As a House of Luxury, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars constantly seeks to create personal and deeply meaningful luxury products that reflect the marque’s clients’ ambitions and personal codes of luxury. Rolls-Royce’s unparalleled Bespoke capabilities enable clients to bring these desires to life through the commission of handcrafted and truly individual Rolls-Royce motor cars.
A small group of exceptional individuals wished to elevate this remarkable, deeply personal experience even further and move beyond the canvas of existing Rolls-Royce products. These highly ambitious and discerning clients sought the opportunity to work directly with the Rolls-Royce designers, engineers, and craftspeople to create completely unique motor cars beyond the brand’s current product portfolio, participating in every stage of their development.
“Within Rolls-Royce design, the Coachbuild department is a place without limitation, where the most ambitious ideas can be expressed and a forward-looking vision of what is possible can be realized. The nature of Coachbuild gives us the latitude to go beyond our existing design strategy and explore bold, new, and highly focused creative avenues. These motor cars represent the dreams of our clients and capture a specific moment in time, while also projecting a bold and timeless interpretation of the Rolls-Royce brand. Yet Droptail, the most involved, progressive, and refined Coachbuild to date, is not a concept car or a design study – it is a motor car that has been built to be driven. – Anders Warming, Design Director, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
The renaissance of contemporary coachbuilding began in 2017 with “Sweptail,” a bold two-door coupé created in response to a client’s wish to reprise the art of coachbuilding in partnership with Rolls-Royce. It was followed by the unveiling of “Boat Tail” in 2021.
During the recent historic Monterey Car Week, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars revealed “Droptail,” the third chapter in the marque’s Coachbuild story. Coachbuild is the equivalent of Haute Couture and is the pinnacle of the Rolls-Royce brand. Droptail is the first roadster body style in Rolls-Royce’s modern history and represents the most involved, progressive, and refined Coachbuild project yet.
Droptail is the product of a four-year collaboration with the marque’s most ambitious clients. Four Droptails will be built in total, each a unique expression of the commissioning clients’ character.
“Rolls-Royce Motor Cars unveils Droptail, an exquisite coachbuilt motor car that resets our understanding of what is possible in the luxury sector. Indeed, our dedicated Coachbuild department is the only place in the world where true patrons of luxury can create a motor car not for their image, but in their image. These extraordinary products are roadgoing expressions of applied art, built from the ground up over more than four years in collaboration with a small constellation of our most ambitious clients. These individuals join our designers, engineers, and craftspeople at every stage of their masterpiece’s development. The result of this partnership is a historic motor car that is as fundamentally unique as its owner and will enter Rolls-Royce history as a testament to the shared ambition of our brand and its clients. Droptail also answers a long-standing question – can a car be created as art? With the unveiling of this extraordinary roadster, the answer is, unequivocally, yes.” –Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
La Rose Noire
The first of the four unique Rolls-Royce Droptail commissions is named “La Rose Noire,” inspired by romance and the allure of the Black Baccara rose.
La Rose Noire incorporates the most complex expression of parquetry in Rolls-Royce history, with over 1,603 wood pieces hand-finished and hand-placed over an almost two-year period. The new exterior paint process required 150 iterations to perfect, and it features a wearable Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept timepiece.
Amethyst Droptail is the second of the four commissions. This Coachbuild project is inspired by the birthstone of the patron’s son, and incorporates a Veneer aft deck is the largest wood surface ever produced by Rolls-Royce; this rear section is the only aerodynamically functional wood surface on a new motor car.
Amethyst Droptail also features amethyst gems incorporated into the interior and exterior and a removable and wearable Vacheron Constantin timepiece adorning the dashboard.
Amethyst Droptail was recently unveiled to a commissioning client at a private event in Gstaad, Switzerland.
Renaissance of the Roadster
Droptail represents the renaissance of the roadster body type, which breaks free from the four-seat convention previously associated with Rolls-Royce. In the early twentieth century, Rolls-Royce supplied rolling chassis to coachbuilders, who then added specially commissioned bodies. While European clients were drawn to grand, four-door, chauffeur-driven saloons, a young and bold generation of American clients were specifying two-door, two-seat roadster bodies. In doing so, these assertive and confident self-drivers disrupted the traditional, more formal codes of the brand.
Rolls-Royce Droptail is a highly contemporary projection of these values – a concept each commissioning client found deeply compelling. In capturing this spirit, Rolls-Royce Coachbuild designers studied the 1912 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Sluggard, the 1930 Rolls-Royce Phantom Brewster New York Roadster, and the 1925 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Piccadilly. Like these motor cars, Droptail takes a highly distilled approach to design.
“Motivated by the significance of shaping the world’s only contemporary Rolls-Royce roadster, we felt liberated to re-examine the fundamental tenets of Rolls-Royce design. For the first time in our history, the iconic Pantheon grille has been significantly reshaped, setting the tone for a highly progressive design treatment: Droptail is a celebration of reduction and focus of purpose that is entirely in tune with contemporary codes of luxury. Like every coachbuilt Rolls-Royce, Droptail expresses a deeply personal reflection of each of its commissioning clients’ sensibilities, which it was my great privilege to explore with them over many years. The result is a landmark statement reflecting an unprecedented era of confidence, clarity, and precision within Rolls-Royce design.” – Alex Innes, Head of Coachbuild Design, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
Droptail Exterior: Focus and Intent
At 17’4” long and 6’5” wide, the exterior dimensions of Droptail recall the compact proportions of early Rolls-Royce roadsters. Yet, as the motor car’s front-end treatment clearly signals, this is not a retrospective pastiche of a classic Rolls-Royce. For Droptail, designers introduced a new interpretation of the marque’s iconography: the Pantheon grille and the Badge of Honor.
Ordinarily, the vanes of the marque’s Pantheon grille are straight and upright, but for Droptail – and for the first time in Rolls-Royce history – they are “kinked” towards the top of the radiator, gently reclining to create a “temple brow” overhang. This progressive treatment creates a more informal expression of Rolls-Royce design principles, using shadow to connect the two front headlamps visually. This strong horizontal graphic, bookended by deep-set daytime running lights, forms the motor car’s powerful brow line. Beneath, the grille falls to reveal chamfered corners – another reference to the informal spirit of Droptail.
In profile, Droptail amplifies the motor car’s driver-oriented configuration. A dramatic body line is sculpted into the coachwork, falling from the front wheel to the rear of the motor car and to Droptail’s “sail cowls,” which denote that it is a strict two-seater. Named after their resemblance to a yacht’s jib, these sharp, angular forms rise behind the doors and curve gently inwards, subtly directing the eye to the motor car’s occupants.
Droptail’s sail cowls frame an extraordinary feat of engineering. The aft deck section, which sits between the occupants, performs an aerodynamic function in that it produces downforce to improve stability at speed. Realizing this while retaining Droptail’s signature “dropping” rear end – a design style not ordinarily conducive to producing downforce without a peripheral “wing” – was a considerable challenge.
The design team’s reinterpretation of the Rolls-Royce “Badge of Honor” is another testament to the freedoms given to Coachbuild creators – it is distilled into a stainless steel “Double R” monogram, which is placed on both sail cowls.
Droptail Roof: A Second Character
A removable hard top has been designed to give Droptail two very distinct characters: without its roof, Droptail is an open-top roadster; with the roof installed, it is a dramatic coupé.
Droptail’s removable roof is made from carbon fiber to accommodate the curvature and crisp edging of its cantilevered design.
Droptail Interior: Inner Clarity
Droptail celebrates the intimacy of a two-seat roadster with a cocooning interior, cosseting and protecting occupants with a high waist-rail and low seating position.
The most prominent gesture within the cabin is the curved shawl panel; a vast, uninterrupted and intricately formed section of wood that wraps around the driver and their companion, evoking a sense of companionship and intimacy in tune with the romantic character of this two-seater roadster.
Droptail Engineering: Freedom Through Bespoke
Completely new underpinnings were developed for the Rolls-Royce Droptail, constructed from aluminum, steel, and carbon fiber. Steel is used for the load-bearing front wing and door sections, but from the “B”-pillar rearwards carbon fiber is used, comprising three bonded sections. The rear quarter panels are the largest carbon fiber panels ever created for a Rolls-Royce motor car.
Droptail is powered by a twin-turbocharged 6.6-liter V12 engine enhanced to deliver an additional 30 horsepower and an elevated torque figure of 620 pound-feet – the first time that engine power output has been increased for a Rolls-Royce Coachbuild project.
Droptail: A Shared Legacy, a Bold Future
The focus and precision of Droptail’s execution represent the Coachbuild department’s most detailed and technically demanding undertaking to date. Droptail’s bold reimagining of Rolls-Royce iconography, focus on simplicity and permanence as a monument to its owners represents both a new standard in the luxury sector and clear confirmation that coachbuilding will form a significant part of Rolls-Royce’s long-term strategy. Indeed, Droptail is a clear statement that the future of Rolls-Royce will be built in collaboration with its clients.
Pursuitist automotive and lifestyle contributor Brian Armstead has been involved in print, radio, web and television for over 47 years. Brian has traveled to 79 countries. He is a North American Car, Truck and Utility of the Year (NACTOY) Juror.