The Rolls-Royce experience
It’s not often that one is given an invitation to visit Rolls-Royce, purveyors of one of the best, if not the best, motor cars in the world.
Early this year, on a cold day in January, I was given the opportunity to visit the Rolls-Royce headquarters in Chicester, near the Goodwood Estate, roughly 120 kilometers away from London’s City Center.
From the vast cultural melting pot that is London, we whisked ourselves to West Sussex, and onto Chicester, a small cathedral town southwest of London.
The massive change in scenery is impressive. From endless steel and concrete, to vast tracts of green, agricultural land, UK is truly a sight to see in its entirety.
Arriving at Chicester, we spent a night at a quaint inn serving very good and traditional English meals.
Since it was the dead of winter, it was freezing cold, but the warmth and generosity of our hosts made the chill bearable.
The next day, however, was a day of days.
At the crack of dawn, a pair of Rolls Royce suddenly pulled up as I was soaking in the sights and sounds of my environment. Suddenly pulled up is quite apt, as these Rolls-Royce vehicles are as silent as a ghost; you see, Rolls-Royce names their cars after things or beings that emit no noise and are eerily silent. Hence the names: Ghost, Dawn, Phantom, Wraith and so on.
As we were picked up, I elected to ride in the Dawn first. The interior is sumptuous, devoid of any frills, covered in swathes of leather and rich wood.
Surprisingly, despite being a huge car, it’s not very roomy inside. But float it truly does, soaking up the broken provincial tarmac which could easily pass for our very own provincial roads.
We arrived at the Rolls-Royce factory and headquarters at the Goodwood Estate grounds, and the complex is akin to a holy, sacred ground, or an institution of some sort.
No hustle and bustle, no noise, no controlled chaos. Everything looks and feels serene and calm. There’s no imposing structure, just a nice, professional looking but approachable low-rise structure.
As we entered, we were warmly welcomed by executives of Rolls-Royce. It truly felt like family: we are treated very kindly, very warmly. That’s not to say these gentlemen were casual and informal. Rather, it felt like seeing long lost elderly relatives.
We were ushered into the Charles Stewart Rolls Study where guests of the company are made to relax before proceeding to more serious things, including some driving, a short presentation, and tour of the immediate facilities.
Charles Stewart Rolls was the engineer in the Rolls and Royce partnership. He was the one responsible for the brand’s engineering prowess, which saw them develop some of the best cars in the world to this day. Cars are after all, a collection of tens of thousands of parts, and it was Sir Charles Rolls’ job to make sure they performed better than the sum of all of its parts.
Pleasantries exchanged and warm drinks to heat us up, we proceeded to the next part of the day’s activities: the Goodwood Studio.
This bigger room is where Rolls-Royce unveils bespoke models for VIP clients who take the time and effort to customize their Rolls-Royce motor cars to a high level of uniqueness, ensuring that no two Rolls-Royce vehicles are the same.
As a sample, the upcoming Wraith Black Badge, a recently introduced high-performance variant of the Wraith, featuring revised suspension and driveline tweaks, bigger, more powerful brakes and more power, was unveiled to us as if we were buyers of the said vehicle.
Let me tell you, nobody does theatrics and drama as well as the English: from the music, the lights, sounds and curtain raising, the unveiling itself deserves a Tony Award.
After poring over the Wraith Black Badge, we then proceeded to the Henry Royce Atelier, a room filled with every imaginable interior and exterior paints, fabrics, and other material options for your Rolls-Royce.
Leather, silk, fabric, aluminum, wood, carbon-fiber, LED accents can essentially make almost infinite permutations and combinations of interior and exterior finishes. For the external colors alone, Rolls-Royce has 44,000 exterior colors on catalog. If they don’t have it, but show them what you want, they can do it too!
Executives can take note of everything you would want in your car as well. Family crest? Sure! Some indigenous materials from your home country? No problem, Rolls-Royce will try its best to source that material and utilize it on your car. Fancy a particular shade of pink for the leather? Done! Truly, your Rolls-Royce is limited simply by your imagination.
As we headed out for our test drive, we saw a very prominent quote on top of the reception, by the main entrance. Originally stated by Sir Frederick Henry Royce, it read: Take the best that exists and make it better. (When it does not exist, design it).
Impressive words to live by, indeed. No wonder Rolls-Royce builds only a relatively modest number of cars a year (below 4,000 cars) to ensure a high level of care and concern for each bespoke client, and to ensure a very high quality in all their products.
And as for the cars and the driving, well, stay tuned for that.