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Inside A US$20M Custom-Made Rolls-Royce

"These cars do not fall to earth ready-made."

On the shores of Lake Como, at the magnificent Villa d'Este, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars just revealed the joint most expensive new car in the world, the second in a trio of 'coachbuilt' cars. The latest coachbuilt Boat Tail is reported to have cost the owner US$20 million and took over four years to build. It is a tribute to the buyer’s father who made his money in the pearling industry.

‘Coachbuild’ has become a fully-fledged department within Rolls-Royce, as the most exclusive division of Bespoke. With this Boat Tail being the second project, there’s a third already underway, as well as a potential fourth project.

Boat Tail's body panels are fashioned from vast, single sheets of aluminium to create the distinctive outline inspired by the racing yachts of the early 20th century.

“Building a motor car by hand offers a new realm of exploration and possibility: we can accomplish things and resolve challenges that normal industrialised methods would prohibit," said Alex Innes, Head of Coachbuild Design at Rolls-Royce. "This is the tale of two worlds: a modern motor car of contemporary design, made possible by historical techniques and time-honoured craft, it is truly, one of a kind”.

At the onset of the commissioning process, the owner presented a selection of four pearl shells, personally chosen from his private collection for their unique colour and complexity which provided inspiration for the exterior colour, oyster and soft rose. It is one of the most complex finishes ever created by Rolls-Royce.

Fashioned in rose gold, a Spirit of Ecstasy sits above the dominating Pantheon front grill; the grill was formed from a single solid billet of aluminium. Inside, soft walnut-coloured leather is used throughout.

A mother-of-pearl timepiece on the panel adds a personal touch, because it comes from the owner’s private collection. The car's colours are influenced by his father’s favourite pearl shells. At the rear of the vehicle are two hatches, one either side of the car, and when they open, they create a butterfly shape, while a luxurious picnic set including a bottle chiller, a food heater, seats and a sun umbrella rises from inside the car.

Rolls-Royce reintroduced coachbuilding a few years ago creating individually hand built cars for a particular client’s personal specifications. Rolls-Royce Coachbuild is done by invitation only; they seek a client who has a vision, knows what they want and can afford it.

“There are plenty of people who will offer us a cheque and say I want one, but that’s not the sort of person Rolls-Royce is looking for," said Richard Carter, Director of International Communications at Rolls-Royce.

“Rolls-Royce is looking for someone who has the ability, desire and passion to work with our coachbuilders for up to four-years; these cars do not fall to earth ready-made. They come about as the result of a minimum of a 4-year interaction (sometimes longer) between the individual client, our coachbuilding team, engineers, and our CEO and our board. It takes time and passion, and the buyer needs to visit us at Goodwood many times during the creation of the cars, spend a great deal of time with our designers, colour and leather specialists and discussing what they want.

"Our experts interpret what they want. It takes huge commitment from the client to help create one of these extraordinary pieces. It is patronage in the old sense of the word. A huge amount of involvement by the patron in the creation of this product, it’s a work of art.”