A coachbuilt Rolls-Royce Droptail with 600+hp... the La Rose Noire is the first of only four examples

By topgear, 20 August 2023

A coachbuilt Rolls-Royce Droptail with 600+hp... the La Rose Noire is the first of only four examples

Rolls-Royce is continuing its modern take on coachbuilding with this rather dramatic two-door, two-seat roadster.

Known as the ‘Droptail’, it follows on from 2017’s Sweptail and the 2021 Boat Tail as a unique Rolls-Royce created in collaboration with those who Rolls refers to as ‘the marque’s most ambitious clients’.

We’re not told who those clients are of course (only that they’re ‘significant collectors, patrons of the arts and business leaders’) but we do know that four different Droptails will eventually be created for four different customers.

We’ll come onto the spec of this first one shortly, but first a little more background is required.

We’re told that the Droptail was inspired by American coachbuilders in the early 20th Century and cars like the 1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost ‘Sluggard’, the 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom Brewster New York Roadster and the 1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly. Some fantastic names to go along with the styling.

Rolls is keen to point out that this Droptail is far from a retro pastiche though, so there are modern touches like a redesigned Rolls-Royce monogram badge and a slight kink at the top of the Pantheon grille.

In fact, this is the first time that a Rolls grille hasn’t pointed straight to the sky. It’s positively sporty. As is that glorious rear end with the ‘sail cowls’ behind the cabin and that giant downforce-producing rear deck. 

There’s actually plenty of carbonfibre around too, and not just in the bits you can see. Rolls-Royce says that new underpinnings were developed for the Droptail with an aluminium, steel and carbonfibre monocoque the end result.

And it may be a roadster, but we’ve got to talk about the roof. Rolls-Royce probably won’t thank us for this, but there’s quite a lot of MINI Coupe going on there to our eyes.

The bumf that Rolls-Royce has provided to go along with the Droptail doesn’t mention backwards baseball caps anywhere, though.

Instead, the carbonfibre creation apparently transforms the car into a ‘formidable and dramatic coupé’ with a look that apes chop-topped hot rods with its raked windscreen and narrow side windows. It’s not a folding item however, so you’ll either have to leave it in place or take your chances with the weather.

Oh, and it’s worth mentioning the powertrain too, because underneath the long bonnet is the classic 6.75-litre twin-turbo V12, but here Rolls says it has been given an extra 30hp.

We’re told this is the first time power has been upped for a coachbuild product, and if it’s an increase on the Ghost Black Badge’s figure then you’re looking at around 620hp.

Apparently, the whole process from idea to finished product took four and a half years to complete, and design boss Anders Warming tells TG that the coachbuilding department was “not proactive or reactive, more like hyperactive” when pressed on whether it’s Rolls-Royce or the customers that lead these projects.

As you might expect, it’s pretty special on the inside too. Rolls has kept things uncluttered and minimalist in there, with that massive, cantilevered plinth-like armrest covering the infotainment controller when it’s not being used. Mostly though, the interior is about the wood. 

And that creates a nice segue into talking about this particular car. It’s been given the name ‘La Rose Noire’ because the commissioning couple wanted something inspired by the Black Baccara rose. 

There are two shades of red used in its creation – ‘true love’ and ‘mystery’ – and it also relies on some exposed carbonfibre and those giant, partly-painted 22-inch wheels. All of the metalwork is then finished in a dark, liquid-like chrome colour called ‘hydroshade’.

But as promised, the wood is where it’s at. Just have a look at that piece of art that stretches right around the rear of the two seats. That piece of parquetry combines 1,603 individual pieces of wood, of which 533 are painted red to represent scattered rose petals.

It was put together by just one craftsperson at Rolls and apparently took weeks to complete.

Another key part of La Rose Noire Droptail’s interior is the clock. Or should we say watch. Mounted on the dash is a removable 43mm timepiece specially designed by Audemars Piguet for this client and this car.

Because that’s what you do with this kind of money. When it’s not being worn, it’s clipped into the car’s fancy holder and the straps can be stored in the armrest. 

What would you create if you were designing your very own Rolls-Royce from scratch?

STORY Greg Potts

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