Bespoke motors: When money is no object and a six-figure car is not exclusive enough

Casey Williams, Tribune News Service on

Published in Business News

Imagine commissioning a car like ordering a custom suit — an automobile tailored specifically to the client. You may think of Rolls-Royce and Bentley with veneers and hides and artful stitching, but as Cadillac raises its new electric flagship, the menu from which wealthy drivers dine includes a dose of mid-century allure.

Over the past five years, Rolls-Royce noted increased enthusiasm for bespoke autos among wealthy Americans, and while they’re finally embracing bespoke, it's simply how Rolls-Royce creates automobiles.

“We do some of the work in dealerships — each has colors, veneers and custom leather work,” said Gerry Spahn, head of corporate communications for Rolls-Royce North America. “From there, we engage our team in Goodwood, England. Bespoke adds an average 25% in additional value, but can be multiples of the base price. A $400,000 car can top seven figures when delivered.”

A recent Phantom was four years in the making, though it usually takes eight months to three years depending on the client’s desires.

“Rarely is there something we can’t do,” Spahn said. “Within regulations, you can do what you want with embroidery, leather, etc. The Phantom also offers a freeform glass “gallery” in the dash where clients have added art, 3D sculpture, leather, diamonds and even feathers to personalize their environment.”

While intricate requests are gladly accepted, most clients focus on color.


“They can choose pearlized finishes and even size and colors of the specks,” Spahn said. “Some have real gold, silver, or diamonds. These finishes can be sixteen layers and take months.”

Sometimes what starts at bespoke becomes standard.

“A feature that’s iconic to Rolls-Royce is our Starlight Headliner,” Spahn said. “Back in 2005, it started as a client request for diffused lighting in their Phantom. Now, it is standard on every Ghost and Phantom.”

The high-tech hand-stitched headliner is comprised of thousands of fiber optic light points that, in some iterations, features shooting stars that dart across the roof.


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