Forgive me for starting with a terrible cliché, but… you know that whole thing about ‘if you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it’?
Well, when I first set eyes on Rolls-Royce Sweptail, a bespoke one-off motor created by the firm on commission, my first thought was ‘how much?’ And I’m a journalist, so… I really had to ask.
— Autocar (@autocar) May 27, 2017
Predictably, Rolls-Royce weren’t saying. A figure of £10million has been bandied around which is… kind of ridiculous. £10m would just about buy you five Bugatti Chirons. Or, if you prefer, 1430 Dacia Sanderos.
And yet, once you wrap your head around what Sweptail is, £10m doesn’t seem quite so wildly outlandish. Actually, outlandish is a fitting word to describe Sweptail. You could also use extravagant. Ostentatious. Magnificent. Grand. Majestic. And, yes, excessive.
Giles Taylor, Rolls-Royce’s director of design, described Sweptail as “the automotive equivalent of Haute Couture.” For the ‘connoisseur and valued Rolls-Royce customer’ who commissioned it, Sweptail is as much about making a statement as making a car.
I’ll be honest: it’s not really my thing. Sure, it’s beautiful, and sure, it’s exquisitely crafted. And sure, there’s incredible attention to detail and some head-shaking, jaw-dropping features (such as the system to deploy a bottle of 1970 Dom Perignon). But, frankly, it’s several steps beyond anything I can relate to. It’s not really a car, to be honest. It’s a peek into the ultra-luxury lifestyle of the ultra-rich, a money-no-object world of luxury yachts, private jets and fine dining.
And that is exactly why Sweptail has significance beyond being a one-off combination of car, engineering, design, fashion, art and theatre: it hints at a future direction for Rolls-Royce.
Sweptail is a return to the company’s ‘coachbuild’ roots – a one-off car engineered on a basic platform to an customer’s every whim. For the customer, it’s as much about the experience as about the car. Imagine having access to Rolls-Royce’s director of design for four years, and having him personally create a one-off car. How much would you be willing to pay for that service? Well, guess what? If you have to ask...
But there are people out there who can afford it. An incredibly small number of people, granted, but potentially enough to make bespoke ‘coachbuilding’ a profitable business model. In an age when some premium car manufacturers are shifting towards increasing sales volume to boost profits, Sweptail is a signal that Rolls-Royce could look in the other direction. An outlandish, ostentatious and, yes, excessive direction. And one, of course, where the subject of price isn’t talked about…