Presented at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este, The Sweptail fits into the idea of coachbuilding heritage expressed with the launch of the 103EX one year ago: personal, bespoke moldes each individual commissioning patron.
The project was launched in 2013, when Rolls-Royce was approached by a customer, collector of distinctive, one-off items including super-yachts and private aircraft, who wanted a very special one-off, a two seater coupé inspired by luxury yachts and by the Royces of the 1920s and 1930s, and featuring a large panoramic glass roof.
The client established a close rapport with the design department led by Taylor, who set about bringing the idea to life.
The grandeur, scale, flamboyance and drama of the 1925 Phantom I Round Door built by Jonckheere; the svelte tapering glasshouse, dramatic dash to axle proportion and up-sweep of the rear departure angle of the 1934 Phantom II Streamline Saloon by Park Ward; the elegantly falling waist-rail, swept tail coachwork of the 1934 Gurney Nutting Phantom II Two Door Light Saloon, and the flowing roofline, rising departure angle, and again the swept tail coachwork of the 1934 Park Ward 20/25 Limousine Coupé were all considered by today’s Rolls-Royce designers in the creation of this very distinctive motor car.
The front end features a confident and solid character, and is centered on a new treatment of the iconic Pantheon grille. The largest of any modern era Rolls-Royce, the grille is milled from solid aluminium before being polished by hand to a mirror finish. The periphery of the front face of ‘Sweptail’ is framed in brushed aluminium.
The profile expresses a sense of scale and grandeur: from the leading edge of the windscreen, the roofline accelerates as it fires backwards towards the rear of the motor car, overshooting the boot lid edge to emphasize its length. The longer side window graphic and wide C-pillar finisher underscore the length and proportions.
The coup de gras of the rear is the ultimate homage to the world of racing yachts that inspired the client, with its raked stern. Seen directly from behind, the rear taper contrasts strongly with the front of the motor car, shaping a completely new perception of a dramatic Rolls-Royce Coupé.
Both the roof line as it tapers towards the centre line of the car, concluding in a ‘bullet-tip’ that houses the centre brake light, and the sweeping lower bumper area of the motor car, combine to create a greater feeling of elegance in motion.
The cleanliness of the surface of ‘Sweptail’ is maintained as the bodywork wraps under the car with no visible boundary to the surfaces, a treatment that is akin to the hull of a yacht. The underside of the motor car was designed to deliver the visual of a progressive upward sweep at the rear departure angle of the car, culminating in the swept-tail that gives ‘Sweptail’ it name.
And finishing off the uncluttered rear of this one-off motor car, is its identifier and registration number, 08. Two individual digits milled from ingots of aluminium and hand polished.
The highlight feature of ‘Sweptail’ however is that specifically asked for by the client. An uninterrupted glass roof, one of the largest and most complex ever seen on a motor car of any marque, allows the cabin to be flooded with natural light, animating a host of beautifully handcrafted materials and componentry.
The size, scale and complexity of the glass roof’s curvature is a marvel to behold, and from above again accentuates the speed and elegance of ‘Sweptail’. Creating the ambience of the interior of the motor car, the glass of the roof is framed by polished aluminium rails that channel it into a vanishing point at the rearmost extremity of the cabin.
“Sweptail is the automotive equivalent of Haute Couture,” comments Giles Taylor, Director of Design at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “It is a Rolls-Royce designed and hand-tailored to fit a specific customer. This customer came to the House of Rolls-Royce with an idea, shared in the creative process where we advised him on his cloth, and then we tailored that cloth to him. You might say we cut the cloth for the suit of clothes that he will be judged by.”
“Our job was to guide, edit and finely hone the lines that would ultimately give our client this most perfect of Rolls-Royces,” comments Taylor.
The cleanliness and grandeur of the bodywork from the side view, the lengthened side windows and the panoramic glass roof combine to illuminate the two singular occupants of this most singular Rolls-Royce and its modern, minimalistic handcrafted interior.
The overall design of the interior has been conceived in a classic two-seat GT configuration, echoing the touring nature of its exterior body lines.
The design is ruled by a philosophy of simplicity and minimalism. The value of beautiful materials takes precedence here, resulting in a fastidious suppression of switchgear to the absolute minimum.
Generous quantities of polished Macassar Ebony and open-pore Paldao adorn the interior, creating visual and tactile contrasts for the owner, both classical and contemporary. All their forms however are thoroughly modern as they echo the exterior lines of ‘Sweptail’, hand-formed to encircle the occupants with some of the most beautiful natural materials in the world. This choice of dark and light, Ebony and Paldao, is set off by contrasting light Moccasin and Dark Spice leathers that adorn the seats, armrests and dashboard top.
But it is what those materials have been made to do that is the most fascinating aspect of this one-off cabin. True to the spirit of a transcontinental GT that Rolls-Royce established in the 20s and 30s, in place of the rear seats is a vast expanse of wood creating a mid-shelf with an illuminated glass lip, and a hat shelf which flows to the outer limits of the interior volume. Sitting under the rear opening backlight through which it can be accessed, the hat shelf is in itself a thing of beauty, highly polished and inset with luggage rails.
Behind the occupants, a feature named the Passarelle flows from the rear edge of the windscreen to resolve in a teardrop as it connects to the hat shelf to join all interior volumes. This element also includes the only visible presence of this singular motor car’s name as ‘Sweptail’ is discreetly debossed into the surface, exactly on the centre line.
Other modern materials and modern uses of those materials feature. The Macassar Ebony veneer seen around the cabin has been handcrafted to adorn the dashboard in the most modern way. The cleanest Rolls-Royce dashboard to date, the minimalist ethic not only dictates that only one control now appears on it whilst all other switchgear is discreetly relocated, but that the clock blends seamlessly too. In a world first, the face of this singular Rolls-Royce clock is also handmade of the thinnest Macassar veneer, visually embedding the clock into the fascia.
The delicacy of this particular piece of veneer allows for its rear illumination to pass through to show the hour marks, meaning the only physical elements on the clock are its hands that are precision machined from titanium. This use of titanium then extends to the faces, numbers and hands on all three hand-assembled instrument dials.
Two final surprise features have been secreted inside ‘Sweptail’ to the stringent standards of the client.
Concealed in the outboard walls on either side of the motor car, behind the opening of the coach doors, are two identical panniers. Each pannier, when activated, deploys forward to present the owner’s bespoke made attaché case which has been carefully packaged to exactly house his personal laptop device. The cases themselves have been hand-constructed from lightweight carbon fibre, wrapped in the finest leather that matches the interior of ‘Sweptail’ and detailed with machined aluminium and titanium clasps and locks.
These attaché cases are twinned with the full set of luggage also developed by Rolls-Royce Bespoke for ‘Sweptail’. The luggage resides in the trunk of the motor car, a trunk beautifully clad in the same wood as the hat shelf and inset with polished aluminium luggage rails.
As final personal touch, the entire centre console now houses a one-off hand-built mechanism that, at the touch of a button, will deploy a bottle of the client’s favourite vintage champagne – the year of his birth – and two crystal champagne flutes. As the lid of the chiller opens, the mechanical action articulates the bottle to the perfect position for the owner to pick up.