Rolls-Royce makes some of the world’s most luxurious cars. Known for producing hand-crafted automobiles that promise a seamless “magical carpet ride” for its customers, a Rolls-Royce car does not come cheap. These are some of the best-selling Rolls-Royce models, and these are their entry-level prices. But with virtually unlimited optional extras, upgrades, and customizations, the true cost of a bespoke Rolls-Royce has no limits. In fact, Rolls-Royce refuses to even discuss its base prices.
Rhodri Good: There isn’t really a specific base price which we would discuss because it really depends on each customer as an individual and the bespoke options, which they like to design and develop with our bespoke team. Narrator: So, what are some of these bespoke extras? And is that what makes Rolls-Royce so expensive?
David Dean: One of the first obvious starting points probably is the color. We have a palette of 44,000-plus colors. We replicate people’s lipsticks, something from your house, something you own, something you’ve seen. Even we’ve done the dog of an owner, a red setter. So we exactly replicate them, whether it be by the DNA, the chemistry, or whatever. For us, it’s unique. It’ll be registered as your color, and you can give it a name, and it’s yours. And if someone else has seen it and wants to use that exact finish, we have to go to that person and ask their permission. When we go to the paint shop, you’ll see it’s called the Surface Finish Centre, because it’s a bit of an insult to say, “We’re painting the car.” It’s more than that. You’re going to have at least seven layers of coat. There’s primers, there’s base coats, there’s color, and, unusually, we put on two clear coats of lacquer. But you could have up to 23 layers of coating, which we’ve done before, equating to about 45 kilograms in weight just of coat.
In addition to the endless variations of color, Rolls-Royce customers can infuse their paint with materials to create special effects. One particularly wealthy customer went one step further, requesting the addition of 1,000 diamonds.
Dean: He wanted a bit more sparkle in the finish, so he gave us a bag of diamonds. We crushed them. They were infused into the paint. Remarkably, the detailed paintwork on Rolls-Royce cars is done by hand by just one person.
Mark Court: My name is Mark Court, and I am the coachliner for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. A coachliner means that I am able to put this pinstripe onto the side of the car. The uniqueness is the fact that I do it completely freehand, and I’m the only one within Rolls-Royce that can do this. That’s, like, worldwide within the Rolls-Royce BMW Group. So, the brushes I use is made of squirrel hair. We found that most brushes nowadays are man-made, which tends to leave brush marks within these lines. This is a natural hair, and this natural hair tends to leave no marks at all. So, we work to one standard, which is a higher standard, so we use one that leaves no brush marks at all.
And if customers without a coachline decide to add one to their car, Mark is on hand to travel worldwide with his paintbrush. Court: As normal with Rolls-Royce, Rolls-Royce never comes back to us. We go to it. So if it’s in Dubai, so be it. That’s where I have to go. Narrator: There are several unmistakable features of every Rolls-Royce exterior. The handmade pantheon grille, the self-righting wheel centers that ensure the RR logo is never rotated, and the Spirit of Ecstasy ornament. In fact, in 2003, BMW paid $65 million to acquire the rights to the Rolls-Royce name, symbol, and the Spirit of Ecstasy. But it’s inside the car where luxury – and cost – dramatically increases.
To create a virtually silent ride, Rolls-Royce adds approximately 300 pounds of acoustic insulation around the cabin. Its tire manufacturer Continental even developed special foam-filled tires, which reduced the noise of the road by 9 decibels. The results were so profound that Rolls-Royce removed some soundproofing to avoid causing acoustic sensory deprivation. The dashboard of the Rolls-Royce Phantom can even become a bespoke art gallery. Customers have commissioned artists to produce all sorts of designs for this space, including this gold-plated, 3D-printed stainless steel installation that replicates the customer’s DNA profile. Another shining feature of Rolls-Royce is the Starlight Headliner, an intricate series of fiber-optic roof lights that recreate the night sky.
Alexandra Benga: It takes up to 16 hours to build the Starlight Headliners. We’re starting by drilling it, and we perforate every single hole to thread fiber-optic through every single hole. We’ve got up to 1,340 holes. We’re doing this to achieve the stars in the sky, so we’re going to have the sky in the night covered with stars.
As with all things Rolls-Royce, customers can create bespoke starlight designs, including randomly generated shooting stars. One customer even had their design matched to exactly replicate the constellation of stars from the night they were born. The embroidery on the upholstery is also tailor-made to the customers’ design choice.
Joshua Liles: So, there’s no real standard process that’s repeated with embroidery, just because every single design is completely unique to the customer. It’s not just a case of scanning in an image, turning it into embroidery. Every single aspect of the image is thought out. The different angles of the stitch will reflect the light in a different way. So rather than it just being a flat image, we’re trying to bring it out to that next level. So, it’s almost three-dimensional, like a hologram effect, that you can get from our stitching.
The most complex embroidery project Rolls-Royce has completed is this special Rose Phantom model, which consists of 1 million individual stitches.
Liles: The Rose Phantom is the biggest embroidery we’ve done to date. We’ll have to map out exactly what order we’re putting all those embroideries onto the leather so that they all join up to match some of the stitching. There’s no tolerance. It can’t be out by a millimeter, otherwise it’s completely written off. Just take a small aspect of the Rose Phantom, It’s a good example of the development of one of the butterflies. What seems relatively simple in, like, an image actually becomes very complex for embroidery. So for the Phantom Rose Headliner, there’s a few techniques that we hadn’t used before. Because of the scale of the Rose Headliner, we had to break it down into individual elements. So each individual butterfly, the flower heads themselves, and then all the vines and leaves. So you can see here, it’s basically different layering of different-colored stitches in different densities. And by building those up, we can create that sort of fade effect where it’s darker to the center, fades out towards the wings, fine-tune them to the quality that we expect, and then start combining it and bringing it all together for the whole headliner.
Rolls-Royce has seen a boom in sales over the last 10 years. In 2019, sales increased by roughly 25% to 5,152 units, with the average age of a Roll-Royce owner dropping from late 50s to mid 40s. Take Drake for example. His Bushukan model, a special edition of the Phantom, left the factory at a value of about $700,000. However, the customizations that Drake made, such as the diamond-encrusted OVO owl in place of the Spirit of Ecstasy, is thought to have brought the overall price to about $1 million. The most expensive Rolls-Royce model ever built was the Sweptail. The result of over four years’ work, this one-of-a-kind car was reported to cost $13 million, previously holding the title of the world’s most expensive new car. But while other top-end car manufacturers focus on speed, maneuverability, and super-lightweight-supercar status, Rolls-Royce cars are expensive for one reason: luxury.