Unveiling Arcadia: The roll of bespoke luxury

You can see, but you can’t touch it! It was an exclusive ‘Coachbuild’ preview of the latest Roll-Royce Motor Cars model for just a few of us from around the world, before the magnificent piece of art was to be handed over to a multi-billionaire client in the evening.

At a private ceremony in the Flower Field Hall at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore, the Coachbuild masterpiece was kept under wraps until some detailing and presentation was to be made. And, the wait of a few minutes before it was unwrapped was worthwhile.

The company presented the ‘Arcadia’, the third Coachbuild Droptail commission — a uniquely pure reflection of Droptail’s principal design, featuring the most complex clock face in Rolls-Royce history. The assembly alone took five months, wood sections took 8,000 hours to create before the Arcadia emerged. Droptail is the first roadster body style in Rolls-Royce’s modern history, the company says.

“The Rolls-Royce Arcadia Droptail demonstrates the true nature of a Coachbuild proposition in completely transforming the character of a motor car. With Arcadia Droptail we witness daring in minimalism and subtlety, informed by the lifestyle of an individual who has a unique appreciation for British luxury,” Anders Warming, Design Director of the company said at the unveiling.

Tailoring cars

This coachbuild commission takes its name from the mythical realm of Arcadia, a place depicted in Ancient Greek mythology as ‘Heaven on Earth’ — a land renowned for its natural beauty and perfect harmony. Like the haven that inspires its name, Arcadia Droptail was envisioned by the client as a refuge from the complexities of their business life, said the company. The company has programmes called Bespoke and Coachbuild, wherein the designers, engineers and staff at Rolls-Royce work together with the client from day one, to build such models.

The UK-based company says that every Rolls-Royce that leaves the Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood includes some bespoke elements. These range from subtle but significant touches — an individual exterior colour that evokes childhood memories — to highly complex artworks requiring months or years of design and technical development.

“The significance of Rolls-Royce Arcadia Droptail lies in its subtlety. It is a projection of an individual who values clarity and precision in all areas of their life — from their passion for fine cuisine, their highly curated personal and professional spaces and affinity with contemporary design,” said Alex Innes, Head of Coachbuild Design, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

But, it is easier said than done as the engineers and designers of Rolls-Royce often have to tackle unique demands from clients.

Jonathan Simms, Head of Bespoke, Rolls-Royce, cites the example of a client who wanted some silk materials they had been using to be used in the car which they were buying. However, Rolls-Royce had to tell them the company had to run some tests before it could be fitted in the car as such materials should last as long as the car. “When I talk to them about our test standards, they sometimes say ‘are you crazy’. They tell us that it will be a ceremonial car and they will use it only on special occasions, so please to use the material,” he explains.

He said as a general rule, everything is tested, but there are occasions where the client will make specific requests and Rolls would need to match their requirement. And, that is why the company takes months and years to test those materials/ fabrics so that they last.

“It sounds like a cliche, but when we talk about relationships with our clients we really mean it. When we are into the Bespoke commissions, its very rare that we won’t have the client coming to Goodwood, meeting us or we meet them where they are and we really get to know much about them because if you know someone well, then you can be convinced… And then, our designers and our craftsmen will start work with the client,” Simms explains.

“When we start to make the car physically — the first parts — that’s when many of the clients love to come to Goodwood and actually see those parts being made and many of them get very emotional,” he said.

As the most exclusive division of Bespoke, Rolls-Royce Coachbuild is the marque’s equivalent of haute couture. It empowers clients to create completely unique Rolls-Royce motor cars beyond the brand’s product portfolio, participating in every stage of its development over a number of years.

Arcadia Droptail is one such product that took four-and-a-half years to be fully built and handed over to the client. The interesting part is that Rolls-Royce never shares the price of such a product (the Arcadia is estimated to cost around $25 million) and the identity of the customer.

(The writer was recently in Singapore at the invitation of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars)

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