“Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it. Accept nothing nearly right or good enough.” Such mottos were the original manifestos of Rolls-Royce founder, Sir Henry Royce, and which continue to drive the brand to this day.
“It take 60 pairs of hands more than 450 hours to design, construct and craft each Rolls-Royce before it’s handed to its owner,” one of the marque’s insightful videos reveals. That’s quite the claim but nothing short of categorical truth from the producer of that which has been considered by critics as the “best car in the world” since 1913. Well, it’s true what they say – you can’t hurry perfection, in neither production nor heritage it seems.
The over-one-hundred-year-old brand’s newest model, the Dawn, arrived last month via a groundbreaking online reveal and press conference. “Our new Rolls-Royce Dawn promises a striking, seductive encounter like no other Rolls-Royce to date, and begins a new age of open-top, super-luxury motoring,” explains CEO Torsten Müller-Otvös, “Quite simply, it is the sexiest Rolls-Royce ever built.”
We’ll say. With its carefully considered “crisp modern edge” (designed to suit a modern, younger and more social clientele), this droptop retains all the subtle power and sophistication of a traditional Rolls-Royce with a more casual profile and seductive air.
Just as impressive in both its forms, director of design Giles Taylor reveals, “It was essential, right at the start of the design process, that this car would look superb with the hood up [and] stunning with the hood down.” These new photographs show those good looks off to their utmost with each curve and stitch being carefully accounted for.
As Giles explains, the Dawn’s key feature is its wide, highly raked windscreen which is mirrored by a recessed grill bar – both of which exude the desired “dolce vita” vibe and call attention to the car’s horizontal lines rather than vertical as traditionally expected. “The body sidelines flow very naturally – they converge beautifully underneath the grill to promote that sense of power,” he informs, “The line that starts at the front wing, works underneath the glass and rises just enough over the rear axle – this subtle beauty of line that redefines a sensual side to the Dawn character.”
The perfectly flawless body of the car (which can take up to 5 hours to polish alone) having been examined, Giles turns to the interior. “On the rear deck cover we’ve taken the Canadel panelling and delivered a superb piece of craftsmanship – mirror-matched open-pore wood that tumbles naturally into the interior as though exterior and interior are perfectly combined.” One of the brand’s craftsmanship videos goes one step further to explain that, “beautiful wood is integral to all Rolls-Royce cars. Many of our wood-shop team have worked as cabinetmakers in the past. The combination of their traditional craft skills and modern technology helps make our veneers special.” The veneers in question would not be out of place used in a beautiful piece of cabinetry, neither would the sumptuous dyed-through leather for a velvety soft sofa. Which is to be expected of Rolls-Royce interiors.
“It takes 17 days and up to 450 individual pieces of the softest leather to create an interior for a Rolls-Royce,” the brand states, “The combination of top-quality hides, high-tech laser cutting equipment and traditional craftsmanship means every piece is perfect.”
Giles finishes, “Graphics are harmonious, surfaces are simple – no line should feel forced.” Certainly no one could accuse the design of the Dawn as being in any way contrived. Its entire appeal is its apparent simplicity.
What’s not so simple, however, is the brand’s meticulous hand-built production process which utilises techniques from a casting process from 3000 BC to modern laser cutting. And, in a world of increasing mass production, machine-made items, these are to be respected greatly.
Nor should the cars’ flawless functions be taken for granted. The brand rightly boasts, “The roof of the Rolls-Royce Dawn delivers the silence of a Wraith [the marque’s 2013 release] when up and operates in almost complete silence in just over 20 seconds at a cruising speed of up to 50kph” – a feat in motor engineering. A near-silent interior thanks to its noise isolation is just another element included in such a well-designed vehicle.
Everything aside, however, it is people – the designers, engineers and craftspeople – who are behind these feats, of course. “At our Goodwood plant, there are only four robots but even they can’t completely replace the human touch,” the brand confirms before explaining, “They’re programmed with our hand-spraying know-how to achieve a consistent finish, time and time again but those hard-to-reach spots are still finished by hand.”
One person which the brand refuses to replace by a machine is coachline painter Mark Court (who just so happens to be the only man responsible for this task). His painstakingly hand-painted coachlines, which adorn some Rolls-Royce cars, run the entire six metres of the car and can take up to three hours to paint. A fitting example to prove the worth of such a seemingly small detail is his experience of being flown to Dubai by the brand to paint coachlines on an already-purchased Rolls-Royce. Such is the commitment of this brand’s artisans and the equal trust Rolls-Royce puts in them.
The story goes that, back in the day, Sir Henry was encouraged to “turn out a reliable car at a low price”. He ignored the counsel, set about to make “the best motor car in the world regardless of cost” and, in doing so, created a legend. That legend still stands today, making known that his mantras didn’t go down in history as empty words. It would be safe to say that the Rolls-Royce of today would please Sir Henry immensely.
Images courtesy of Rolls-Royce.