Rolls-Royce resurrects Coachbuild department to create one-off luxury cars

British luxury automaker Rolls-Royce is resurrecting its Coachbuild department to create bespoke luxury cars for its growing clientele. Coachbuilding is the lost art of creating bespoke body styles for early automobiles. Back in the early days of motoring, carmakers will only produce the mechanical components, including the engine, transmission, driveshafts, and wheels referred to as a 'rolling chassis.'

Afterwhich, the rolling chassis will go to specialist coachbuilders to add the custom bodywork. Clients had the freedom to specify and create unique features resulting in spectacular, one-off renditions of vintage motorcars.

Coachbuilding slowly declined in popularity when Henry Ford established the first moving assembly line for mass-produced vehicles in 1913. At the beginning of the 1920s, mass-market automakers established in-house coachbuilding departments to address vibration and torsional issues inherent in coachbuilt classic cars.

Rolls-Royce shifted from making a 'rolling chassis' to a semi-monocoque construction in 1965 with the Silver Shadow. However, Rolls-Royce continued to build the Phantom VI on a separate chassis until 1993 with coachwork by Rolls-Royce subsidiary H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward Ltd. Now, Rolls-Royce is re-establishing the art and science of modern coachbuilding. The newly-opened Coachbuild department is opening the doors to infinite possibilities of commissioning your one-off Rolls-Royce.

"The ability to personalize almost every aspect of their motor car is one of the main reasons our patrons come to us, but we know some wish to go further still," said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. "We can offer our customers the opportunity to create a motor car in which every single element is hand-built to their precise individual requirements, as befits our status as a true luxury house."

The first quarter of 2021 is a landmark moment for Rolls-Royce. For the first time, every Rolls-Royce motor car sold across the entire model family (including the Phantom, Ghost, Wraith, Dawn, and Cullinan) included bespoke elements, further establishing the brand's luxury credentials and not merely as an automaker per se.

The service goes beyond choosing from over 44,000 paint colors. With the introduction of the eight-gen Phantom in 2017, Rolls-Royce has opened the floodgates for further customization that goes beyond choosing leather materials and open-pore wood trim. The Phantom's aluminum space frame chassis is engineered from the ground up to be scalable, including the floor, bulkhead, cross members, and sill panels. Its flexible platform has allowed Rolls-Royce to open new possibilities for coachbuilding.

Spearheading Rolls-Royce's coachbuilding platform is the unforgettable Sweptail. Commissioned in 2013 and unveiled in 2017, the Sweptail is the first fully coachbuilt Rolls-Royce of the modern era with a tapering roofline, a rakish rear profile, and a rear bullet-tip that houses the center brake light. Expect more fancy, one-off creations from Rolls-Royce as it opens its doors to modern coachbuilding.