Throughout its history, Rolls-Royce has lived by one main maxim, that is to “take the best that exists, and make it better”. Sir Henry Royce said, “Small things make perfection, but perfection is no small thing”. Today, Rolls-Royce allows you, the customer, to add those small things in search of perfection. To be presented with an opportunity to ‘improve’ a Rolls-Royce is perhaps not the way to explain this. Rather, we’re presented with an opportunity to personalise a Rolls-Royce to the nth degree. Who better to take us through the process than Lars Klawitter, General Manager of the marque’s Bespoke programme.  

How long has the Bespoke Programme been in operation? Rolls-Royce IS Bespoke – it is ingrained in our brand’s DNA to provide our discerning patrons with an unparalleled scope for personalization. The history of the marque is rooted in Bespoke through coach-building where customers would approach Rolls-Royce to build a bespoke body on the chassis of a car, which enabled our clients to indulge in the ultimate of automotive personalization. A modern day example of Rolls-Royce’s coach-building is shown in our recent launch of Sweptail – an entirely Bespoke creation realized for one single customer.

Are you getting more interest in bespoke / custom year on year? Our limited collections serve to inspire customers, and as such, we continue to witness a huge demand. In fact, in 2016 we saw record results for our Bespoke Programme. Almost every Phantom, Ghost, Wraith and Dawn produced in 2016 contained specially-commissioned and unique Bespoke design elements, reaffirming Rolls-Royce as the world’s only truly handcrafted luxury motor car. As we look to the end of 2017, we have seen a continuation of that trend.

While it’s a worldwide opportunity, have you found there’s been more demand in this region? Why do you think that is? The Middle East has consistently been our top region for Bespoke globally. There is a huge appetite for personalization in the region and we have seen that our customers take a lot of pride in their mode of transport and like to stand out. It is always fun to work with customers who want to push the boundaries of Bespoke in their motoring masterpieces and challenge us to test the limits.

What are the most challenging materials you’ve had to work with and why? Our customers have in the past asked us to include kangaroo, ostrich and alligator skins into seats. These are challenging materials to work with and get right, but our expert leather workers at Goodwood have the skills to deliver such intricate work. One of the most difficult requests was putting a horsehair inlay into a racing horse owner’s dashboard, but we were glad to oblige. Excitingly, one customer requested that we use a tree from his estate for the veneer and we were able to make it happen.

What sort of testing do these materials go through to ensure their longevity? Our leather comes from only mature bull hides, found in carefully controlled and closely monitored breeders. The hides come from herds bred for their meat, in condition as close to natural as possible, producing hides as a by-product. The hides are drum-dyed rather than painted, so that the color permeates right through the leather. This process also imparts a natural suppleness to the leather and means it will never squeak nor crack. Wood veneers used for the interior trim include figured mahogany from West Africa, tulipwood, walnut burr and bird’s eye maple from North America, oak burr from Europe and elm cluster from France. All the wood used for veneers is sourced from sustainable forests. Our wood craftspeople will have spent up to a month shaping, sanding, lacquering and hand-polishing the separate wood parts that go into each car. The veneers in every model are book-matched by eye to create a symmetrical mirror image of the grain through the center of the dashboard.

More generally, each individual Rolls-Royce that leaves Goodwood is subjected to a series of stringent tests. These include tests for Noise, Vibration and Harshness on a rolling road and in an anechoic chamber; a monsoon test in a rainmaker chamber to ensure complete watertightness in the harshest conditions; a millimeter by millimeter testing of paint finish by hand and a final test drive by our engineers before it is handed over to each individual customer. This is possible because of Rolls-Royce’s sustainable management of the number of vehicles it produces. It is only when you produce approximately 4,000 vehicles that you have the resource to offer this level of individual perfection.

Are people not strictly in the automotive industry involved to help deliver Bespoke requests? Absolutely, a large portion of our employees at Goodwood do not to come from the automotive industries, rather industries that require special skills such as woodworking and leatherworking skills.

Can you reserve colours and trim for an individual customer and guarantee that they’re not used on another car? Yes, though so far this has mostly pertained to paint colours. We have many examples of colours developed specially for individual customers that are for them, and them alone.

Where do most of your Bespoke customers come from? Which are your biggest markets and which ones are more reserved? Customers that use our Bespoke Programme come from all over the world. Middle Eastern owners are particularly interested in individualisation and as such, in 2013 around 99% of both Ghosts and Phantoms sold across the region featured various levels of Bespoke content, followed by 98% of North American customers and 95% of European owners creating Bespoke Phantoms.

Which models tend to get the most Bespoke treatment, the Phantom, Ghost or Wraith? Levels of personalisation on Phantom were highest around the world in 2013 compared to other Rolls-Royce models, followed by the Ghost. However, all three models surpassed their revenue targets this year.