If you could build any car in the World, design it any way you want a car designed, what would it look like if you created a car? It’s what I thought about when the Rolls-Royce 08 was unveiled at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este. It is the discussion I had with Omar as we looked at the beautifully designed coach-built Rolls-Royce 08.
I’ve been at many Rolls-Royces unveils over the years. The unveiling of this car had a different excitement, not just to the audience, but to Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd., “this is truly coach-built, we have heavily modified the whole body, this is the first time we have done that. We are doing bespoke on an extremely high level, but when it comes to body work, we work on all the vehicle requirements, crash requirements, body design. It requires more resources, more time; it is a much bigger project. This project took nearly four years, and you need to have a client that understands and wants to be with us for that amount of time because we involved him in every single step. He always flew in, and before we put anything in the car, we consulted him. It was extremely close.”
Omar and I loved the teardrop back of the 08, but Müller-Ötvös says that the owner has sovereign rights to the design on his car, “we have a clear agreement with him that the design is a true one-off, that we will not be doing a second one or similar ones; that is part of the deal.”
Giles Taylor, Design Director Rolls-Royce Motor Cars described the 08 as an artistic freedom, “our patron’s design yachts, they design their own homes, and they’re just coming into the idea that they can design their own car. It’s a very expensive operation to do it, but the proof of the pudding is in the quality distribution that we deliver.”
There does seem to be a resurgence in coach building. Taylor and I talked about artisan craftsmanship on the background of Zagatos, Ferraris, Lancias, Pinin Farinas at Villa D’Este. Italdesign is entering the coach building with five vehicles this year. Eric Clapton and James Glickenhouse are two of the well-known billionaire names with coach-built vehicles. The resurgence is here.
Omar has the money to create a coach built Rolls-Royce, and I can see in his eyes that he is delighted with the prospect of designing his own car. I asked him if he were to build a car from the ground up would it be an homage to Rolls-Royce, or to his family? Omar’s family is from the Middle East; he lives in the Sahara, so he says his car would be tan. I point out that even sand has different colors, suggesting he should stay in the Sahara for twenty-four hours and watch the colors as they change. You can see his mind starting to click, “the Sahara goes straight into the ocean,” Is it blue or green I ask? Blue he says. His family has been in the jewelry business for generations, they are known for pearls. A bit of excitement is in his voice as he shares with me that there are different colored pearls to choose from; black, white or pink. I am watching a person as they design a car, each color a limb on the family heritage tree. I love the idea of Omar sitting in the Sahara for 24 hours with a group of designers, as the light changes, the car comes to life.
I imagine that the owner of the Rolls-Royce 08 did some of the same. Just like the design of a yacht, or home, watching creative ideas come to life is exhilarating.
The Phantom 8 will be out this year, the public showing somewhere in the Fall, perhaps even some bits of it at Pebble Beach. It will go on sale in 2018.
Rolls-Royce does not have another coach-built in the line-up yet, but I could see a glint in Omar’s eye and the wheels of design cranking. I am sure he is not the only one.