The new “Boat Tail” is definitely not your typical Rolls-Royce, not with its wooden rear deck with stainless steel inlays that hinges open for a pop-up parasol.
The newly revealed model is a unique one-off, almost from the ground up. The Boat Tail is one of three completely customized models that will mark the debut of Rolls-Royce Coachbuild Design. That’s a new venture allowing the automaker’s most well-heeled customers collaborate in the design of a completely unique vehicle reflecting their personality, tastes, and even their hobbies.
“Rolls-Royce Coachbuild clients are intimately and personally involved at each step of the creative and engineering process,” explained Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös. “We work in harmony with the client to gain complete fluency in the nuances of their character and personality. We carefully translate these qualities into the elements with which they wish to imbue their commission.”
Rolls returns to its roots
The Coachbuild process has its roots in the earliest days of the motor industry. Through the start of World War II, it was the norm for luxury buyers to order a vehicle from manufacturers like Rolls that would provide a rolling chassis. But the actually coachwork, both body and interior, were then completed by one of a myriad of custom coachbuilders.
That included such well-known names as H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward, Le Baron and Louis Labourdette. Rolls didn’t make its own bodies until 1946. But, by the 1950s, the independent coachbuilders had all but vanished, and government safety regulations have made it difficult for them to return.
The plan Rolls announced today won’t bring back the legends of the past, nor a new generation of independent coachbuilders. Instead, the British marque will do the customizing internally through the Coachbuild Design unit.
A step beyond
Rolls has long offered buyers the option to extensively customize their vehicles, but that has largely been limited to exterior colors and various interior details, such as woods, fabrics and options like a champagne cooler or custom seat.
Coachbuild Design will take things significantly further, the new Rolls-Royce Boat Tail being the first example.
“Coachbuild provides freedom to move beyond the usual constraints,” said Alex Inness, head of the new unit. “Normally, there is a natural ceiling to Rolls-Royce Bespoke by way of the canvas. At Rolls-Royce Coachbuild we break through that ceiling, embracing the freedom of expression afforded by coachbuilding to shape a concept directly with our commissioning patrons.”
The new team spent four years working with the customer. The process came close to being a marriage, with Coachbuild all but embedded at the buyer’s home learning about their personal likes and desires, and even their personality quirks. All that was eventually used to craft a rough design that was eventually translated from pen and paper to digital rendering to final production.
It’s all in the details
While the Boat Tail starts with current Rolls underpinnings, including the brand’s beefy V-12, virtually everything else has been customized — all told about 1,800 new parts and components were used, a Rolls official told TheDetroitBureau.com.
The Boat Tail picks up some of the cues first seen in the Rolls-Royce Sweptail concept of 2017, with a rear deck of wood and inlayed stainless steel. But that’s just the start. The panel is split in the middle and cantilevers up for access — and to allow the parasol to emerge.
The body, overall, is hand painted in a gradated blue, which also has nautical connections, even the wheels finished in bright blue. Other blue hues where used within the cabin, including the leather seats, dark in front, lighter in the rear. Open-pore Caleidolegno wood, resembling the hull of a classic wooden yacht, adds to the nautical theme.
Picking up on the new owner’s love of watches, a Bovet 1822 timepiece was commissioned and a special holder was designed into the instrument panel. A special, hand-crafted box of aluminum and leather will reside in the glove box to hold one of the client’s “cherished” Montblanc pens.
More to come
The Boat Tail is just the first of three projects Coachbuild is now finishing up. Unlike the pre-War era, when every Rolls was a customized work of art, the automaker expects to be working on only a handful of such models at any given time. While no pricing was released, the cost of a Coachbuild vehicle is widely believed to be in the millions, something only the most elite of the Rolls-Royce elite could contemplate.
There also are regulatory issues to consider. While there are loopholes allowing such projects to take to the road in many countries — including the U.S. — the numbers would be severely limited, a company official explained on background.
Nonetheless, Rolls is confident that there are plenty of ultra-rich motorists who will want a true, one-off vehicle that they share with nobody else.