Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, October 2018, The Butlers Speak

Steven FerryThe Butlers Speak

by Steven Ferry

Many Horses in these Horseless Carriages, Part I of II

This month, we examine the duties of butlers regarding horseless carriages—which have been in the landscape  ever since their introduction close to 125 years ago—a brief blip in the history of the butler, really, and yet an important element of the job now, it seems, according to those butlers and estate managers kind enough to respond to the call for information.

All those interviewed have had care of vehicles within most of their job descriptions, usually directly or sometimes through a team of chauffeurs and private mechanics, especially when the employers included car enthusiasts who owned up to thirty luxury, vintage, or specialty vehicles.

The butlers/estate manager’s duties include(d) everything from the purchasing of vehicles, to cleaning, maintenance, servicing, managing tax and insurance, and obviously, having the desired car ready at the desired place.

When it comes to managing challenges, certain vehicles, such as vintage cars and armoured vehicles, need specialized care that is not always easy to find. Run-of-the-mill vehicles for employers, on the other hand—Aston Martins, Range Rovers, Mercedes Benz, BMW’s, Cadillacs, Humvees, Maseratis, Jaguars, Porsches, Rolls Royces, Lamborghini’s, Ferraris—have dealerships available, making it important, as one butler pointed out, “To maintain a good relationship with the dealership and your point person. A local dealer of a brand is the easy solution, but for issues more complex than changing a tire or liquids, it might be better to utilize a national centre with more capabilities—such as Porsche and Audi in France.”

The same cultivation of relationships applies to valeting companies: ‘Be up front with them and brief them on any hot spots the employer has about his or her car.’ 

Another butler had similar words: “A car of great worth needs special love and attention, so finding the best people in your area is key. Keeping good records is important; again a good relationship with your dealership and or mechanic, as employers are not big on waiting too long for things to be done: Find some you can call at the eleventh hour and their response is “I’ll be right there!’”

As for advice where the rubber meets the road, one butler suggests alerts on the calendar for each vehicle registration and regular oil changes/services; contacting the manufacturer for a recommended cleaning-product list for the different surfaces and using those products; hand washing and blow drying, touching up with a soft, high quality chamois (or microfiber) for drips and door wells/trunks. She uses a permanent marker to identify each cloth’s use—windows, tires, interior, leather, and carpet—and then has a washer and dryer available to wash the cleaning cloths, washing chamois and microfiber cloths separately, as well as each cloth separately because of residue from each surface on which it is used. Check cloths for any debris to avoid scratching surfaces; replace cloths often. Last piece of advice: Apply any spray or liquid to a cloth, not directly onto a surface.

Part II will look at chauffeuring, and will include some amusing anecdotes of times with employer’s cars or chauffeuring in them. 


The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.