondeo money, and sold it late last year for over three times what he paid for it. “Ha! A profit,” he said. “Something I’ve never achieved before.”

And now he’s decided that its time for the Corniche to go, too – because he has become allergic to the bespoke Mulliner Park Ward interior. “If I drive it for more than half an hour I start itching, and then have to boil all my clothes,” May explains.

For prospective buyers interested in snapping up May’s Rolls, it’ll be auctioned next month by Bonhams, at Goodwood on 19th March. It expected to fetch approximately one-and-a-half times the price of what May paid for it – but we’d bank on it going higher when you consider the value May’s ownership has bestowed upon it.

What would you pay for an iconic piece of classic Top Gear motoring?

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