Rolls-Royce enjoyed its second-best sales year in 2015, building 3,785 cars. Despite a six per cent drop on 2014’s total, Rolls claims that a record number of customers specified some sort of customisation from the Bespoke department last year.
Rolls often releases images of the more comprehensively bespoked cars that roll through the Goodwood factory’s gates. We’ve got two of the latest here, both extended wheelbase Phantoms.
The red car, dubbed Sacred Fire, was apparently inspired by Vietnamese culture, where fire is the national symbol. It also carries a motif of the Dong Son Bronze Drum, an icon of Vietnamese history.
The white car, meanwhile, is owned bedding magnate Michael Fux, whose jade green Wraith we saw last year. Though it looks like a wedding car from the outside, the interior is the same, err, unique colour as that in the aforementioned Wraith.
Even when I question the owner’s taste – which I do, frequently – I’m always impressed by the skill of the craftsmen who realise the often wacky ideas presented to them. And that Rolls is able to come up with a high-quality leather the same colour as a spearmint-flavour Trebor Soft Mint.
The trouble is, though, that all an owner can do with their ‘bespoke’ Roller is fiddle. One-off colour combinations, exotic veneers and high-tech extras are all well and good, but they don’t change the fundamental design of the car. Heavy regulation and standardised production mean making even a small change to a car’s sheetmetal can have massive time, cost and legal implications.
It wasn’t always like this. Until the Silver Dawn was introduced in the late Forties, all Rolls-Royce – and every other high-end manufacturer – sold was a bare chassis that the owner then took to their preferred coachbuilder to be bodied. That system led to some glorious creations.
Such as the blue car pictured here which is, I think, the single most beautiful Rolls ever made. It’s a 1932 Phantom II Continental that was originally bought by the then-Prince of Nepal who passed it to French coachbuilder Figoni & Falaschi (it’s both the biggest car they ever tackled and the only Roller).
Figoni & Falaschi were the absolute masters of Art Deco car styling and this Phantom is a true masterpiece. The proportions are spot on and the detailing is exquisite, inside and out. Just last year, it won Most Elegant Closed Car at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, about the highest award this kind of car can get.
The Phantom is currently on the market with the Blackhawk Collection in California. I don’t know what the asking price is, but wouldn’t be surprised if you could buy three or four brand-new bespoke Phantoms for the same money.
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By Only Motors