I am quite smitten by the way something evolves and change with the times while keeping up traditions dating back over a hundred years.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is a subject that has been discussed on here in the past. It is one of those aspirational brands that only a few can have and hold as their own.
Discussing this topic is not without some indirect prompting. My colleague and friend Harvey Briggs of Ride & Drives and WISC Channel 3000 in Madison, Wisconsin, recently published a bespoke coffee table book encompassing the history of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. I have yet to get my copy, but it looks like something that would be a great gift for the distinguished motorist and discriminating enthusiast.
Through him, I rekindled an appreciation for the ultra-luxury British brand. Having driven a few of its recent vehicles, I am quite smitten by the way something evolves and change with the times while keeping up traditions dating back over a hundred years.
People my age can recall when a Rolls-Royce was something truly special produced by an independent automaker in Crewe. The company itself became a collaboration of three legacies – Charles Rolls, Henry Royce, and W.O. Bentley. Over time, ownership changed hands and is now under BMW’s stewardship.
Throughout its history, a Rolls-Royce was always something truly special. As a child in the 1970s, a Silver Shadow was a common sight in places, such as Beverly Hills, along Sunset and Ventura Boulevards. Entertainment figures and the upper echelon of society drove them around town.
One time, my family and I spotted actor Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. (“The F.B.I.”) driving a cream colored Silver Shadow on Ventura Boulevard in Encino. You knew by that star spotting that we earned his sedan.
At the Midwest Automotive Media Association Rally at Road America in Elkhart Lake, I found myself behind the wheel of a new Rolls-Royce. The 2022 Ghost Black Badge was that bespoke combination of tradition and modern engineering. It was an astounding automobile that gives one a special feeling of excellence and class.
Keep in mind, this was not my first time behind the wheel of Goodwood’s finest. This would be my fourth Rolls-Royce – my second Ghost. The experience was as equal to the previous three stints in these lovely machines.
If you looked at this specific Ghost Black Badge, you notice a flurry of colors. The gray exterior with blacked out elements that were once chromed were combined with a truly bespoke orange and black interior.
This may sound like something completely unexpected in a Rolls-Royce. Perhaps, in some people’s eyes, vulgar. Yet, this is normal in the world of the Goodwood-based purveyor of superb automobiles.
The definition of bespoke comes from the origin of a verb that “to speak for something.” It is “made for a particular customer or user.” It is a way for a customer to put their own unique spin on their world view through the clothes they wear and the cars they drive.
There was once a time when “bespoke” was just matching the interior leather color of a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow with the exterior color. Or, a contrasting color of the customer’s choice. Anything beyond this would be absolutely personalized using a coachmaker to assist in completing the customer’s unique specification.
Getting a bespoke specification on a Rolls-Royce has a cost associated to the work being done to match the customer’s wants. The Ghost sedan starts at around $395,000. Once you add the Black Badge package, the custom paint, the interior combination, and everything else that my example had, that cost jumps to around $486,000.
To you and me, these prices are quite steep. To the Rolls-Royce customer, they know ahead of time that they will specify their vehicle to their heart’s content – money being no object.
You could say that things have changed since BMW took Rolls-Royce under their wing. The license to have customers specify their vehicles have been opened up to infinite ideas. Once you understand this, then perhaps your opinion about Rolls-Royce could evolve.
It certainly has for me.
All photos by Randy Stern