By Ray Massey
With a flying lady on the bonnet, its vast classical radiator and familiar contours, it looks for all the world like a Rolls-Royce.
Hop inside, and the massage seats, pure wool carpet, subdued lighting and wine cabinet add to the impression.
But the car in question could hardly be less British. It is actually a Geely GE, made in China.
Hauntingly familiar: The Geely GE, with flying lady circled, at the Shanghai show
Although Geely claims to be ‘re-inventing the classic’, it seems Rolls-Royce bosses disagree.
They are consulting lawyers after seeing this Chinese-made car audaciously displayed just feet from the classic brand’s Phantom at the Shanghai Motor Show.
‘Our colleagues in Shanghai are taking a serious look at it,’ a spokesman said. ‘Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is very protective of its brand image and takes seriously any attempt to imitate its products.
‘Rolls-Royce is currently keeping its options open and is in consultation with its legal advisers.’
The real deal: A Rolls Royce Phantom which costs £250,000 - compared to £30,000 for the Geely GE
The grille, the Flying Lady mascot, also known as the Spirit of Ecstasy, and the Rolls-Royce name and initials are specifically protected.
With its £250,000 price-tag, the original Rolls-Royce Phantom has always been the preserve of the privileged few.
But costing just £30,000, the GE, which stands for Geely Excellence, appears to offer a ‘luxurious mobile palace’ on a much tighter budget.
For your money, you get an air purifier with separate air conditioning, described as an ‘oxygen bar’, cigar storage, a refrigerator and a ‘starlight’ interior roof lining – a signal feature of the original Phantom.
Spot the difference: The original Spirit of Ecstasy on the Rolls Royce Phantom (right) and on the Geely GE (left)
Chinese car companies have a reputation for copying foreign classics – sometimes leading to legal action.
Four years ago Shuang-Huan Auto created a lookalikeof Honda’s CR-V grass-and-gravel off-roader. So incensed were Honda that they sued Shuang-Huan, which counter-sued.
Geely already has links with British icons.
It builds taxis for London under licence.
Class act: An artist's impression shows the GE's single rear 'throne' and luxurious star effect roof (above and below)
And it is one of the companies said to be considering buying out Britain’s Vauxhall and Germany’s Opel from the ailing U.S. parent company General Motors, which is on the brink of bankruptcy.
SO WILL IT FIT IN MY GARAGE?
BUILT: Goodwood, Sussex
ENGINE: Mammoth 6.75litre V12
LENGTH: 19ft 2 inches
TOP SPEED: Artificially restricted to 150mph / 0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Original 'Grecian-style' large grille. Spirit of Ecstasy mascot, also dubbed 'The Flying Lady'. Romantic 'starlight Headliner' in roof to emulate night sky. Drip dry umbrellas hidden in rear doors. 9 standard wood veneers. 44,000 different exterior colours.
Cashmere blend headliner. Lambswool rugs Special soft leather interior
THE GEELY EXCELLENCE
BUILT: Zhejiang, China
PRICE: circa £30,000
ENGINE: 3.5litre V6
LENGTH: 17ft 6 inches.
TOP SPEED: 110mph (estimated) 0-62mph: 10 seconds (estimate)
Romantic 'starlight Headliner' in roof to emulate night sky. Glass interior divider
Pure wool carpet. 'Six star' safety. Cigar store. Refrigerator. Wine cabinet