Rolls-Royce Combines Old-School Traditions With Contemporary Comforts and Technology

The recent launch of Rolls-Royce’s Boat Tail is the perfect example of the century-old company’s commitment to combining old-school traditions with contemporary comforts and technology.

More than a century ago, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars established its legitimacy as an auto manufacturer through a commitment to custom coach building. Beginning in 1926 with the 40/50HP Phantom I Brougham De Ville and continuing through the creation of the Phantom VI limousine in 1972, the British automaker made specialty, one-off vehicles a focal point of its work for more than half a century. Such a commitment to personalized, elegant tourers also distinguished the firm from many other luxury automotive marques.

Eight years ago, an influential and loyal Rolls-Royce customer commissioned the company to build a coach-built, two-seater coupe that featured a large, panoramic glass roof inspired by the iconic coach-built Rolls-Royce models of the 1920s and ’30s. When the automaker unveiled that contemporary Sweptail model in 2017, it introduced to the world the first coach-built Rolls-Royce vehicle of the modern era. Earlier this year, the 115-year-old company unveiled a unique Boat Tail model, created for three special clients and highly personalized to each of them. In doing so, Rolls-Royce also announced that its coach-building program would remain a steady offering for its most loyal and discerning clientele.

“Rolls-Royce Coach build is a return to the very roots of our brand,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce’s chief executive. “It represents an opportunity for the select few to participate in the creation of utterly unique and truly personal commissions of future historical significance.”

Prior to the creation of the Rolls-Royce Sweptail a handful of years ago—and even afterward—the automaker primarily entertained personalized commissions through a bespoke program. However, as Alex Innes, head of Rolls-Royce coach-build design, explains, that program is limited in its scope. The company’s coach-building enterprise, on the other hand, is without constraints. “Normally, there is a natural ceiling to Rolls-Royce Bespoke by way of the canvas,” he says. “At Rolls-Royce Coachbuild we break through that ceiling, embracing the freedom of expression afforded by coach building to shape a concept.”

To create coach-built vehicles, Rolls-Royce adheres to traditional practices. A preliminary design is first penned by hand, after which the vehicle’s full-size form is created from clay, which allows designers to manipulate the car’s surfaces into an ideal shape. During this process, clients are allowed to participate in the decision-making process to steer a vehicle into its final shape, after which the clay sculpture is digitally remastered. Ultimately, aluminum sheets are hammer formed by hand to create the car’s final bodywork.

Although such old-school craftsmanship is relied upon to create a custom Rolls-Royce vehicle body, that structure is set upon a technologically advanced drivetrain and suspension system that the firm calls the Magic Carpet Ride. At its core, that suspension is built around a system that required 10 years of R&D. Enhanced by sophisticated scanning and software technology—not to mention satellite-aided transmissions—the system relies on cameras to read and preemptively prepare the suspension for any notable changes in the upcoming road surface.

In that way, the aesthetic sleekness of a modern coach-built Rolls-Royce is born from traditional craftsmanship techniques, whereas the vehicle’s characteristically smooth ride is entirely cultivated by the company’s commitment to new and modern technology.

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