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Bren Courts Customers at His Rolls Lot With Wine and Food and Lore

November 11, 1989|ANN CONWAY

The Scene: Race car driver Steven Bren's five-acre Newport Auto Center, where a herd of new Rolls-Royces dared Rolls owners Tuesday night to buy yet another land yacht with a six-digit price tag.

Bren, son of Irvine Co. Chairman Donald L. Bren, has made his mark on the county auto scene: After three years in business, his dealership is No. 1 in Rolls-Royce sales in the country (he sold 110 last year, hopes to sell 120 in this year).

Bren said he zips around town in a Porsche 930 turbo. But he wants to win the Indy 500 "in a car with a Bentley engine." (Rolls-Royce also whips up Bentleys.)

Bren wined and dined his customers as they ogled the new fleet. He expects to sell 20 of the dream cars in December alone.

The Buzz: Lots of talk, mostly from the salesmen, about the Rolls having a new, raised suspension. "The roll of the Rolls is gone," Bren said. "No more porpoise-ing effect." Drivers of the new Rolls have three ride options: soft, medium and hard.

Entertainment: Metal craftsman Paul Noden of Crewe, England (where Rolls-Royces are born), demonstrating "the black art," a technique wherein the rods of the steel grilles are artfully bent to appear straight. Each grille--a $4,000 item if you had to replace it--is signed by its creator. Noden confessed that he has no idea what "the black art" is. But he certainly knows that his job takes tremendous "patience and manual dexterity."

The Owners: Rolls lovers Glenda and Woody Lewis of Newport Beach were feeling a little bent out of shape. The windshield of their Rolls had recently been clobbered by a rock.

Woody absolutely adores cars. In fact, that very day he had plunked down $600 to buy an old Cadillac. "It's a real trasher," he said. "But I'll find some use for it." Woody confided that he is also the proud owner of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's 1938 Cadillac. "I'm not only a Rolls freak, I'm a Caddy freak."

The Food: El Ranchito wowed the worldly crowd with a buffet loaded with Mexican food delicacies, including a shrimp-packed Acapulco cocktail that had guests going back for thirds. A Different Touch: A crystal punch bowl brimming with margaritas. Ice-cold beer, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Perrier were also on tap.

Overheard: "I suppose they're going to raffle off that Rolls with the red velvet bow." Reply: "Oh, surrrrrrre they are."

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