As a House of Luxury, Rolls-Royce imbues its products with meaning. A Rolls-Royce serves as a canvas onto which clients reflect their personal tastes, express ambitions and often, define legacies. The Bespoke treatment of a Rolls-Royce elegantly reflects its status as ‘the best car in the world’ while stylishly expressing the personality of its commissioning client.
Ever increasingly, clients appreciate and enjoy the marque’s Bespoke capabilities and Rolls-Royce is called upon, by its clients, to integrate itself into their lives in meaningful ways. The brand and its clients have become progressively closer and the designers, engineers and craftspeople at the Home of Rolls-Royce, a Global Centre of Luxury Manufacturing Excellence, have developed a unique fluency in interpreting the lifestyles of these remarkable women and men. This evolution of mutual confidence has resulted in ever more ambitious commissions, reaching well beyond the scope of Bespoke competencies and capacity, into the rarefied realm of coachbuilding. To fulfil these extraordinary client commissions Rolls-Royce has reached a decision to return to one of the historical roots of the marque and to initiate a distinct department within the company, Rolls-Royce Coachbuild.
Coachbuilding is a highly distilled expression of Rolls-Royce Bespoke and is reserved for those who look to move beyond existing constraints. It is based on a true commission model and represents a collaborative exploration of meaningful luxury, design and culture between the marque and its commissioning client. The results become pivotal moments in time that create a future historical legacy, advancing designs which in turn define an era, extending influence far beyond the original intended purpose of a mere means of transportation.
Rolls-Royce Coachbuild is contemporary patronage in its truest form
The discipline inherent in Rolls-Royce’s approach to coachbuilding requires elite artistic skills that do not exist elsewhere in the automotive industry. Commissioning clients demand an object that is truly transformative; an object that makes a permanent statement and sets itself apart from anything that has gone before.
In response, the marque must interrogate and deeply understand two worlds. The first is the intimately personal context of the client – their individual life-space, how they celebrate, what and who they surround themselves with, and the experiences that have defined the very best moments in these exceptional people’s lives. The second is the broader cultural context in which a Coachbuild car will exist. Here the marque explores the cultural nuances of the client, movements in architecture, couture, colour palettes, artistic tastes – even hospitality.
The Rolls-Royce Boat Tail – Craftsmanship at the highest level
In 2017, the celebrated Rolls-Royce Sweptail defined the dawn of the contemporary coachbuilding movement. It created a definitive moment that raised the awareness of a new watermark in luxury and automotive possibility, illustrating a new realm of exploitation owing to its hand-built nature. This remarkable product, which was instantly proclaimed as one of the finest intercontinental tourers in history, represented a major recalibration of possibility, and confirmed that the legacy of Rolls-Royce will be defined in collaboration with its clients.
Sweptail set a new waterline of potential and ignited a fascination among a rarefied cohort: collectors, patrons of the arts and commissioning clients of now-iconic architecture. A number of these women and men approached Rolls-Royce to discover if they too could collaborate on a unique commission, one that was even more profound – one that provided an elevated sense of curation. The marque agreed, signalling the genesis of a permanent contemporary Coachbuild department at the Home of Rolls-Royce.
Within this group, it emerged that three potential patrons shared a deep appreciation of contemporary nautical design. J-Class yachts were often referenced as points of inspiration, both for their purity of form and their requirement for hand craftsmanship at the highest level to will them into existence.
This client-led creative expression coincided with a long-held ambition of the design team at Rolls-Royce to create a contemporary expression of the Boat Tail typology, where coachbuilders would graft the hull forms of sailing boats onto the rolling chassis of a Rolls-Royce. When the idea of this design direction was proposed, the three patrons were unequivocal in their approval. And all three shared a single demand: “Show me something that I have never seen before.”
In consultation with the clients concerned, an agreement was reached whereby three cars would share a common body, but each would then be individually, highly personalised, reflecting the confluence between vision, capability and ambition of the marque and each of the individual commissioning patrons.
Rolls-Royce Boat Tail was conceived.
The first Rolls-Royce Boat Tail is a curation of exceptional thoughts
The manual techniques of coachbuilding offer new realms of design opportunity. Once the preliminary design proposal is penned by hand, the discovery of the form is enabled with a full-sized sculpture in clay, allowing hand-crafted manipulation of the expansive surfaces to perfect its shape. Throughout this process, the clients were invited to envisage the scope of the collaboration and influence its direction. Cutting-edge engineering technologies within Rolls-Royce are fused with the artistic practice of coachbuilding to exploit new possibilities. The clay sculpture is digitally remastered, from which the buck, is created on to which aluminium sheets are hammer-formed by hand.
Employing age-old individual hand skills and craft, a living canvas is created from metal –honing and optimising the aluminium body, creating a clarity of surface and continuation of line that is unable to be achieved by machine alone.
The process is akin to yacht building, easing the transference of soul into the creation. A process of hand refinement is repeated almost endlessly, without the pressure of time. Slowly, vast sheets of metal transform into the sculptural representation of Boat Tail. A truly pure form is created: uninterrupted by panel breaks, dramatic in its curvature, monolithic in scale and formed from one seemingly endless surface.
Rolls-Royce Boat Tail presents a wonderful new aesthetic for the marque
The first Rolls-Royce Boat Tail is a curation of exceptional thoughts, concepts and items, which culminate to form the clients’ perfect experience. The commissioning patrons, a globally successful couple who are highly proficient in the appointment of Rolls-Royces, truly personify connoisseurship; their luxury curation is an artform in itself. Their proposition was purposefully self-indulgent. Their desire was to create a response to a life of hard work, success achieved, and celebration required. Their Rolls-Royce Boat Tail should be joyful, a celebratory car to enjoy with their family.
Rolls-Royce Boat Tail presents a wonderful new aesthetic for the marque, balancing previously unseen levels of sculpture with discrete, sometimes playful functionality. The creation tells the romantic tale of Rolls-Royce’s history, echoing a Boat Tail design but not explicitly mimicking it, fusing an historical body type with a thoroughly contemporary design.
At nearly 5.8m long, its generosity of proportion and clarity of surface present a graceful and relaxed stance. The front profile is centred on a new treatment of Rolls-Royce’s iconic pantheon grille and lights. The grille becomes an integral part of the front end, not an applique; a freedom of design bestowed only upon models within the Coachbuild portfolio. This progressive treatment softens Rolls-Royce’s familiar formality while retaining the marque’s undeniable presence. A strong horizontal graphic with deep-set daytime running lights forms Boat Tail’s intense brow line and frames classical round headlamps, a design feature recalled from the design archives of Rolls-Royce.
An explicit architectural influence is discovered in Boat Tail’s unconventional fixed-canopy roof. Adding to the sculptural form, the sweeping roofline concludes in delicate structural elements that touch down on the rear, redolent of flying buttresses. Of course, if inclement weather is encountered while the roof is removed, a temporary tonneau is stowed for static transitory shelter.
The instrument panel dials are adorned with a decorative technique named Guilloché
The exterior of Rolls-Royce Boat Tail is swathed in a rich and complex tone of the client’s favourite colour – blue. The hue, with an overt nautical connotation, is subtle when in shadows but in sunlight, embedded metallic and crystal flakes bring a vibrant and energetic aura to the finish. To ensure the smoothest possible application when rendering the exterior, a finger was run over the definitive body line before the paint had fully dried to soften its edges. The wheels are finished in bright blue, highly polished and clear coated to add to Boat Tail’s celebratory character.
A hand-painted, gradated bonnet, a first for Rolls-Royce, rises from a comparatively subdued deeper blue which cascades onto the grille, providing a progressive but informal aesthetic and a solidity of overall volume when viewed from the front.
The interior leather reflects the bonnet’s colour tone transition with the front seats swathed in the darker blue hue, recognising Boat Tail’s driver focused intent, while the rear seats are finished in the lighter tone. A soft metallic sheen is applied to the leather to accentuate its pairing with the painted exterior while detailed stitching and piping is applied in a more intense blue inspired by the hands of the car’s timepieces. A brilliant blue is also found woven at a 55 degree angle into the technical fibre elements to be seen on the lower bodywork, precisely orientated to emulate the spill of a water’s wake.
The instrument panel dials are adorned with a decorative technique named Guilloché, more commonly perfected in the workshops of fine jewellers and watchmakers. An elegant, thin rimmed two-tone steering wheel then bears the colours of the commission.
The unique Rolls-Royce Boat Tail harbours an abundance of surprises
Such was the brief of Rolls-Royce Boat Tail’s commissioning patrons. In response and in reflection of their character, the rear deck inconspicuously houses a highly ambitious concept never seen before in the automotive world. At the press of a button, the deck opens in a sweeping butterfly gesture, to reveal an intricate and generous hosting suite. Its complex movement was inspired by cantilever concepts explored by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava.
The hosting suite creates a celebratory focal point for a shared occasion and affords ample opportunity to reveal the individuality of the clients’ tastes and desires. It harbours an abundance of surprises executed to the highest quality. Expressed in a celebratory fashion, subverting the very notion of the motor car, the hosting suite surprises and delights all who come to experience it.
Hinged towards the centre line, the synchronised balletic opening movement reveals a treasure chest of moving parts that offer themselves to the host at a precise angle of 15 degrees. This subtle gesture of presentation reflects a genteel and quintessentially British expression of service.
The chest is appointed with the perfect accoutrements for a true Rolls-Royce al fresco dining experience; one side dedicated to aperitifs, the other, cuisine, complete with cutlery engraved with the name ‘Boat Tail’, made by Christofle in Paris.
Boat Tail’s client had a particular affinity with fine wine
A double refrigerator has been developed to house the clients’ favourite vintages of Armand de Brignac champagne. Elegant cradles were created to stow the specific bottle size within the refrigerator, the surrounds are highly polished and colour matched to the bottle.
While champagne is a familiar trope in the luxury world, Boat Tail’s client had a particular affinity with fine wine. The husband of this couple recalled a story from his humble beginnings. A great friend of his was a sommelier in his hometown and educated him in the taste profiles of various Grandes Marques de Champagne. This became a life-long education that turned into one of the most informed collections of rare Grand Cru champagnes in the world. The requirement for this knowledge and passion to be shared through the client’s Boat Tail was paramount – as was the need for this champagne to be rapid-cooled to precisely six degrees – the optimum serving temperature of the preferred vintage.
A classic design element of contemporary Rolls-Royce motor cars is the stowage of Rolls-Royce umbrellas in the doors, in anticipation of possible poor weather. In a delightful twist and to heighten the languid experience of Boat Tail, a unique parasol is housed beneath the rear centre line in anticipation of fine weather. A telescopic movement opens this beautiful and whimsical canopy inversely, ensuring effortless deployment.
Cocktail tables, which elegantly rotate to mimic the offering of an attendant, open on either side of the hosting suite providing access to two highly contemporary minimalist stools, which are discretely stowed below. Designed by Rolls-Royce and created by Italian furniture maker Promemoria, the slim-line interlocking stools are formed from the same technical fibre found on the exterior of the car. The interior blue Rolls-Royce leather provides the stools’ suitably comfortable seating materials.
Timeless Passions – A collaboration with Bovet 1822
In a move that further demonstrates the clients’ visionary approach to contemporary patronage, two great luxury Houses with a common pursuit of perfection have been brought together at the clients’ behest. World-class craftspeople from the House of BOVET 1822, which was founded on the philosophy of ingenuity and engineering, were called upon to work hand-in-hand with Rolls-Royce’s own masters in their field.
The mechanically minded clients sought to break new ground in horology. As esteemed and passionate collectors of both the Swiss-based House of BOVET and Rolls-Royce, their vision was to create exquisite, ground-breaking timepieces for their Boat Tail. In an act of tireless endeavour and genuine collaboration, the Houses have come together to re-imagine Rolls-Royce’s iconic centrepiece, the dashboard clock.
The result is an accomplishment never before realised in either industry. Two fine reversable timepieces, one for the lady and one for the gentleman, have been designed to be worn on the wrist, or, placed front and centre within Boat Tail’s fascia as the motor car’s clock.
The Rolls-Royce Boat Tail is a fully homologated, road-legal motor car that was created to be driven
To fulfil the clients’ extraordinary ambitions, significant engineering challenges were overcome in the development of Rolls-Royce Boat Tail. Indeed, 1813 completely new parts were created specifically for the cars. Time, patience, dedication and passion were the project’s hallmarks. To complete the preliminary engineering phase, prior to the commencement of production, a total of over 20 collective years were expended.
While designs were being finalised with the clients, the marque’s body-in-white, with its scalable aluminium spaceframe architecture, was completely reconfigured to support Boat Tail’s generous proportions, a process that took eight months in itself. As ever, the 15-speaker Bespoke Rolls-Royce Audio System was intended from the motor car’s inception, but the spaceframe architecture was exploited differently. Rolls-Royce’s existing product portfolio use a specially designed sill section of the architecture as the resonance chambers for the sound system’s bass speakers. In Boat Tail, the entire floor structure is utilised, creating an exceptional audio experience for the client.
To support the complex requirements of the hosting suite to the rear of Boat Tail, a unique electronic treatment was required. Five electronic control units (ECUs) were created for the rear of the car alone – a process that required a completely redesigned, dedicated wiring harness, which was the product of nine months of intensive research and development. Only then was it possible for the aft deck lids to open to an appropriate 67-degree angle, incorporate a highly secure locking mechanism and integrate a total climate control system to the rear hosting suite to preserve any cuisine stowed on board.
As Boat Tail is a fully homologated, road-legal motor car that was created to be driven, it was only fully released by the marque once it had undergone the same rigorous dynamic testing as all other Rolls-Royces, including high speed analysis to ensure the contents of the rear hosting suite are sufficiently fastened and therefore silent under power. Indeed, each client has stipulated that they wish to drive their Boat Tail immediately upon receipt.