Rolls-Royce returns to coachbuilding

by Nik Berg
26 May 2021 2 min read
Rolls-Royce returns to coachbuilding
A perfect spot for lunch: the 1972 Rolls-Royce Phantom VI Limousine. Photos: Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce is getting back into the coachbuilding business to satisfy the demand for luxury cars. The re-established “Coachbuild” department will create one-off cars for Rolls-Royce aficionados for whom money is no object and “limited edition” will never mean more than one.

“We have formally re-established our Coachbuild department for those patrons who wish to go beyond the existing restraints, and explore the almost limitless possibilities this opens up for them. We are able to offer our customers the opportunity to create a motor car in which every single element is hand-built to their precise individual requirements, as befits our status as a true luxury house,” explains CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös.

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Back at the turn of the 20th century when Charles Rolls and Henry Royce teamed up, coachbuilding was the norm. Car makers would build a rolling chassis and hand it over to a specialists to build the bodywork and interior to customer’s desires. The practice continued at Rolls-Royce for decades until the company adopted a semi-monocoque construction for its 1965 Silver Cloud, although even beyond that a small number of cars such as the Phantom VI retained a separate chassis enabling HJ Mulliner Park Ward to work its magic.

2017 Rolls-Royce Sweptail
The 2017 Sweptail was Rolls’ recent attempt at building a bespoke car

When Rolls-Royce moved on to its “Architecture of Luxury” aluminium platform which underpins the Cullinan and Ghost the opportunity opened to return to the great tradition of the past. This spaceframe chassis is flexible and will allow Rolls-Royce designers to work with customers to create unique motor vehicles.

The 2017 Sweptail (pictured) is the most recent example of the Roll-Royce coachbuilders’ craft but it took four years to build thanks to the complexities of its panoramic glass roof and racing-yacht-inspired styling. Future coachbuilt Rollers shouldn’t take as along thanks to the new platform. Some drivers who crave a coachbuilt car have already taken matters into their own hands and approached independent figures such as Niels van Roij, commissioning unique Ferrari and Range Rover models.

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