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Friday, July 30, 2010

You bought Harrods for £1.5bn? Well, that's very nice sir... but we're still clamping you!

Looking on the bright side, at least the owners won't have much trouble stumping up the parking fine.

But even when you've just bought Harrods for £1.5billion, and the cars are among the fastest and most exclusive in the world, getting them clamped is still a bit of an inconvenience.

The uniquely liveried supercars belong to the Qatari royal family, which bought the flagship store three months ago. On the left is a Lamborghini Murcielago LP670-4 SuperVeloce, worth £350,000. In front of it is a bespoke specification Koenigsegg CCXR, one of only six in the world and worth a staggering £1.2million.

Back home on the open highways and expressways around Qatar, either car could still fall victim to speed cameras (providing, that is, the cameras can register top speeds in excess of 200mph). But anyone who has ever nipped into Harrods for a few minutes could have told them that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea shows no mercy - or discrimination - towards parking regulation breaches in the cramped, crowded streets that surround it.

Hence, two large yellow triangles rather spoiled the sleek lines of the fabulously rare cars when clampers contracted by the council spotted them driverless and illegally parked. Within minutes, they made sure the cars were going nowhere fast. That set in train the universally familiar hassle of paying a release fee (£70), coughing up a fine (between £40 and £120, with a reduction for prompt payers), and sorting out the paperwork.  Hopefully none of the wheels was damaged during the clamping operation - the Koenigsegg's are made of carbon-magnesium and cost £3,000 each. Nor was the driver obliged to hand over the key. A diamond encrusted option is available for £36,000.

Shoppers and tourists craned for a peek at the spectacle as it unfolded in the heart of Knightsbridge. The council, which clamped 8,883 vehicles in the borough last year, declined to comment specifically on the case, as did Harrods.

The Koenigsegg is built to customer requirements, right down to body-contour matching seats. Potential CCXR buyers are flown to company HQ on an airbase in Sweden, where boss Christian Von Koenigsegg takes them for a spin.  Such is his confidence in the car's stability that he accelerates to 200mph and slams on the brakes - without putting his hands on the steering wheel. The Qatar version of the car is said to produce more than 1,064bhp, does 0-60mph in 2.9 seconds and has a top speed of 249mph. Petrol consumption - of less concern in the oil rich Middle East than in SW1 - is around 14mpg.

The Lamborghini has a top speed of 213mph and is capable of 0-60 in 3.2 seconds. Only 350 have been built. Both cars are finished in the Al-Thani royal family's hallmark 'baby blue' colour, although it would be unfair to have expected the clampers to know that. The family has an estimated personal wealth of £2.4billion as well as stakes in dozens of businesses around the world.

They live a playboy lifestyle and assets include a fleet of multi-million pound yachts and luxury homes in countries across the globe.  They own a string of luxury vehicles - including a one-off, 7.3litre V12 Pagani Zonda Uno. If only the drivers had taken advantage of the Harrods valet parking fee. It costs just £10 for the first hour.

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