This is the Rolls-Royce Sweptail. There will never be another. And it’s the most expensive new car ever commissioned.
When, approximately one year ago, Rolls-Royce presented 103EX to the world, it invoked its coachbuilding heritage to inspire its future clientele. This Vision Vehicle envisaged a world of completely personal luxury mobility where new technologies would allow every Rolls-Royce to be designed in their owners’ image, should they wish. Such a Rolls-Royce would represent the truest meaning of luxury – a personal, Bespoke motor car like no other for each individual commissioning patron.
The mere idea of a modern coachbuilt Rolls-Royce was not enough for one Rolls-Royce connoisseur however. This individual approached the marque with his own idea of a two-seat Rolls-Royce that he wanted to be created in the here and now. That motor car is here, now and is christened ‘Sweptail’. In a nod to the swept-tail of certain Rolls-Royces from the 1920s, admired by the client so much, he asked Rolls-Royce to reimagine this feature on his one-off motor car.
Presenting the car to the media at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este on Saturday 27th May 2017, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars said, “Sweptail is a truly magnificent car. It exudes the romance of travel for its own sake, and immediately places ‘Sweptail’ in the pantheon of the world’s great intercontinental tourers. Rolls-Royce’s history as the world’s leading coachbuilder is at the very core of its identity as the world’s leading luxury brand. The arrival of 103EX shone a light on the future of Rolls-Royce in this field, and ‘Sweptail’ is proof, today, that Rolls-Royce is at the pinnacle of coachbuilding. We are listening carefully to our most special customers and assessing their interest in investing in similar, completely exclusive coachbuilt masterpieces. At the same time we are looking into the resources which will allow us to offer this unique service to these discerning patrons of luxury.”
Through this commission, Rolls-Royce has proven once again to be the world’s leading luxury goods provider.
‘Sweptail’ – how the vision became the reality
“Sweptail is the automotive equivalent of Haute Couture,” comments Giles Taylor, Director of Design at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “It is a Rolls-Royce designed and hand-tailored to fit a specific customer. This 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.”
In 2013, Rolls-Royce was approached by one of its most valued customers with a very particular request. A connoisseur and collector of distinctive, one-off items including super-yachts and private aircraft, this gentleman came to Rolls-Royce to realise his vision of a one-off luxury motor car like no other.
The client immediately established a close rapport with the design department led by Taylor, who set about bringing the idea to life.
Inspired by the beautiful coachbuilt Rolls-Royces of the 1920s and 1930s, the client’s desire was for a coachbuilt two seater coupé featuring a large panoramic glass roof. As a connoisseur of Rolls-Royces, he was inspired by many of his favourite cars from the marque’s golden era of the early 20th Century, as well as many classic and modern yachts.
The grandeur, scale, flamboyance and drama of the 1925 Phantom I Round Door built by Jonckheere; the svelte tapering glasshouse, dramatic dash to axle proportion and up-sweep of the rear departure angle of the 1934 Phantom II Streamline Saloon by Park Ward; the elegantly falling waist-rail, swept tail coachwork of the 1934 Gurney Nutting Phantom II Two Door Light Saloon, and the flowing roofline, rising departure angle, and again the swept tail coachwork of the 1934 Park Ward 20/25 Limousine Coupé were all considered by today’s Rolls-Royce designers in the creation of this very distinctive motor car.
Over the course of a number of years, Taylor and his team of designers engaged with the client in a wonderfully intellectual journey as they worked together to realise the customer’s distinct vision and bring it to life.
“Our job was to guide, edit and finely hone the lines that would ultimately give our client this most perfect of Rolls-Royces,” comments Taylor.
The result of this one-off coachbuild project is the completely unique Rolls-Royce ‘Sweptail’.
‘Sweptail’ – A distinct vision.
The ‘Sweptail’ is without question a Rolls-Royce that fits to the marque’s DNA. Its initial formality when seen from the front signals that this is one very different and distinct Rolls-Royce. One’s attention is first attracted by the confident and solid character of the front profile, centred on a new treatment of the iconic Rolls-Royce Pantheon grille. The largest of any modern era Rolls-Royce, the grille is milled from solid aluminium before being painstakingly polished by hand to a mirror finish. The periphery of the front face of ‘Sweptail’ is framed in brushed aluminium.
As one moves around to the side of ‘Sweptail’ one finds that it is the striking silhouette that defines its unique character. Flowing as they do from upright and formal frontal aspect, the lines of ‘Sweptail’ resolve into a sveltely elegant form. The scale and grandeur of this regal looking coupé is evident. From the leading edge of the windscreen, the roofline accelerates as it fires backwards towards the rear of the motor car, overshooting the boot lid edge to emphasise its length. The longer side window graphic and wide C-pillar finisher underscore the length and proportions of this more wondrous of conveyances.
The coup de gras of the rear is the ultimate homage to the world of racing yachts that inspired the client, with its raked stern. Seen directly from behind, the rear taper contrasts strongly with the front of the motor car, shaping a completely new perception of a dramatic Rolls-Royce Coupé.
Both the roof line as it tapers towards the centre line of the car, concluding in a ‘bullet-tip’ that houses the centre brake light, and the sweeping lower bumper area of the motor car, combine to create a greater feeling of elegance in motion.
The cleanliness of the surface of ‘Sweptail’ is maintained as the bodywork wraps under the car with no visible boundary to the surfaces, a treatment that is akin to the hull of a yacht. The underside of the motor car was designed to deliver the visual of a progressive upward sweep at the rear departure angle of the car, culminating in the swept-tail that gives ‘Sweptail’ it name.
And finishing off the uncluttered rear of this one-off motor car, is its identifier and registration number, 08. Two individual digits milled from ingots of aluminium and hand polished.
The panoramic glass roof invites one into the magnificent interior, along with the natural light
The highlight feature of ‘Sweptail’ however is that specifically asked for by the client. An uninterrupted glass roof, one of the largest and most complex ever seen on a motor car of any marque, allows the cabin to be flooded with natural light, animating a host of beautifully handcrafted materials and componentry.
The size, scale and complexity of the glass roof’s curvature is a marvel to behold, and from above again accentuates the speed and elegance of ‘Sweptail’. Creating the ambience of the interior of the motor car, the glass of the roof is framed by polished aluminium rails that channel it into a vanishing point at the rearmost extremity of the cabin.
Regal but modern interior
The cleanliness and grandeur of the bodywork from the side view, the lengthened side windows and the panoramic glass roof combine to illuminate the two singular occupants of this most singular Rolls-Royce and its modern, minimalistic handcrafted interior. The provision of only two seats in a motor car of this size exudes the romance of travel for its own sake, and immediately places ‘Sweptail’ in the pantheon of the world’s great intercontinental tourers. This is furthered by the overall design of the interior, which has been conceived in a classic two-seat GT configuration, echoing the touring nature of its exterior body lines.
And what a place to be as one watches the world slip by through the vast windows and roof, detached from the outside world in a cocoon of luxury whilst feeling one is part of that passing landscape.
The interior is ruled by a philosophy of simplicity and minimalism leading to a distillation of componentry and a purification of clutter. The value of beautiful materials takes precedence here, resulting in a fastidious suppression of switchgear to the absolute minimum to make way for the richest of materials applied in the most honest of fashions. An uninterrupted and harmonious visual experience of every surface inside the cabin is ensured.
Generous quantities of polished Macassar Ebony and open-pore Paldao adorn the interior, creating visual and tactile contrasts for the owner, both classical and contemporary. All their forms however are thoroughly modern as they echo the exterior lines of ‘Sweptail’, hand-formed to encircle the occupants with some of the most beautiful natural materials in the world. This choice of dark and light, Ebony and Paldao, is set off by contrasting light Moccasin and Dark Spice leathers that adorn the seats, armrests and dashboard top.
But it is what those materials have been made to do that is the most fascinating aspect of this one-off cabin. True to the spirit of a transcontinental GT that Rolls-Royce established in the 20s and 30s, in place of the rear seats is a vast expanse of wood creating a mid-shelf with an illuminated glass lip, and a hat shelf which flows to the outer limits of the interior volume. Sitting under the rear opening backlight through which it can be accessed, the hat shelf is in itself a thing of beauty, highly polished and inset with luggage rails.
Behind the occupants, a feature named the Passarelle flows from the rear edge of the windscreen to resolve in a teardrop as it connects to the hat shelf to join all interior volumes. This element also includes the only visible presence of this singular motor car’s name as ‘Sweptail’ is discreetly debossed into the surface, exactly on the centre line.
Other modern materials and modern uses of those materials feature. The Macassar Ebony veneer seen around the cabin has been handcrafted to adorn the dashboard in the most modern way. The cleanest Rolls-Royce dashboard to date, the minimalist ethic not only dictates that only one control now appears on it whilst all other switchgear is discreetly relocated, but that the clock blends seamlessly too. In a world first, the face of this singular Rolls-Royce clock is also handmade of the thinnest Macassar veneer, visually embedding the clock into the fascia.
The delicacy of this particular piece of veneer allows for its rear illumination to pass through to show the hour marks, meaning the only physical elements on the clock are its hands that are precision machined from titanium. This use of titanium then extends to the faces, numbers and hands on all three hand-assembled instrument dials.
Two final surprise and delight features have been secreted inside ‘Sweptail’ to the stringent standards of the client.
Concealed in the outboard walls on either side of the motor car, behind the opening of the coach doors, are two identical panniers. Each pannier, when activated, deploys forward to present the owner’s bespoke made attaché case which has been carefully packaged to exactly house his personal laptop device. The cases themselves have been hand-constructed from lightweight carbon fibre, wrapped in the finest leather that matches the interior of ‘Sweptail’ and detailed with machined aluminium and titanium clasps and locks.
These attaché cases are twinned with the full set of luggage also developed by Rolls-Royce Bespoke for ‘Sweptail’. The luggage resides in the trunk of the motor car, a trunk beautifully clad in the same wood as the hat shelf and inset with polished aluminium luggage rails.
The coup de gras of this one-off masterpiece is as personal to the owner as every other feature of ‘Sweptail’. The entire centre console now houses a one-off hand-built mechanism that, at the touch of a button, will deploy a bottle of the client’s favourite vintage champagne – the year of his birth – and two crystal champagne flutes. As the lid of the chiller opens, the mechanical action articulates the bottle to the perfect position for the owner to pick up.
A most personal, coachbuilt Rolls-Royce for a specific customer, every aspect of the material treatment of ‘Sweptail’ exudes handcrafted quality and exacting attention to detail. In short, it is a Rolls-Royce – but like no other before.
Images BMW Group Classic_James Lipman / jameslipman.com by courtesy of Rolls Royce Motor Cars