Monthly Archives: February 2014

Super-rich splash out on London’s luxury homes and costly cars

Deirdre Hipwell, The Times February 3 2014

If buying a luxury home and parking a Mercedes outside the front door is the ultimate sign of success, then business is booming again for the residents of the top neighbourhoods in London.

Research by Savills shows that the resurgence in the economy and the accumulation of wealth among the world’s super-rich have led to large increases in the purchases of luxury homes and cars.

The property consultant said that, in the year to October, there were 254,053 new registrations of Mercedes, BMW and Lexus cars — vehicles that range in price from £27,200 to £73,413. This reflects a 12 per cent rise on the previous period and surpasses the pre-crisis peak in May 2008, when there were 227,728 registrations.

Savills, using data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, added that sales were also rising at the top end of the car market. New registrations of Aston Martins, Bentleys and Porsches rose by 3 per cent to reach 10,400 last year, compared with a low of 6,000 during the recession.

The listing price of a Bentley Continental Supersports Convertible is £182,100, which is 74 per cent of the average price of a British home and equivalent to an 80 sq ft parcel of land in Mayfair. An Aston Martin DB9 V12 is not far behind at £143,080, 490 per cent higher than the average house deposit by a first-time buyer.

While luxury car sales have been rising, house sales in Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster, Camden and Hammersmith & Fulham — four of the capital’s top neighbourhoods — jumped by 10 per cent to 11,500 transactions during the same period. Cash buyers of homes overall rose by 15 per cent last year to reach 372,077 transactions, although this is still some way off the peak of 436,533 in August 2007.

Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, said: “The two major purchases most people will make is a car and a house and what we can see here is there are some people that can afford to make these purchases relatively easily and, in some cases, entirely in cash.”


Sunbeam engine

Letter to The Times, February 3 2014.

‘The 350 HP Sunbeam Record Breaker was not fitted with a Manitou aircraft engine but with a purpose-designed engine.’

Sir, Your report on the National Motor Museum’s ceremonial firing-up of the 350 HP Sunbeam Record Breaker (Jan 30) was not entirely accurate. The car was not fitted with a Manitou aircraft engine but with a purpose-designed engine. This was emphatically pointed out to me in the 1970s by a Mr James who had joined the Sunbeam company in 1912 and worked on the development of the original Land Speed Record (LSR) car.

A fundamental difference lies in the valve layout: the LSR engine has three per cylinder whereas a Manitou had four. The car engine owes much of its parentage to the dangerously unsuccessful Sunbeam Arab crudely cribbed from the Hispano-Suiza aero-engine. Sunbeam had provided aero-engines in the Great War, mainly to the Admiralty, and had specialist experience and unsold parts at the close of hostilities — it would have drawn on both resources for the car.

Ian Walker

(Editor, Sunbeam, Talbot, Darracq Register Newsletter)
Datchworth, Herts


Welsh fare worst from rail services

The Times, December 8 2013

There are “huge disparities” in the quality of train services in different parts of Britain, according to a report.

Services are best in London, southeast England, northwest England, the West Midlands and Scotland, says the report from Credo, a business consultancy, and the Campaign for Better Transport .

However, rail services in Wales, eastern England and northeast England perform much less well.

Even though services in London are well used and have benefited from major investment, passenger satisfaction “is hindered by concern about cost and overcrowding”, the report says.

It adds that there are improvements to be made everywhere, with services in Wales, for example, being less well-used and being less accessible than in other regions, as well as suffering low passenger satisfaction levels.

The report also says that eastern and northeast England “have relatively sparse rail networks, making services inaccessible to many people”.

Stephen Joseph, the chief executive of the campaign, said: “The research exposes the huge disparities in the quality of train services across the country. Importantly, it suggests the answer is to give local administrations more control over their rail networks.”

Matt Lovering, transport practice director at Credo, said: “The research highlights important issues for rail right across the country.”

Peter Wilkinson, franchising director at the Department for Transport, said: “Credo’s study raises important issues about the relative performance of the rail industry across the UK. There are challenges for all regions in improving the performance of our railways.”

A spokesman for the Rail Delivery Group, which speaks for the railway industry, said: “While there is always room for improvement, rail passengers are travelling on services that are unrecognisably better when compared to 15 years ago.”