Imagine a luxury car that can, with the touch of a button, transform its humdrum ceiling into a starry night so spectacular it rivals a Fourth of July fireworks display. When the sun sets, the Starlight fiber-optic roof liner in Rolls-Royce’s Phantom flagship ignites 1,340 teeny lights sure to evoke oohs and aahs from those reclining in the backseat. It’s just one of many jaw-dropping features in this $418,000 bespoke beauty.
But what if you’re an exceedingly wealthy buyer with an upcoming birthday and you feel as if the Phantom’s interior just doesn’t twinkle enough? Well, that’s an easy fix. Simply have the Rolls-Royce artisans scatter 446 diamonds around the handcrafted, leather-lined cabin to add a little extra shimmer.
No wonder they call this heavenly invention the Celestial Phantom.
But wait, there’s more. You can also put in a request for paintwork with microscopic particles of glass that allow the car to glow under a full moon. To finish the scene, you select an inky-blue leather that matches a cloudless night sky. Last but not least, you request a one-of-a-kind picnic set with Nymphenburg porcelain plates decorated with hand-painted constellations.
Welcome to the world of custom automobiles.
This isn’t mere personalization where you peruse the brochure and check a box for the 21-inch alloys, a special paint color, or a fancy stereo. No, bespoke is all about five little words: This is what I want.
As you’d expect, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars is the leader in customized offerings. It devotes an entire branch of the company—simply named Bespoke—to making buyers’ dreams come true. And these days it is rather busy; a staggering 95 percent of all Rolls models have some kind of bespoke element.
“You don’t just buy a Rolls-Royce these days, you commission one, like a piece of fine art or a super yacht,” explains Giles Taylor, Rolls-Royce’s director of design. “It’s one of life’s unforgettable moments.”
Naturally, Rolls-Royce executives decline to reveal the cost of crafting one-off rolling wonders like the Phantom Celestial. But about $1 million would be a good guesstimate.
Rolls-Royce is just one of an ever-increasing number of luxury automakers catering to the whims and wishes of elite buyers around the globe who want their car to be unique—and are willing to pay big for the privilege.
Over at Bentley’s Mulliner bespoke division, teams of designers and craftsmen are coming up with exciting ways to customize the newly launched $230,000 Bentayga SUV.
The Breitling Mulliner Tourbillon clock stole headlines when the car premiered in 2015. This piece of dashboard candy was handcrafted from either 18-karat white or rose gold (your choice) and sold for a mere $234,000. That’s right, a horological masterpiece worth more than the car itself.
When teatime hits, make use of an even fancier picnic set. Mulliner designed the Linley Hamper in collaboration with David Linley, a renowned British furniture designer and the nephew of Queen Elizabeth II. The three-section hamper holds and chills two bottles of Champagne as well as four David Redman crystal flutes. It also houses French porcelain crockery, Robbe & Berking silver cutlery, and a cashmere picnic rug. Want it all monogrammed with your initials, name, company logo, or ancestral family seal? Not a problem.
When it comes to the Bentley’s dashboard finish, you can opt for mirror-varnished timber. If that isn’t your cup of Darjeeling, then swap it out for a wafer-thin stone veneer, sustainably sourced from India and available in light gray, red, black, or copper. It’s good to be different, right?
But all these features pale in comparison to the Roque Bentayga marquetry. This artistic addition to the passenger-side dash panel layers wood from six tree species to form an image of the Roque Bentayga mountain range. It’s a welcomed visual escape when stuck in traffic on I-95.
If an SUV is more to your liking, behold the custom $244,500 Holland & Holland Range Rover that’s even more expensive than the base Bentayga. To date, Jaguar Land Rover’s newly formed Special Vehicle Operations division has spawned this creation as well as the rapid Range Rover Sport SVR and the exquisite, $199,500 Range Rover SVAutobiography.
The Holland & Holland Range Rover, however, is the most exclusive. It’s targeted at the world’s wealthiest hunters, shooters, and shotgun aficionados—and just 30 are being offered in the U.S.
This magnificent beast’s headline item is a deployable, locking, and leather-trimmed gun case mounted in the luggage area. It can hold a brace of Holland & Holland’s shotguns, which are, alas, sold separately. Outfitted with walnut stocks and fine engravings, these flashy firearms are priced at around $150,000.
On the Jaguar side, SVO has been making big news with classics. It recently pulled the wraps off the first of nine 1957 XKSS supercars—just like the one the King of Cool, Steve McQueen, owned and loved. Despite the $1.5 to $2 million sticker price, all nine cars were snapped up before potential purchasers could say, “Look at that profit margin.”
Currently, Jaguar Land Rover SVO’s offerings are more in the super-low-volume, limited-edition mold, with few true bespoke choices. But that is going to change as more buyers crave even greater personalization.
The recent introduction of the Evoque Convertible begs the question of just how long it will be before we see a Range Rover Drophead. Ideally, one inspired by the custom convertible Roger Moore drove in the 1983 James Bond romp Octopussy.
Speaking of Bond, if there’s one brand totally intertwined with the 007 franchise, it’s Aston Martin. So when it came time to name the British sports-car maker’s personalization division, it had to be Q by Aston Martin.
Q has been busy designing arguably the ultimate bespoke Aston: The DB10. Aston Martin built 10 of these handmade wonders for the most recent Bond escapade, Spectre, many of which ended up being unceremoniously dunked in the Tiber River.
Before that, Q received attention for its $1 million Lagonda Taraf super-sedan, probably the most expensive four-door in the world. Aimed at redefining and reintroducing the uber-luxury Lagonda brand to affluent consumers, the Taraf might make an appearance in the U.S. And while it may look a little dull, Q provides seemingly limitless choices of colors, upholstery, carbon fibers, and custom body bits, as well as fitted picnic and luggage sets. As Commander Bond might say, Q is for those who think The World is Not Enough.
Despite this plethora of options, all of these automakers are reluctant to build a completely different body for an existing model. That’s not the case at Ferrari.
Speak in whispered tones to its Special Projects division, send over a copy of your latest bank statement, and Ferrari might be persuaded to re-body a car to satisfy your whims.
Not so long ago, passionate Ferrari collector and rather accomplished guitarist Eric Clapton told the company he’d really love a ride that paid homage to his favorite Ferrari of all time, the 512BB, aka the Berlinetta Boxer. Over the years, it seems, Slow Hand has owned three of the V-12-powered brutes from the ’70s.
Clapton’s car, badged the SP12 EC (it even bears his initials!), was based on a 458 Italia but with new bodywork that echoed design cues from the original BB.
Sadly, the only thing Mr. Clapton couldn’t persuade the carmaker to do was add a Ferrari Flat-12 engine. He had to make do with the stock 4.5-liter, 562-hp V-8.
Last summer, another Brit (who, unlike Clapton, chose to remain anonymous) took delivery of a different Ferrari Special Projects one-off deemed the 458 MM Speciale. It featured new aluminum and carbon-fiber body panels and a dramatic visor look for the windshield and side windows. As with Clapton’s concoction, don’t even think about asking the price.
For all bespoke works, there’s a thin line between elegant personalization and downright gaudiness. Requests for paint that matches an owner’s favorite eye shadow, interiors lined with ostrich skin or rabbit pelt, and backseat beds for pampered pooches have been met with smiles and nods. As long as the check clears, automakers will accommodate all kinds of demands.
But as Pedro Mota, president of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars America, says, “As long as a request doesn’t compromise the safety of the car, or disfigure the Spirit of Ecstasy, we never say ‘no.’ We are not the taste police.”
Lime-green velvet seats, anyone?