‘Just another bloody boy racer,’ that’s what I am, apparently. The disgruntled gent, a long-time Mayfair resident, is less than impressed with my new wheels as he shuffles past me, head down with his brown felt hat obscuring his mutterings. I agree with him, at least about the colour, Kermit green isn’t my shade of choice but it’s a Lamborghini after all and subtlety is not in its nature.
What I have at my disposal is a factory-fresh V10 Lamborghini Huracan and I’m going undercover. A strange choice of machine for a stealth mission, no? But my 601bhp not-so-subtle steed is my ticket into London’s hyper-exclusive supercar scene made up of millionaire boy racers.
I started my day nestled in the back of a Rolls-Royce Phantom Extended Wheelbase. It’s not my normal routine – sadly – but today it’s my ride to HR Owen’s Berkley Square residence, where my Lamborghini awaits. Wafting past iconic London landmarks, the Rolls is akin to commuting in a suite at the Dorchester. The extended wheelbase measures in at 6.1 metres, which is rather excellent for stretching out in but not so clever when it comes to a three-point turn down a Mayfair backstreet. London’s ancient infrastructure, crippling congestion and parking shortage make for driving hell, so why is it such a mecca for supercars?
‘London is hugely cosmopolitan, plus it boasts some of the world’s best hotels and restaurants, together with hugely relaxed motoring laws that make it very attractive to visit,’ says Paul Woodman, CEO and founder of Lovecars.com, a supercar social networking site. ‘Not only do we have the homegrown car scene (that has been super strong for many years), we also have the likes of the Russians and Arabs visiting London, rubbing shoulders to outdo each other with the best car,’ adds Woodman. ‘To see the latest and greatest supercars you used to have to travel to Dubai or Monaco, but now London is the supercar capital of the world, no doubt.’
Like Woodman says, London has always been a mecca for high-end automobiles. Flicking through HR Owen’s sales log from 1929 is a snapshot of a golden age – a time when Rolls-Royces and Bentleys were bought by only a handful of established landed gentry and the very occasional passing traveller. How times have changed.
‘We had a 21-year-old VIP customer from the United Arab Emirates who already owned a Lamborghini Aventador – he took the Huracan for the day,’ says Abbass Zadeh, Luxury Hire manager responsible for HR Owen’s rental fleet.
He has a fleet of cars, including my Lamborghini and the Rolls Royce I arrived in, that are available to rent out for the day, week or month.
‘A lot of our clients were demanding a rental service. Say someone bought a Rolls Royce Phantom, for example. When it comes to the weekend, they might want something smaller, like a Ferrari. We can offer it to them and sort everything out. We remove the hassle… and we’ll even wrap it for them,’ he adds with a smile. ‘Wrapping’ cars, or covering them in a coloured vinyl wrap instead of re-painting them, has become the modification of choice for the millionaire boy racer. Chrome, matt and even velvet finishes have all been spotted around the city – ‘it’s become a big business,’ says Abbass.
The infamous Sloan Street ‘Fur-rari’ 599 made headlines in 2013 for its velvet wrap, as filmed by serial supercar spotter Shmee150
Out on the streets in my green machine and the top 202mph speed seems a little pointless. I’ll be lucky if I touch 30mph. The traffic’s slow going but for once I don’t care. I’m encased in a £181,000 carbonfibre and aluminium shell with a weapons-grade power plant throbbing behind my head. It’s eerily easy to drive – a feature of many modern, high-end cars as they’re aimed at a younger, less-experienced market. It’s helpful around town but misleading as to the car’s true potential, as one red-faced Lambo driver found out last year.
After touring the back streets of Mayfair and Chelsea, I’m less than an hour in and already I’ve accrued a fan base, albeit a small one. Two amateur supercar spotters are shadowing me, one of them eagerly snapping away on a DSLR while the other videos my traffic light take-off on his phone.
‘With the social media age we’re in, it’s easy to upload a picture on a site like Lovecars.com and have it broadcasted to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people, instantly,’ says Woodman.
Rolling past Harrods at no more than a creep, a passing pedestrian taps on the window, peers through and gives me the thumbs up accompanied by, ‘brumm, brummm!’ He doesn’t speak much English, that much is clear, but the language of supercars is universal. Into neutral and a couple of blips on the accelerator in ‘Corse’ mode leaves him grinning like a Cheshire cat while he chews down a plume of super unleaded. He’s ecstatic.
While these cars, and London’s supercar scene in general, divide opinion, there’s no getting away from the fact that they add a certain character to the city’s streets or, at the very least, make the people smile. They fuel fan bases and even businesses like Woodman’s. To others, like my gentleman friend in Mayfair, they are loud, flashy and darn right dangerous. But they are, above all, a mobile representation of London’s thriving luxury sector and an indication of the vast wealth the city has managed to attract. Sure, money doesn’t make you happy, I’d never say that, but when was the last time you honestly saw someone look miserable behind the wheel of a Lamborghini?
(Photography: Kit Blakiston Houston)