Rolls-Royce’s iconic flying lady bonnet ornament is depicted in an original Arabic artwork
And we speak to the carmaker's Bespoke lead designer about what goes into making unique RRs
Abu Dhabi Motors has, on multiple occasions in the past, laid claim to being the best-selling Rolls-Royce dealership in the world, and now it is using such clout to commission a range of unique Black Badge models.
The Sportive Bespoke collection comprises 12 one-off cars, with a combination of single-tone and two-tone paintjobs available across the Black Badge incarnations of the Wraith and Dawn.
The four colourschemes of the new RRs, which are due to land in the Emirates later this year, are largely as bright as the UAE sunshine, inside and out, while the carbon-fibre wheels embellished with pinstripes.
They were previewed at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi, where Debonair also had the chance to take the "regular" Black Badge models on track – specifically, in our case, the Wraith and Dawn.
Not that there is much "regular" about these sporty stunners, with both boasting in the region of 600hp each.
Rolls-Royce Bespoke's lead designer Michael Bryden talks one-off models
Can you give us a rough overview of how the Bespoke process works, from initial contact through to delivery? How much back and forth is there between customers and RR?
We endeavour to welcome patrons to the home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, West Sussex, where each and every Rolls-Royce is handmade. Here, patrons meet with a member of our Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collective who develop an understanding of the customer’s interests, lifestyle and creative wishes. Customers are introduced to a wide selection of materials and hues and together with the support of the Rolls-Royce Design department, begin to shape a unique creative concept that will come to embody their motor car.
Nearly every Rolls-Royce created in 2018 was Bespoke. With that come varying levels of complexity – some patrons enjoy a "hands-on" approach and visit the plant many times during the manufacture of their motor car.
The Sweptail is probably the best-known unique RR to emerge in recent times – can you tell us how it all came about?
The Sweptail is the realisation of one customer’s coachbuilt dream. Premiered in 2017 after four years in development, the Sweptail is a compelling representation of true luxury, taking Bespoke coachbuild personalisation to new heights. It was the result of a collaboration between patron and artisan, embracing the marque’s heritage as the world’s leading coachbuilder whilst reaffirming its pinnacle position in Bespoke personalisation.
The Sweptail is the automotive equivalent of haute couture and draws on the lineage of 1920s and 1930s Rolls-Royce motor cars. The client’s vision was for a coachbuilt two-seater coupé featuring a large panoramic glass roof. The result is a contemporary masterpiece.
Is the Sweptail the most expensive model that Bespoke has ever produced?
Out of respect to our patrons, Rolls-Royce does not discuss the price of our motor cars. The Sweptail, in particular, is an entirely unique creation that is valued for its design and engineering as well as impeccable handcraftsmanship, making the car a priceless collector’s piece.
Customer discretion is presumably high on the agenda, but how many Bespoke models do you create a year and how many of these won’t ever be publicised?
Bespoke is the jewel in the Rolls-Royce crown. Indeed, nearly every motor car created in 2018 was Bespoke. Customer discretion naturally is paramount and many of the one-off creations are designed for the patron’s pleasure alone. In 2018, we created 4,107 unique motor cars, the highest annual sales in the marque’s 115-year history.
What’s the most expensive or craziest embellishment a customer has ever requested?
The Rolls-Royce Phantom sits at the apex of the luxury world and as such, is the canvas for many highly Bespoke commissions. The Gallery is a reinterpretation of the dashboard: a single piece of glass that runs the width of the motor car and offers patrons an unprecedented opportunity to commission unique works of art and design for their motor car.
Since its conception, a stainless steel, gold-plated, 3D-printed illustration of an owner’s DNA by artist Thorsten Franck, and natural iridescent feathers combined with ethically sourced jade-green abalone by Nature Squared, are just two of the offerings from the Rolls-Royce Bespoke portfolio.
One of my personal favourite Gallery interpretations is a one-off customer commission that took 18 months to develop. Together with the artist, the Bespoke Design Collective created a unique structure from solid aircraft-grade aluminium that was remastered in such extraordinary detail in order to transform this technical material into a delicate sculpture, akin to a piece of jewellery.
Are there any Bespoke elements that are automatically designated off-limits?
Saying "no" is not something we do often as we enjoy the challenge of bringing even the most complex ideas to life. However, we would never incorporate materials or engineering into the interior of the car that compromise the level of quality expected from a Rolls-Royce motor car, or indeed, if they don’t respect the strict confines of homologation.
Have there ever been any customer requests that you have vetoed or, at the very least, made you feel a bit queasy because they didn’t quite fit with RR’s stylish reputation?
The Rolls-Royce designers are not the arbiters of good taste and would never decline a customer request purely on the basis of aesthetics. The customers’ cultural background has a significant influence on their lifestyle choices as well as on their vision for the motor car, and we strive to make this cultural unicity a central element of each Bespoke commission. If we notice lack of harmony, say between the interior and the exterior chromatic, we would gladly make recommendations in that respect, but ultimately the decision lies entirely with the client.
What’s your favourite Bespoke model so far?
My favourite Bespoke project is the Phantom Zenith Collection, which marked the end of production for the Phantom VII model range. In my opinion, the Phantom Coupé is a car pre-destined to become an icon in the automotive world and a veritable collector’s piece not only due to its rarity but also due to its phenomenal aesthetic. The interior is a celebration of the car’s incredible heritage. For instance, a priceless memento of the model’s conclusion rests inside the central fascia drawer, where the car’s unique identification number was laser-engraved on a removable polished aluminium case. Within this, sits a piece of automotive history, namely a single piece of the Phantom assembly line from the home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood.
The Middle East is your main market for Bespoke – what are the most memorable cars you have worked on that have been delivered to our region?
I had the honour to work on a recent Bespoke commission from the Middle East, a very contemporary and unique Wraith for one of the marque’s most valued collectors. Intricate painted carbon fibre, visualised exclusively for this customer, adorns the fascia and the centre console. Despite the monochromatic theme, the design of the carbon fibre gives the interior a highly modern allure. For the exterior, we created a two-tone design whereby the contrast didn’t lie in the choice of different colours but in their finish. Artic white paint adorns both the main body and the bonnet, the ice finish on the latter beautifully complements the glossy execution of the former.
How large is the storeroom of unique paint, bodywork, interior trim etc that you have to keep for Bespoke customers’ cars?
The Bespoke offering at Rolls-Royce is, indeed, nothing short of impressive with a palette of 44.000 different paints alone, not to mention the possibilities for leather and wood. For example, when a customer requests a paint to be made especially for their motor car, it often bears the name of the client and is safely stored in our archive in case they wish to use it again in the future.
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