A Bugatti parked outside Harrods
It first started in 2010. Fluorescent cars began appearing in Knightsbridge – shiny, ostentatious vehicles that cost more than Lil Kim’s face and do 0 to 60 in the same time it takes any cop hanging out on Exhibition Road to issue them a speeding ticket. They were Arab super cars, shipped over to London by their owners as they escaped the face-dissolving heat of summer at home, much to the disappointment of any residents who aren't fans of incredibly loud cars buzzing past their homes every day.
Now, they’re here every year, bringing with them gangs of enthusiastic motorphiles – or “carparazzi”, as they’ve been clumsily dubbed. This lot stand around, take photos of the cars and occasionally get to sit in the driver’s seat if the owner happens to come back and feel generous enough to let the plebeian masses sully the custom leather interiors with their nylon shorts and non-Japanese denim.
This year’s arrivals include a gold-plated Range Rover, a six-wheeled Mercedes and a pink Rolls Royce. Why you’d need six wheels to drive around a well-maintained city is unclear. Equally puzzling is why you’d want to spend your Saturday loitering around Harrods hoping to take a picture of one. I went down to get some answers.
Corey is a 20-year-old drummer. He travelled for three hours from Lincoln to find and photograph the cars.
VICE: Hi Corey. What’s brought you out here today?
Corey: I’ve got my eyes peeled for a Lamborghini – that would make the trip worth it. I haven’t actually seen any of the super cars being driven yet, which is a shame. They’re all just parked about.
What do you make of people bringing their cars all the way over to London?
I think it’s cool. It’s a good opportunity for young lads to come out and see what they can work up to.
You picture yourself owning one of these for yourself at some point?
Oh yeah. I think it’s everyone’s dream to be able to drive round in cars like these.
How do you reckon you can achieve that?
That’s a tough question. I want to get into the police and work my way up from there. I suppose I’d have to get pretty high up to manage that, though.
How would you supe-up your ride?
I’d stick a big exhaust on it straight away. I’d want it as loud as possible, so that it screamed. I think half of the appeal of these cars is the noise. They’ve got some sort of awe about them. When you see people driving these around you think, 'Well, that guy's obviously worked hard enough to be able to spend £200,000 on a car.' You’ve got to say fair play to them coming out to show people. People get annoyed at the noise, but if you’ve got it you’ve got to flaunt it.
Student Gerjon, 17, was visiting London for a week from Holland
What’s been your favourite car so far, Gerjon?
Gerjon: It’s got to be the Bugatti Veyron. It’s the fastest, it’s the most powerful, it’s the most expensive. That’s what it’s all about.
Why do you think we don’t see cars like these driving around all the time?
Well, some might think they cause a lot of trouble with the speeding and the noise, but not me. I think the noise is nice, even if people round here think it’s horrible.
Do you think people look down on the flashiness?
There’s definitely some of that as well, but if you get one of these you want it in a striking colour. Like this green one. Some might think it’s tacky, but you’ve got to stand out. In the Netherlands all the super cars are grey or black, and it’s so dull and boring.
What’s the worst thing you'd do for one of these cars?
It’s not really high on my list of priorities. I don’t want to own one of these myself. Happiness comes from having a nice life and a nice family, not from owning a car. These car owners are obviously just showing off; it’s pretty useless having a super car in the middle of a city. The people who are actually passionate about cars buy them cheaper and tune them up themselves.
Matthew is a 17-year-old student from West London
How much luck have you had spotting the cars today?
Matthew: We’ve seen a McLaren MP4 so far, and an Audi R8 V10. Of the Arab ones, though, we’ve only seen a few Bentleys with chromed out windows. The McLaren’s been my favourite so far. We haven’t seen any in a while, though – we might have got a bit lost.
Have you been here in previous years?
Yeah, I’ve come out two or three times in the past. Today’s been good compared to in the past, but we still haven’t seen any of the major ones, like the Pagani or a Lamborghini.
What sets them apart from the others?
The speed and the styling. They’re very specific to those brands, and that’s what makes them worth the money.
Do you ever think a car could be too expensive?
Jeff is 28 years old and works as an operations manager for a facilities company.
Hi Jeff. What have you come down for today?
Jeff: We’ve come from Wales. Me and the boys had a big night last night; now, we’re out here because of the Arabs. We’re on the hunt for a [Mercedes] G- Wagon 6x6.
What’s the point of having six wheels?
Good question. I don’t think there is a point really, it’s just showing off. That’s the point of all these cars, really, but why not?
Is there a limit to how much you can show off?
Well, I saw the gold Range Rover on Facebook, but I’m glad I haven’t seen it in person. I’m not a fan of that. I think that’s a bit crazy, to be honest.
Why do you think we don’t see these types of cars out here all the time.
I guess it’s just a difference in class, really. We do things differently in this country; we’ve got a bit of restraint.
There's also not much point in having one of these in the middle of a city, right?
I suppose if you’ve got the money, what else are you going to do with it? I’m guessing they do their bit for charity and all that, so you’ve got to keep yourself happy as well. I can see why residents get pissed off with them razzing round, but you’ve got to think about the revenue they bring in. And, at the end of the day, it’s only a few months of the year.
Who would be your ideal driving partner?
It’s got to be Clarkson.
Really? Don't you think he’d do your head in?
After a while, yeah. But he’s driven most cars, so he could show you how everything works.
Jeremy is a Knightsbridge resident. He was less enthusiastic about the new arrivals than everyone else.
What do you make of all these cars turning up in your neighbourhood?
Jeremy: I think it’s ridiculous. It’s just all the Arabs. I don’t know why they all come here, to be honest.
I think some have homes here.
Well yeah, but they could do it somewhere else. They’ve ruined everything north of Belgrave Square. It’s all ruined.
With the noise?
No, there are just too many Arabs here. There are plenty of other places in the world where they can go and mess around.
Do you admire their cars in any way?
No, because they buy all these things in lime green or orange, or whatever, and they just look ridiculous. The thing you have to understand about Arabs is they’re all wholly uncool. My car here is a very classic Ferrari; it’s not a show off car. No flashy additions, just how it’s meant to be. But these guys don’t know how to drive, they don’t know how to dress. It’s shambolic, really.
Does it annoy you that people come down here to take photos of the cars?
I think it’s almost as sad as the people driving them. It’s a joke. The thing is, you can’t even drive these cars at more than 30mph around here. I can tell you, as someone who owns one of these cars, that it’s incredibly frustrating. I’m not going to race up and down Sloane Street like some of them do. London’s not a racetrack. If only they could see how stupid they look.
Okay then. Thanks, Jeremy!