Grace Kelly’s last scene

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In Monaco there is a great love for the car. His Monte Carlo Rally or the Grand Prix are obvious examples of this. Rainiero de Monaco is no stranger to this sensibility for the motor, a hobby that even leads him to participate in some competitions, or to have a collection of classics that he began to gather in the late 1950s with models from Hispano Suiza, Rolls, Facel Vega , Lincoln, Packard, Ferrari, Renault…., And that today is exposed to the public.

His wife Grace is not that passionate, far from it, and even from an accident in the seventies, usually has a driver driving His Serene Highness’s personal car, a very British Rover P6 3500.

It is a model with a strong personality, conceived two decades earlier. The Drakkar firm presents the P6 2000 in October 1963. His style, due to David Bache, immediately draws attention with its high flanks or its position and indicator lights located at the ends of the front wings, in forward position. What is not in sight is not without interest either, with a central bearing cell, a kind of skeleton into which the different body panels are screwed.

It is noticed some inspiration from the Citroën DS something Rover has never hidden, but the British sedan also has a strong personality of its own. The suspension uses horizontal springs at the front and a De Dion bridge with coil springs at the rear. Braking is entrusted to four discs, the two rear ones located on board to reduce the unsprung mass. It is without doubt a car that leaves many of its rivals behind. The engine, a four-cylinder 2000 cc with aluminum cylinder head and overhead camshafts, is nevertheless criticized by many specialized journalists as it is somewhat lacking in power (91 hp) and torque. The brand wants to fix things a bit and in March 1966 it equips it with two carburettors in the TC version that develops 110 hp of power.

But it will be the 3500 version that will give the cards of nobility to this model. Presented in 1968, this P6 is equipped with a 146 hp V8 engine (the same that will mount the Range Rover at its birth in 1970) associated with a Borg-Warner automatic transmission that was highly praised at the time. It reached 190 km / h of top speed and had an acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h in less than 10.5 seconds. The version with manual transmission arrives in 1971 and benefits from an increase in power, reaching 152 hp. It also offers more brilliant performance by reducing acceleration from 0 to 100 km / h by 1.5 seconds and increasing top speed to 200 km / h, figures not very common at the time for a family saloon.

At the wheel

The interior of the P6 is very British, with the classic mix of leather and wood. The lower part of the dashboard is striking, highly coated and which protected, for the time, quite well in the event of a hit. The seats are comfortable: it is actually a four-seater since the rear seats, due to their shape, could only accommodate two occupants. The luggage compartment, between which the fuel tank is behind the rear seats and the spare wheel takes up a lot of space, offers little volume: this is why there were users who chose to carry the spare wheel on the boot lid, in a suitable support hoc.

The 8 cylinder in V stands out for its softness and silence operating, a silence that characterized the whole car as both the significant rolling and aerodynamic noises had been practically eliminated. The performance was only slightly better than that of an Alfa Romeo 1750, which had almost half the displacement. And it is that the appeal of the Rover lay more on a soft and progressive response than on rabid, that is, its personality rested more on its good education than on its character. But in any case it allowed him to maintain very good averages: it was said then that it was easy to travel at a cruising speed of 160 km / h with the P6 3500. In terms of consumption it was around 14 liters per 100 kilometers.

The steering, without power assistance, was quite heavy when parking: it was one of the black spots. On the contrary, the suspensions erased any unevenness in the asphalt and made the 3500 an extraordinarily comfortable car. In terms of stability, the good mass distribution worked in its favor and the only one but it was a certain rocking in a straight line from 150 km / h. As for the brakes, although it was a bit difficult to dose the power, they were effective.

Design and character made the new 3500 version become a complete success which boosted sales of the P6. This would force Bernard Jackman, CEO of Rover-Triumph, to run the chains day and night to increase production from 650 to 850 units. Benefiting from slight tweaks over the years, the career of the P6 salesman (with a 2.2-liter entry-level model arriving in 1973) will continue through 1977, with 323,000 units built in total. And one of those units arrived at the Palace of Monaco.

The accident

On September 13, 1982, Her Serene Highness Princess Grace of Monaco (Grace Kelly for moviegoers) leaves her summer home “Roc Angel” in La Turbie, at the wheel of her Rover P6 3500. She is accompanied by her daughter Estefanía. The car faces the road to La Corniche, narrow and full of curves. …

It is not a road that Grace Kelly is unfamiliar with. Years ago, in 1955, in the same frame he filmed with Cary Grant in a Sunbeam Alpine Mk III a scene from the movie “To Catch a Thief” (“Catch a thief”, in Spain).

Suddenly, before the incredulous gaze of a trucker, the English saloon instead of taking one of the curves of the twisted route, goes straight out and rushes through a cut. They are no less than 50 meters of fall. Neither of its two occupants wears a belt. The car appears wrecked. Grace is unconscious in the back seat. Estefanía, who suffers several injuries, will exit through the driver’s door.

Grace, after being admitted to the clinic that bore her own name, is diagnosed with a double stroke and everything seems to indicate that the first would have suffered just before the accident. Faced with the impossibility of her recovery, she will be disconnected two days after life support.

And that’s where speculation began, some pointing to a brake problem. The Rover, which had been taken to the Grimaldi palace, was analyzed by Rover technicians who they found no fault. In 2012, in an interview with Paris-Match, Estefanía pointed out that she was not driving, that she had left through the driver’s door because the right hand was smashed, and that her mother, before turning off the road, had shouted that “the car does not brake »A technical fault? Was the driver wrong by stepping on the accelerator instead of the brake? Was it really a stroke?

The secret may lie at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea where the green Rover P6 3500, which the press of a junkyard has turned into a bucket, would be thrown. Definitely a Hitchcock-worthy movie ending.

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