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Rolls-Royce Hosts Ghost Preview at Collectors Mansion in Lalaland

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Rolls Royce Ghost

By Marty Bernstein

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Marty Bernstein

Question: What's an auto show without a major party? Answer: Not an auto show. Last week’s media preview of the Los Angeles Auto Show was no exception, there were a few gala events, but far less exuberant than in previous years.

There was the Mercedes party in Jay Leno’s garage; Ford held forth a real two night fiesta for the Fiesta at the landmark Hollywood Palladium; and Hyundai’s surprise guest event at a downtown LA hotel was well attended.

The most sought and coveted invitation however was for the special preview of the new Rolls-Royce Ghost at the estate of a Rolls owner and renowned car collector located near the top of Mulholland Drive the night before the show opened.

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View from Mulholland Drive

For those who may not know, Mulholland Drive is a curvy, up and down, often treacherous and certainly challenging two lane road which winds its way through the ridgeline of the Santa Monica Mountains and the Hollywood Hills dividing Beverly Hills from the San Fernando Valley. The views, any time of the day, but especially at night, of the Los Angeles basin and the San Fernando Valley, home of Universal Studios, are spectacular. Some even take your breath away … particularly on the very high-up: no guardrail sections.

As the sun was setting, I drove to the site of the evening's event with a very skilled driver, a Rolls-Royce public relations exec, in a new Phantom. Effortlessly, the big car climbed up Mulholland Drive, which may look rustic and overrun with brush, but hidden or sheltered off the road are the luxurious homes, mansions and estates of the rich and famous including Madonna, Demi Moore, Vanna White, Warren Beatty, Jack Nicholson, Pamela Anderson and, of course, Paris Hilton along with other entertainment, business and sports celebrities.

The Phantom stopped at the gated venue, the estate of Jack Corwin, our host and the founder and president of Huntington Holdings, Inc., a private merchant and investment banking firm, which specializes in arranging capital for acquisitions, and a noted collector of fine automobiles.

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Left to right: Karen VonderMullen, Ian Robertson, Ian Cameron, Jack Corwin

We joined other Rolls-Royce’s, both modern and classics, valet parked on the side of the road. A golf cart transported guests down a wide path paved with tiles and natural grass (it looked like a patterned rug) to arrive at the reception terrace.

Gleaming in the moonlight and spotlights was the crown jewel of the evening -- the new 2010 Rolls-Royce Ghost, surrounding the car was an A-list guest list of Rolls owners and select media for a very private preview.

During the canapés, champagne and cocktail hour, many guests not satisfied with just looking at the new vehicle, sat inside the new Ghost to ‘try-it-on” for size, comfort and style. Others wandered through the collection of modern exotic cars and displays of miniature vehicles housed in “amazing automobile exhibition showcases.” You can’t call them garages.

Prior to dinner, a surprise guest, Mr. Ian Robertson, the member of BMW’s Board of Management for marketing and sales and former president of Rolls-Royce Motors was introduced by Karen VonderMullen, head of corporate communications, Rolls-Royce North America. In brief remarks Robertson welcomed the guests and spoke of his love for the prestigious British brand and introduced Ian Cameron, Rolls-Royce’s chief designer as, “The designer of the new Ghost and of every single component in it, including nuts and screws.”

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Ian Cameron with RR Ghost

Cameron, a quiet, non-flamboyant auto designer was in rare form as he described the difference between a Rolls-Royce Phantom and the new smaller and less formal Ghost as, “The difference between a bespoke tuxedo and bespoke business suit. The Phantom is really positioned for its formality. The Ghost is much more informal. This is a car people say they will use on a daily basis.”

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Following the presentation, an informal buffet dinner was enjoyed in the spacious interior dining section and a terrace of the mansion. During a chat with Mr. Corwin, I asked if he had loved cars since his youth.

Nodding his head and smiling, he replied, “Yes, I’ve loved cars since I was a kid, but I don’t just collect fine motorcars, I’m a track and rally driver too. My passion for cars is matched by my love of modern architecture and design. These cars (he has 30+ in another location) are my works of art, my sculptures on display. I sit in my glass house and can look across the lawn to the glass garages holding my favorite cars.” Corwin is active in many business and charitable organizations in LA, especially a group organized by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to mentor young men and women known as After School All Stars.

His property is on the grounds and former home of Errol Flynn, an early movie leading man who was well known for his suave, debonair attitude toward leading ladies, fast cars and life. He’d have been pleased, I believe, by the Rolls-Rolls party and the exciting venue. I know I was.

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