Porsche Panamera Sport Turismo
Transporting $14 million worth of bullion through London. In Porsches. Angus Mackenzie
A low, leaden sky shrouds distant office blocks, and wintry rain threatens to escalate into snow. We’re standing outside a nondescript building in a nondescript industrial park in East London, looking at three Porsche Panamera Sport Turismos parked in a small compound. There’s military-spec fencing all around, and strategically placed cameras stare balefully back at us. Police motorcycle outriders are parked in formation at the end of the street.
The security here is real—and for good reason. We are all about to transport $14 million worth of gold bars 12 miles through the streets of central London. In these Porsches.
London bullion merchant Baird & Co. buys and sells gold, along with platinum, palladium, rhodium, silver, and other precious metals. It refines gold, too, turning hundreds of millions of dollars of the precious metal into 99.99 percent pure “market bars.” Market bars are a standard size that’s used for serious gold traders and investors. About 10 inches long, 3 inches wide, and an inch and a half deep, each glittering brick weighs just over 27.5 pounds and is worth about $580,000. There are eight of them packed neatly in two sealed wooden crates in each Sport Turismo.
That’s $4.6 million worth of junk in each Porsche’s trunk.
OK, transporting 24 gold market bars across London in a convoy of shiny new Panamera Sport Turismos is a bit of a stunt: Baird & Co. has just opened a new vault in Hatton Garden—the heart of London’s gold and diamond trade since the 1800s—and we’re making the first bullion delivery to it from the company’s gold refinery. But Sgt. Mark Blake, the London Metropolitan Police officer heading the motorcycle outrider squad, is deadly serious during the briefing: “Keep it tight,” he says of convoy discipline. “And if we go, you all go.”
We’re also advised to not attempt to defend the cargo in the event of an attack. “That’s what insurance is for,” convoy
organizer Ben Samuelson says cheerily, to nervous laughs among the drivers. Blake doesn’t smile.
I’m sharing one of the Porsches with Head 2 Head and Ignition co-host Jethro Bovingdon, who’s along for the ride on behalf of our sister publication, Automobile. Having attended the launch of the Panamera Turbo S E-hybrid Sport Turismo in Spain last year, I’ve already had plenty of miles in Porsche’s upscale wagon-type thingy. Jethro has yet to drive one, however, so I offer him the wheel. I’ll ride shotgun, radio in hand, watching for bad guys.
Actually, that’s not true: Sitting behind me is a polite man from the Brinks armored car company who we’ll just call ... the man from Brinks. He’ll be watching for bad guys. I don’t feel the need to ask
the man from Brinks if he’s carrying a gun, though, because I figure we’re hiding in plain sight. Bad guys bent on a bullion heist would be looking for a convoy of lumbering armored cars, not a trio of Porsches. Wouldn’t they?
It’s a Sunday morning, so traffic is light by London standards. We head west, the broad reach of the River Thames to our left as we dash through London’s Docklands district. Cars dive-bombing you through traffic circles? Motorcycles sneaking up the blind side? Late braking to avoid running a red light? Such things don’t exist inside the convoy cordon, as the police outriders scoot around us, blue lights flashing, to block junctions, shoo off interlopers, and prevent choke points, all to keep the convoy rolling. This is how heads of state commute. You could get used to it.
A city 2,000 years in the making, London is a mass of contrasts and contradictions, constantly reinventing itself. We cross the Thames at Tower Bridge. The Tower of London marks the eastern edge of what was Roman-ruled London more than a millennium ago. Beyond it reside the stacks of glittering steel and glass 21st century skyscrapers. We head west along the south bank of the river, working our way through a maze of what were once some of London’s dirtiest, most dangerous streets but are now packed with trendy bars and restaurants and markets.
Our original plan was to cross back to the north side of the Thames at Blackfriars Bridge to bring us quickly and easily to Hatton Garden and Baird & Co.’s new vault. But Tom Cruise is using it. Well, the people filming Cruise’s latest Mission: Impossible movie are using it. Improvisation is key in the security business, so we head farther west to cross Waterloo Bridge before cutting back east past the looming presence of St. Paul’s Cathedral and jinking north.
We roll down Hatton Garden, past dozens of glittering jewelry shops and through a security cordon before stopping
Bad guys bent on a bullion heist wouldn’t be looking for a trio of Porsche Panameras. Would they?
right outside Baird & Co.’s front door. (What, no secret passage?) Shrugging off the anti-climax, Jethro pops the hatch, and our precious cargo is quickly unloaded and taken inside. Job done.
We already knew the lavishly equipped, beautifully finished Panamera Sport Turismo is fast and comfortable. Now we can tell you, with absolute authority, that the air suspension effortlessly copes with a 220-pound load in the trunk. And it only took a small fortune to find out. n
TRANSPORTING $14 MILLION WORTH OF BULLION THROUGH LONDON. IN PORSCHES.
GOLDEN GRINS Angus Mackenzie and Motor Trend Ondemand host Jethro Bovingdon heft more than a million bucks worth of precious metal between them. Out of shot: watchful security guards ensuring they don’t make a dash for the door.
CONVOY Who needs armored cars for a bullion run when you can have Porsche Panameras? And a police escort.
STEALTH Just three Porsche Panameras crossing London’s Tower Bridge with $14 million.