GRR

Coachbuilt one-off Rolls-Royce Sweptail revealed at Villa d’Este

30th May 2017
Bob Murray

A new Rolls-Royce that reprises with spectacular effect the glory days of coachbuilt cars of the 1920s was the surprise star of the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este on Lake Como in Italy at the weekend. 

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Called the Rolls-Royce Sweptail, the entirely bespoke two-door is the result of one owner’s desire to build his perfect Rolls-Royce and four years of work by the design and craftspeople at Rolls-Royce’s Goodwood base.

Both the owner’s name and the car’s cost are on the secret list. But quoted in Autocar magazine, R-R chief Torsten Müller-Ötvös said: “I can tell you it was substantially expensive. You can easily write this is probably the most expensive new car ever.” There have been reports the Sweptail bill came to £10 million.

The contemporary incarnation of a 1920s coachbuilt Rolls-Royce coupe was the talk of the Villa d’Este for its dramatic scale, flamboyance and design cues that recalled many famous Rolls-Royces of the past. And under that special body? A 6.75-litre V12.

Here’s a closer look at the £10m new car from Goodwood…

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Who commissioned the Sweptail?

An unnamed person said to be “one of Rolls-Royce’s most valued customers” who collects super-yachts and private aircraft and who, according to the firm, had a “vision of a one-off luxury motor car like no other”. 

What did he want in his ultimate Rolls-Royce?

More than anything he wanted the Rolls-Royce design team to reimagine his favourite coachbuilt feature from the 1920/30s – the “swept-tail” – in a two-seater coupé with panoramic glass roof. 

And Rolls-Royce could deliver this? 

It took a while – the project started in 2012. But R-R design chief Giles Taylor and the client are said to have got on famously in working out the details. “It’s the automotive equivalent of Haute Couture,” says Taylor. “The customer came to the House of Rolls-Royce with an idea, shared in the creative process where we advised him on his cloth, and then we tailored that cloth to him. You might say we cut the cloth for the suit of clothes that he will be judged by.”

Which cars did he and the design team look to for inspiration? 

For sheer grandeur, it was the 1925 Phantom I Round Door built by Jonckheere. The svelte tapering glasshouse and up-sweep of the rear were inspired by the 1934 Phantom II Streamline Saloon by Park Ward. For the swept-tail coachwork it was the 1934 Gurney Nutting Phantom II Two Door Light Saloon, while the 1934 Park Ward 20/25 Limousine Coupé provided the clues for the flowing roofline. Inside, there are lots of ideas and materials inspired by classic and modern yachts.

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The radiator grille is very large…

The “Pantheon” grille is in fact the largest of any modern era Rolls-Royce. It’s milled from solid aluminium. Periphery of the whole front end is framed by brushed aluminium. 

What other design highlights?

Take your pick. The tapering cabin roof is certainly distinctive, while its vast glass section is impressive for its scale and complexity of curvature. And yes you can access the luggage deck through the rear opening backlight (it’s a hatchback, sort of…). The roofline accelerates towards the rear of the car, overshooting the boot lid edge to emphasise its length. The ‘bullet-tip’ houses the centre brake light. 

Then there’s the raked stern, said by Rolls-Royce to be “the ultimate homage to the world of racing yachts.” There’s more yacht in the way the bodywork wraps under the car with no visible boundary, akin to the hull of a yacht, says R-R. And then there’s the upward sweep at the rear departure angle, culminating in the swept-tail that gives Sweptail its name. 

What’s it like on the inside? 

Modern, minimalistic and handcrafted are the words Rolls-Royce uses to describe it. A strict two-seater with very yacht-inspired rear deck area, the cabin is a clutter-free cocoon of luxury with some very special touches indeed. Polished Macassar Ebony and open-pore Paldao provide a light and dark theme echoed by contrasting light Moccasin and Dark Spice leathers. The dashboard is simple in the extreme, with most switchgear relocated out of sight. The clock is special: its face is handmade out of the thinnest Macassar veneer so it disappears into the dash. And the hands? They are machined from titanium. Obviously.

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What, no cocktail cabinet? 

Too obvious. Instead, press a button and the centre console deploys a bottle of chilled champagne and two crystal champagne flutes.

Any other James Bond touches?

There are two secret compartments, in the sides of the car aft of the coach doors. Each contains a pannier which, when activated, deploys a pair of attache cases. There’s also a set of bespoke luggage – made of carbon-fibre and wrapped in the same leather as used in the cabin – for the boot. 

So, bespoke coachbuilt cars like this for everyone now?

Well not perhaps everyone. In the 1920s as today, one-offs do not come cheaply. But Rolls-Royce does envisage a world of “personal luxury mobility where new technologies would allow every Rolls-Royce to be designed in their owners’ image”.

The company adds: “This would represent the truest meaning of luxury – a personal, bespoke motor car like no other for each individual commissioning patron.

“We are listening carefully to our most special customers and assessing their interest in investing in similar, completely exclusive coachbuilt masterpieces.”

  • Rolls-Royce

  • Sweptail

  • villa d'este

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