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Rare breeds: The limited edition luxury cars to covet

Limited-edition luxury cars are setting new standards for road-legal vehicles – but you’ll need to be quick off the mark to get your hands on one, writes David Green...

When McLaren announced its new Ultimate Series was going to be given the grand title Senna, in tribute to the late F1 world champion Ayrton, there was a collective eyebrow raised in the motor industry: it had better be good!

Now built and driven, the Senna is indeed a huge technological achievement. Its numbers set the scene: 789bhp engine (the most powerful ever in a McLaren); 2.8 seconds to 100km/h; 6.8 seconds to 200km/h. While on paper this sort of performance is not unique, I struggle to think of another car that would hold a candle to the McLaren Senna around a track. Its aero and brakes reign supreme, and the corner speed and balance are otherworldly. At the launch around the Circuito Estoril, the car was devastating. It was scarcely believable that you were driving something that had been globally homologated for the road. The Senna won’t win any beauty pageants, but it certainly lives up to the great driver’s name in its speed and performance.

That’s the good news. And the bad? It has already sold out. Welcome to the world of limited-edition vehicles. McLaren will only build 500 Sennas – and all were sold before the first production car was delivered. It’s the same story with McLaren’s next hypercar, the Speedtail. The much-vaunted successor to the legendary F1, with a price tag of over £2 million, sold out of its run of 106 cars before a computer image (pictured above) had even been released. The subterfuge behind ownership of these collectors’ cars is the stuff of a Graham Greene novel – clandestine meetings, tip-offs and rumours of favouritism abound. The sharp end of the luxury vehicle market has always played a strong limited- edition game in an effort to further distance these models from the riff-raff. Here are a few highly coveted current examples...

Audi R8 V10 RWS

Audi’s lightweight version of the R8 V10 will be limited to 999 units and is an example of taking something away to make it more exclusive. In this instance that thing is four-wheel drive, as here they’re powering only the rear wheels – interesting from a company that prides itself on its four-wheel-drive systems. Purists are always crying out for rear-wheel drive, irrespective of the scary prospect of 540bhp going through the back wheels alone. The press release informs us that it will make for “incredibly fun driving”. Where do I sign?

Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio NRING

It is not always the craftsmen peacocking: limited editions can showcase performance and production milestones, as well as luxury or designer collaborations. Alfa Romeo has its mojo back and is puffing out its chest about recent achievements. The NRING version of its Stelvio Quadrifoglio has been produced to grandstand its lap record for an SUV around the famous Nurburgring: seven minutes 51.7 seconds around the infamous “Green Hell” in a high-sided vehicle is certainly something to shout about. Only 108 examples will be available, one for each year of Alfa’s history.

Bentley Mulsanne WO Edition

Bentley’s latest offering is the Mulsanne WO Edition. A homage to the famous eight-litre Bentleys of old, each car contains a sliver of the crankshaft of founder WO Bentley’s personal 1930 car, the last he designed. Just 100 will be produced to kick-start the 2019 centenary celebrations of one of the world’s finest luxury car brands. Created by in-house coachbuilder Mulliner, it gives its craftsmen a chance to really show off their skills. Fireglow Heritage hides, Beluga Black wheels and Burr Walnut veneer marquetry – even the description of the specification drips with decadence.

Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Collection

A piece of the past for the present seems to be de rigueur: Rolls-Royce’s limited-run Silver Ghost Collection will be 35 vehicles built in tribute to the original Silver Ghost of 1904. In 1907, this car, registration AX 201, claimed a non-stop endurance record of 14,371 miles; and each of the new 2018 cars includes copper melted from the original as an insert in the base of the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament. Other unique touches include a hand-painted coach line with 100 per cent silver particles in the paint. Let’s just hope in both these instances they have left enough of the original cars for the museum archive.

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