Insider Trading #14 : Paul Harris, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

By topgearsingapore, 14 September 2019

"Rarity is now such an essential pre-requisite of high luxury that series production is now shunned, and the once-lost art of unique coachbuilding is enjoying a second renaissance."

STORY by Paul Harris, Asia Pacific Regional Director – Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited

When I first started in the automotive industry, it was a long time before picking a movie to watch on Netflix was a conundrum, and before we learned the true meaning of the term ‘everything-on-demand’. 

Luxury was a much simpler concept. 

When it came to cars, buyers would simply pick from a pre-set selection of ‘trims’, creatively ranging from ‘EX’, ‘GL’ to even ‘GLXT-RS Executive Line Limited Edition’ – the clear implication being that the longer the model trim descriptor, the more discerning a specification one would get! 

But times have most certainly changed. 

At the Geneva Motor Show this year, carmakers revealed dream creations that outline new goalposts for the upper limits of automotive luxury in the rapidly-advancing world today. 

No longer is it acceptable for car manufacturers to have mere ‘trims’. Rarity is now such an essential pre-requisite of high luxury that series production is now shunned, and the once-lost art of unique coachbuilding is enjoying a second renaissance. 

Before series production processes were streamlined, small volume car manufacturers could not afford to mass produce bodies; instead, they created the rolling chassis and outsourced body design to coachbuilders. 

The art of coachbuilding was reserved for only the most discerning of patrons, with design houses like Pininfarina, Carrozeria Ghia and H.J Mulliner & Co. creating exquisite shapes and bodies for luxury marques. 

The art of coachbuilding declined in the latter half of the twentieth century owing to advances in metal pressing tech – but today, one-off bodies are enjoying a marvellous comeback as the “ultra-reserve” palette of options saved for carefully curated, highest-tier patrons of the respective marques.

In this space, the coachbuilding experience is completely personal, and the car is near-infinitely customisable. Designers and engineers work around patrons’ requests, and the end result is an automobile that is truly defined by its owner, like a Bespoke suit or dress. 

But where others are just getting back into the art of coachbuilding, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has long made it part of its business. Since the marque’s renaissance in 2003, Bespoke personalisation has formed a cornerstone of operations; at the Home of Rolls-Royce, a dedicated department of craftsmen, designers and engineers work together closely on special one-off projects.

This small but agile Bespoke Collective are responsible for creating anything from a unique shade of Fuchsia, to an interior made wholly from silk; the possibilities for Bespoke are near limitless. In 2017, we also revealed Sweptail, a triumphant return to our romantic coachbuilding roots with one-off body styling inspired by nautical craft – a nod back to times past.

In Singapore, I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing our patrons’ appetite for Bespoke personalisation grow from strength to strength.

The SG50 Ghost Series II created in celebration of Singapore’s Jubilee year was just one recent example, and today our patrons frequently challenge our imagination with their Bespoke requests on special embroidery, custom marquetry and even custom paint finishes!

Phantom, a clear favourite amongst Singaporean Rolls-Royce patrons, also lends itself uniquely to Bespoke with its Gallery. An automotive world-first innovation, the Gallery transforms Phantom’s dashboard fascia into a canvas; our Bespoke Collective then work closely with patrons to create or commission art – so that Phantom becomes the world’s first and only rolling art gallery.

So as I select my movie for the evening, the realisation comes to light: where in the past, picking a luxury car was akin to tuning into a single television channel and accepting whatever the TV station had on programme, or accepting vehicle ‘trims’.

Today, the ability to select a personalised ‘movie’ from millions of options today is the true definition of luxury. Rolls-Royce sits at the apex of this burgeoning coachbuilding stratosphere, with unique possibilities available for commission, all beautifully hand-crafted from our Home in Goodwood, United Kingdom.

Related Articles