Rolls-Royce 2019


Rolls-Royce Bespoke: Following the configuration of a Cullinan from Melbourne to Goodwood

Every time you spot a Rolls-Royce on the road, you can be almost certain the configuration of that car will be unique.

That's because when you buy a Rolls-Royce, you're not buying another car already in stock or a clone that rolls down the production line. Each Rolls-Royce is built to a specification and an order, which means you're unlikely to ever find two identical vehicles.

Knowing I'd be around Goodwood – a humble town southwest of London and the home of Rolls-Royce – I wanted to see just how the process takes place for a buyer and just how much one can actually customise as part of the process.

My first stop was Rolls-Royce in Melbourne, where I met up with sales manager Kristian. Our task was to go through the colours and interior trim options for Rolls-Royce's newest car, the Cullinan.

In case you missed our previous coverage, the Cullinan is Rolls-Royce's SUV and is powered by a mighty 6.75-litre, twin-turbocharged, V12 engine with outputs of 420kW and 850Nm. It's imposing on the road and is hard to miss.

For customers who don't have time to get over to Goodwood to configure their car – or even those that do – the process starts at their local dealership. Kristian walked me through the range of colours available, showing me what they looked like on body samples.

The design room features specific light temperatures to ensure all paint and interior trim samples look the same – it's all in the detail.

As the process takes place, a large screen shows the buyer their progress as they begin selecting colour combinations.

This is where somebody like Kristian is invaluable, because certain combinations I thought might look cool were actually pretty ghastly. He has configured enough cars to know what will work and what won't – but he also won't stop you from selecting the colour of you dreams, should you so desire it.

The amount of configurability here is truly amazing. Everything from carpets to the colour of the umbrellas can be customised, with some customers even providing wood samples they want integrated into their vehicles.

An hour spent with Kristian had my base configuration ready to roll. Now, it was time to head to Rolls-Royce in Goodwood in the UK to see how it all takes place.

Before we met up with Victor from the Rolls-Royce Bespoke Collective, I had the chance to tour the factory. It's actually not really a factory because the floor is clean enough to eat off and on top of that, virtually everything is done by hand.

A body-in-white arrives from BMW and from there Rolls-Royce employees begin the paint job, along with installing the custom elements fitted to each vehicle along the production line.

With a cheesy set of overalls in place, we walked the line to see how it all happens.

The production line was rearranged to cater for the launch of Cullinan, which is expected to form a huge chunk of Rolls-Royce's yearly production figures.

The beginning of the production line is pretty straightforward with the cars moving through stations where mechanical parts are added and a marriage between the drivetrain and chassis occurs.

It's beyond these stations where the Rolls-Royce magic begins to happen. Given the level of customisation available on each car, attention to detail is absolutely critical.

Enter the leather and stitching area and you will find stations of people manually stitching leather components together and preparing the leather wrapping that surrounds the dashboard.

A leather expert is on hand to inspect each piece of trim to ensure there are no defects, with only the best leather used. Some of the defective pieces of leather are later sold on to the handbag industry for use in high-end bags.

One of the most remarkable parts of the tour is the humidified room that stores the wood used in Rolls-Royce cars. It's an incredible array of wood arranged in continuous grains to ensure continuity within the car – the smell in here is intoxicating.

But it's the starlight headliner that is the most incredible option available on a Rolls-Royce – not because it creates the effect of a starlit sky inside the cabin, but because of the way it's assembled.

Two people are dedicated to threading individual pieces of fibre optic through the headliner to create an array of over 1000 light elements. It's a time consuming process that creates an incredible atmosphere within the cabin.

The factory tour was something else and unlike any other factory I've had the chance to walk through.

But, the experience was about to get even more special with an appointment inside one of the configuration rooms.

The rooms are configured to cater for the buyer before they arrive. What that means is the items in the room are setup in a way to meet a buyer's tastes. So, for example, in the days before I turned up they had a musician coming in to configure their new car. The room was setup with musical instruments and other musical items to make them feel at home.

This is the place where you sit down with a designer to take your design to the next level. My design from Melbourne was sent to Victor where he was able to make three changes to further refine the design I had chosen.

We walked through all the different colour samples we could use within the cabin in one of the coolest rooms I had ever seen.

Featuring a number of colour samples, there was also a section of a wall dedicated to the inscriptions one can get etched into their dashboard or along their paintwork.

Victor showed me the three design choices and we settled on one – Crystal over Black with a Lime Green coachline (this is done by one bloke, by hand) with 22-inch Dark Shadow wheels with a Lime Green pinstripe.

The bespoke configuration continues inside the cabin with a Fawn Brown leather interior with secondary black elements and Lime Green piping. You'll even find a CarAdvice logo embossed on the backrest.

Look up and you'll spot the Starlight Headliner, while if you pop the boot, you'll find a quasi six-seat configuration with the Viewing Suite integrated within the split tailgate.

So, what do you think? Did I do the Cullinan justice, or should I stick to my day job?

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