The luxury car world is all about bespoke at the moment. After all, who would pay more than half a million dollars on a car if someone else can walk in off the street and buy one exactly the same? And just what can be done with enough time, money and a good idea? We sat down with Michael Bryden, Lead Designer for Rolls-Royce Bespoke, to find out.
We've talked about this before, but the array of choices in modern luxury cars is dazzling. Beyond the standard spectrum of colors, trim materials and stitching types, customers are able to develop a finish specific to their car. Nothing is off the table, with the swatches on show at the new Rolls-Royce showroom on Swan St in Melbourne, Australia ranging from subtle blacks and blues, all the way to soft pinks and arresting oranges.
"Working with the paint is fascinating," says Michael Bryden. "There's an incredible level of effect we can now achieve on our paints. We've recently done a lot of development on surface finish area, so you can go beyond just a color. The Zenith car has glass in the clear coat so that it sparkles. From a distance it looks like a solid color, then when you see it close up and under some light it sparkles... [paint] is a great thing to work with, because you can really make the bodywork and coachwork stand out."
When Bryden mentions the Zenith, he's talking about one the special Phantoms created to celebrate the end of a 14 year production run. The car on show in Melbourne is number 35 of 50, and (among other special touches) includes the optional champagne picnic basket in the trunk. It also really does sparkle under showroom lights, but in a very different way to a regular metallic finish.
Paint isn't the only area open for customization, although it is one of the most common. The interior doesn't need to be trimmed in leather, it could be finished in silk or cloth, and the large design piece adorning the dashboard could be used to celebrate a love of music, or classic ships. Elaborate wood might not be to everyone's tastes, but if you've got enough cash the sky really is the limit when it comes to materials.
Personalizing a car from the ground up isn't the work of a moment. Although a surprising number of customers walk in off the street and "impulse buy" their Rolls, those who want something truly unique are willing to wait for it to be created. Given the personal nature of each project, and the staggering pricetag associated with any Roller, the company spends a lot of time getting to know its customers.
"We will sit personally with customers and work through their aspirations," Bryden explains. "We might spend 10 percent of the time with them talking about the actual car, and ninety percent talking about everything else – about their lifestyle, where they're going to use the car, what they like and what they don't like."
Having seen off the current Phantom with the Zenith, the designers responsible for bespoke Rolls-Royce creations have turned their attention to the new Phantom, set to launch later this year. Details about the Project Cullinan 4WD set to follow in 2019 are thin on the ground, but Bryden says his team has already started looking at ways to make individual cars stand out. We're looking forward to seeing them when they arrive.
In the meantime, have a stroll through our gallery to see some bespoke options, together with a few examples of Rolls-Royce finery.
Rolls-Royce Melbourne is located at 340 Swan St, Richmond. If you're into window shopping, there are few better places to stand and gawp at gorgeous British luxury limos.