Open the door to a Rolls-Royce and you’ll spot one of its nattiest party pieces – a custom umbrella that can spring out of the side of each door. It can do more than merely shield the elements of the on-board VIPs, though. “The umbrella can be used both defensively and offensively,” says Andi McCann, as if he’s just walked off the set of Kingsman: The Secret Service.
Andi is the personal driver to Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös and the company’s lead trainer, and he’s been dispatched to Las Vegas with two other British colleagues – all ex-racing drivers turned automotive Jeeves’ – to teach the chauffeurs at the Wynn Hotel how to drive the Rolls-Royce way.
Motoring’s most luxurious marque has sold the equally sumptuous Wynn a fleet of Phantoms and this hefty transaction includes seminars on how to serve and protect celebrities and the rest of the one percent. Thanks to Andi and his umbrella tactics, no paparazzi will be getting any ‘upskirt’ shots today.
In the age of Uber anyone with a four-door can turn their hand to chauffeuring, but at this white glove level it’s an art-form. Andi shows me around a Phantom; there are about a dozen things he says are wrong about the interior presentation, among them air vents at different angles, a twisted seat belt, head rests at different heights, the rear armrest down. It needs to be reset to the factory setting; it needs to be perfect. Two things that were news to me; firstly you must never park a Roller headfirst into a space. The rear must be to the kerb and the Spirit of Ecstasy to the front. “Never box the lady in,” warns Andi. Secondly, the chauffeur must never walk around the front of the car, always go round the back out of respect to the winged hood ornament.
Also, when collecting your paymasters from their Gulfstream their luggage gets in the car before they do, regardless of whether it’s 90 degrees in Vegas or minus 15 in Moscow. This comes as a surprise but it’s down to the clients’ peace of mind, no one wants their bags – possibly crammed with diamonds and state secrets – getting swiped from the kerb while you’ve busied yourself opening the coach doors for them.
There’s a dress code too: Black suit, white shirt pressed to within an inch of its life, black silk tie with a double-Windsor, black leather-soled shoes. The word Andi keeps using is “sharp”. Everything must look sharp. Never greet your guests wearing sunglasses. As you open the door you bow your head a little and slightly lift the ball of the foot closest to the car; the subtleties of servitude.
The ‘master’ client is sat behind the passenger seat. Once onboard, you make eye-contact with them in the rear view mirror to check they’re at ease and ready to roll, and then you flip the mirror for their privacy. At this point came an obvious question: What is the etiquette if the client is hoovering lines of cocaine off the bespoke marquetry? Try not to spill any, came the reply.
Smooth driving is key. Anticipate everything. No lurching, no rocking, early on the brakes, light on the throttle. The tick-tick-tick of the indicator can be disturbing, so never signal for more than three ticks. And always maintain space between the cars around for, as Andi is keen to impart, this car is always on stage. Every journey must be perfect and majestic, just like the Rolls itself.