Kidnap of the Flying Lady by Richard Feast

Power of two great British brands rolls on
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In the car business, as in so many others, the brand matters more than the ownership.

The sale of Rolls-Royce and Bentley to BMW and Volkswagen might be a sign that Britain does not have the technical expertise to maintain two top motor brands. But is also a sign of the power of the brands that three Britons -- the Hon. Charles Stuart Rolls, Sir Henry Royce and Walter Owen Bentley -- managed to create.

Richard Feast's new book on Rolls-Royce and Bentley is in part a potted history of the motor company's uneven past, but also a detailed look at the complex negotiations that led up to the takeover in 1998.

There have been several tales of the Rolls-Royce and Bentley companies, but this does break new ground in detailing the takeover.

Thanks to German engineering and development money, both brands are experiencing a revival. The new £250,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom turns heads wherever it goes. And Bentleys have become the favoured vehicle of the new rich as well as the old.

But in a rational world BMW and Volkswagen, could have created the new cars without buying the names. The fact that the brands have retained their sheen despite some pretty shaky history, tells us that the world of cars is not rational.

And those of us who like cars will give thanks for that.