No other man, it seems, can claim to have worked as long and as intimately with the world’s best car than Martin Oxley. He was with Rolls-Royce for 22 years and has spent the last 23 years managing the Peninsula Hotels’ fleet of Rolls-Royces.
Oxley left school at age 16 to look for work in auto manufacturing. He applied in a number of companies but settled on Royce-Royce when his father told him, “You’ll never get a better grounding than with the best car company in the world.”
From an apprenticeship, he worked his way up to a position in reception where he interfaced with the Rolls-Royce owners. Several years and a few promotions later, he became Rolls-Royce general manager for London, overseeing Rolls-Royce’s service centers, including maintaining the Rolls-Royce fleet of the British royal family.
“This meant that I was fortunate enough to meet all the family, and I attended a number of the Queen’s garden parties. One special highlight was being invited to the late Queen Mother’s birthday party at Clarence House, where I had the honor of speaking with Her Royal Highness,” he recalled.
When Rolls-Royce closed its service centers in 1995, the Peninsula Hotels Group invited Oxley to Hong Kong to manage its fleet of Rolls-Royce vehicles. Despite the distance, he accepted the job, happy to be looking after his “babies,” including four 1934 Rolls-Royce Phantom IIs. The vehicles were lovingly and painstakingly restored by Ashton Keynes Vintage Restorations in the south of England. Each of the four cars has been placed in Peninsula properties in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Paris.
“I go up there periodically to do the servicing and all that,” Oxley said.
Having been with Rolls-Royce during its tumultuous years, he’s become familiar with the strange arrangements that come with maintaining the vehicle.
“Anything before 2002 is still with the old company, which is Bentley. Rolls-Royce only purchased the name. They did not purchase the factory, staff, or parts. Anything between 1954 to 2002, the parts are supplied through Bentley. Warranty and technicians come through Bentley. Anything pre-‘54 Rolls, don’t want to know,” he quipped.
It’s hardly a hindrance for Oxley, though, as there are a number of ways around it.
“Getting parts for this old girl is sometimes easier than something like a ‘55. For our car, you start looking in little cottage industries; lots of people semi-retired and they rework old parts, like Ashton Keynes,” he explained.
Regardless of whether it’s an old or new Rolls picking up a guest, Oxley still tells his drivers the same thing: “You are the most important people in the hotel. Our drivers are the first people the guest sees. They may not be in the best frame of mind. It’s our drivers’ job that by the time they get them to the hotel, they are relaxed.”
This story originally appeared on Vault Magazine Issue 12 No 4 2013. Mr. Oxley remains the steward of the Pen's Rolls Royce fleet.