From mixing pure gold paint to searching swamps for 48,000-year-old wood, the world’s luxury car makers are going to greater and greater lengths to meet their clients’ needs, but they’re doing so in a way that maintains their brand ethos and keeps their cars out of independent tuner and customization garages.
Rolls-Royce this month put the final touches to the biggest single bespoke order in its history -- 30 unique extended wheelbase Phantoms that will serve as guest shuttles for THE 13, an ultra-exclusive Macau hotel.
Each car’s exterior boasts a unique shade of red paint, created specifically for the client, plus equally original alloy wheels. However, two of the cars also sport badges made from the finest enamel and surrounded by pave set diamonds, plus a layer of pure gold paint on top of the bespoke red exterior finish.
“A Rolls-Royce motor car is commissioned to express the tastes, desires and lifestyle of its patron,” said Giles Taylor, the company’s Director of Design.
And to meet the specifications of the client, Stephen Hung, Rolls-Royce needed to devise a new type of paint and a new method of applying it so that the finish would be perfectly even.
“[It] took eight attempts to mix the perfect color,” said Rolls-Royce Material Scientist, Nick Geehan. It consists of 23.75 carat gold particles, applied at a 40-micron thickness, mixed with glass and aluminum so that the car literally shimmers. As well as new application equipment, the vehicles required 10 layers of paint to get the right effect, 250% more than usual.
And Rolls-Royce isn’t the only established automotive firm going to extraordinary lengths to keep its customers satisfied and away from firms like Mansory, who pride themselves on being able to offer any type of internal, external or under the hood customization on any car.
“We fill the niche in the market the manufacturers can’t, or don’t want to fill in,” explains Ralph Niese, Manosry’s marketing head. “It is all about individualization. We offer our customers the possibility to create their very own car, with the interior, the aerodynamics and the engine power they want to have.”
Purists feel that these sorts of services can sometimes be detrimental to the car’s intended aesthetic or positioning. But at the same time, Rolls-Royce isn’t the only company that recognizes tastes are changing and that they need to move with the times.
Rare woods and custom patterns
It’s why Bentley bid an undisclosed amount at auction for a tiny piece of a 350-year-old walnut tree from the Fulbeck estate in the UK that it will reserve as a veneer option for just a handful of most important clients.
BMW can now trim a car’s cabin with 48,000-year-old swamp-preserved kauri wood from New Zealand.
And Audi this week announced it’s developed a new method of applying paint that will allow clients to etch their car’s surface with patterns and symbols. The effect is achieved by adding matte elements to the existing paint finish.
“With this process, we modify the brilliance of the paintwork and the intensity of its sheen. Light hitting the surface is then reflected diffusely by the individualized surface areas. This makes it appear matte,” explained project manager Dr. Erhard Brandl. Production section head Mirko Endres added: “This form of individualization is weather resistant, unlike conventional lettering and stickers, and it has a much more high-quality appearance.”