by Herb Denenberg
Ed. Note: The late Herb Denenberg (1929-2010) was probably best known by Philadelphia area residents for “Denenberg’s Dump,” where he would dispatch defective or useless products during his tenure as the consumer reporter for the Channel 10 news organization. Denenberg, one of the greatest consumer advocates this country has ever known and a fearless exposer of corruption and fakery in both the corporate and political worlds, wrote this article for me 20 years ago for another newspaper. I uncovered it almost by accident when looking for Christmas story ideas and concluded that this article is just as relevant today as it was when Herb wrote it two decades ago:
Folks, you’ve already seen my strange viewpoint on holiday gifts. My list of gifts to give friends and family members is odd enough to include smoke detectors, tire gauges, first-aid kits, child-safety seats and a wild assortment of safety items.
So I wanted to see what a more imaginative and better-financed mind would come up with for Christmas and other holidays. To do that, I invested $6 to buy an issue of the Robb Report, a magazine that writes “for the affluent lifestyle.” The cover of that magazine is graced with a $261,000 bright red Bentley Continental R Car (the sister car of the Rolls-Royce), carrying a Christmas tree tied to its roof.
That cover immediately told me the editors of the Robb Report aren’t playing with a full deck and are a little leaky in the brain area. Would you tie a scratchy Christmas tree onto the top of a $261,000 car? Each scratch would probably cost you $1,000 to fix, which is no way to welcome the Christmas season.
But I wanted more hard evidence before I pronounced judgment on the Robb Report. I turned inside the magazine and found the Bentley was one of Robb’s recommended ultimate gifts and favorite things. Robb says, “Some of these gifts that appear here were chosen strictly for fun, but the majority of the items are practical as well as unique, befitting the man or woman who have everything.”
You wouldn’t spend $261,000 on a car “strictly for fun,” so this Bentley must be one of the gifts that are practical and unique. How practical and unique? I read the Robb Report’s description of the Bentley. It spells out the special features of the Bentley. They include a driver’s-side airbag only.
Why would anyone spend $261,000 for a car that doesn’t have dual airbags, for both passenger and driver?
I’d rather buy a Ford Taurus or Crown Victoria for $20,000 with dual airbags, than a $261,000 Bentley with the driver’s-side airbag only. If you’re that man who has everything, you better have airbags for your passenger as well.
What else does the $261,000 Bentley have that might attract the man who has everything? The Robb Report says it can “whisk along at 145 miles per hour (mph), making it the fastest Bentley ever produced.”
If I’m looking for speed and not worried about money, I’d buy the Lamborghini Diablo, which will go 202 mph and will cost only $239,000. If I want both safety and speed, I’d buy the big 500SL Mercedes, with dual airbags, more safety features than you can count and a top speed of 155 mph. That will only cost a mere $66,000. (And who cannot afford that?) Or how about a Pontiac Bonneville with dual airbags for about $25,000. Even a newspaper editor can afford one of those.
If speed is your thing, there are more than 27 cars faster than the Bentley, including every Corvette, Lamborghini, Lexus, and most Porsches. But then there’s another feature of the Bentley. It accelerates from 0 to 60 in 6.6 seconds, but if that’s your thing, why not get the Porsche Ruf 911 CTR for only $223,000? It will get you to 60 mph in only 3.9 seconds. Think of all the time you’ll save with the extra 2.7 seconds. If that doesn’t strike your fancy, there are more than 13 other cars that will beat the Bentley’s 6.6 seconds, including the Toyota MR2 Turbo and the Pontiac Trans Am. Hey, Pontiac does really build excitement.
P.S. If you’re really going to buy a car for the man who has everything, try the Ferrari F40 at only $415,000. I don’t know about the car, but the price and bragging rights would be catnip to a reader of the Robb Report.
P.P.S. Don’t listen to me on the subject of expensive cars. I’m a guy who has only bought three new cars in my entire life — a Chevrolet Bel Air convertible (1956), a Chevy Impala (1964) and a Ford Crown Victoria (1987). But if you want to insist on buying the $261,000 Bentley Continental R car as a gift for me, I promise to send you a “thank you” card. (Not to be pushy, but I prefer the color red.) And then I’ll just use the Ford Crown Victoria to go to the supermarket and back.