Going Once For $780,000

Last weekend's Naples Winter Wine Festival charity auction saw a new 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom raise big money for at-risk kids.

Ask Jon Mason why he bid $780,000 at last weekend’s Naples Winter Wine Festival charity auction for the very first 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom ever built and he’ll tell you: “I don’t know, we only came for the lunch”.

The part-time Naples resident – he’s from Dover, Ohio where he runs his Mancan Staffing Agency and keeps his 50-car collection of classics – says he went to the auction with no real intention of buying the stunning Belladonna Purple Phantom, list price $450,000.

“All my wife Bonnie and I knew was that we were going to buy something. I love cars – prick my finger and oil would run out – so it was great we could come away with a new Rolls-Royce while supporting such a wonderful cause,” explains the soft-spoken 73-year-old.

While his classic car collection includes priceless Duesenbergs and Auburns, he’s never owned a Rolls-Royce; the Phantom will be his first. He plans to keep it at his home in Naples.

What he bought was actually pretty special. This was the first all-new 2018 Rolls-Royce Phantom to come off the production line in Goodwood, England. In keeping with the Winter Wine Festival theme, it’s painted in the deepest shade of wine red that Rolls calls Belladonna Purple. Inside, it’s all acres of Arctic White leather with contrasting purple accents.

This isn’t the first car that Rolls-Royce has given to the auction. Since 2004 it has donated six cars – including the new Phantom -that have collectively raised more than $5.8 million, with proceeds benefitting the Naples Children and Education Foundation.

Back in 2007, a Phantom Drophead Coupe was snapped-up for a staggering $2 million. A new Rolls Wraith coupe raised $750,000 when it was auctioned in 2014, with a new Rolls Dawn convertible fetching $750,000 in 2016.

“The Naples Winter Wine Festival is the perfect cause for Rolls-Royce to support. It is a top-notch event and one that gives us the opportunity to participate in the lives of our clientele,” explains Gerry Spahn, Head of Corporate Communications for Americas, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

So what is Jon Mason’s new Phantom like to drive? In one word ‘magical’. Before last weekend’s auction, I got to spend the afternoon piloting this all-aluminum, eighth-generation Phantom around Naples, experiencing its magic carpet-like ride and hushed refinement.

What amazed me the most? That would be the reaction it received from other high-luxe car owners. Cruising serenely along Naples’ ritzy Fifth Avenue, I lost count of the number of Bentley, Ferrari, high-end Mercedes and even other Rolls owners who pointed or waved or spun their heads at the sight of this magnificent 19-foot-long, royal blue behemoth wafting along.

And waft it does. Its new twin-turbocharged V12 under the hood barely utters a whisper, silenced by the 286 pounds of sound-deadening foam and felt-padding packed on the insides of the bodyshell.

Every window is double-glazed, and there’s a double-skin of alloy within the floor. Rolls also worked with Continental to develop so-called ‘Silent-Seal’ tires incorporating a never-before interior layer of rumble-suppressing foam.

Overall, the new Phantom is said to be 60 decibels quieter at 60mph than the previous model. Want to know what it feels like to drive down the road while inside a padded cell wearing Bose noise-cancelling headphones? Here’s your chance.

The suspension is also new featuring the latest self-leveling air technology to deliver the smoothest, cushiest ride of any car to roll on four wheels. There are even cameras mounted in the windshield that scan the road ahead, searching out lumps, bumps and potholes, and adjusting the suspension to compensate. It’s like floating on a cloud.

And new four-wheel steering, where the rear wheels turn in the opposite direction to the fronts, increases the car’s maneuverability and tightens the turning radius.  Yes, this new Phantom is a big car, but somehow it doesn’t drive big.

Inside this automotive cocoon you sit on throne-like front seats surrounded by the very finest, hand-crafted materials. As you’d expect, every non-glass surface is covered in the finest woods, hides, or knee-deep carpeting. If you loved the previous car’s shimmery Starlight Headliner, this new car has a bigger, more shimmery version.

Jon and Bonnie Mason are going to thoroughly enjoy their new Phantom. But as for the magnificent 6-liter engraved bottle of ERA red donated by Napa’s Alpha Omega winery, along with six bottles of its famous Cabernet Sauvignon, Mr. Mason shrugs his shoulders: “It’s a little wasted on me. I don’t drink.”

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