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Rolls-Royce options no limit

Worried about how to keep the champers perfectly chilled in the Caulfield and Flemington carpark during Spring Carnival?  Rolls-Royce has come up with the perfect solution.

Buyers can now specify an $18,000 custom-made fridge in the boot of the $1.4 million Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead coupe.  The fridge, along with enough room for three bottles of Krug and eight custom-made cut crystal wine glasses, fits snugly into the Drophead's boot, which can be lined in your choice of leather, carpet or teak.  The fridge sits out-of-sight under the luggage floor.

If you need picnic tables to go with the Krug, they will set you back a modest $2000.  The fridge is one of hundreds of special options available through Rolls-Royce Bespoke, which as the name suggests personalises cars to the whims of the owners.

The 25-strong Rolls Royce Bespoke team can do just about anything and obviously, money is no object.  Bespoke's product and sales manager, Thomas Jefferson, and manager of interior design, Gavin Hartley, have just finished a whirlwind tour of Australia to meet clients and spread the message about Bespoke.  Jefferson says personalisation is big business, with more than 80 per cent of Rolls-Royce customers choosing something from the Bespoke range.

"When it was launched in 2003 Bespoke accounted for about a third of Rolls-Royce business," he says.  "Today it is running between 80 per cent and 90 per cent so it's gone from being quite a minor player to being a major part of the company."

It is not surprising that Rolls-Royce customers are not averse to spending up big.  As a rule they generally have millions in their bank accounts, own two or more houses and usually have a garage with more than five cars.  Some are known to have his and hers Roll-Royces, while others have a Rolls-Royce at their disposal in each of the homes around the globe.  One client, which we assume were from the Middle East, bought 10 Phantoms at a $1 million apiece for Christmas presents and then commissioned Rolls-Royce Bespoke to individualise them.

Not surprisingly, Middle East royalty and oil money are big clients, followed by customers in Japan and North America.  The nouveau riche in Russia and China are also hopping on the bespoke bandwagon.  Hartley expects demand for the service to grow over the next few years in the emerging powerhouse countries, particularly once the global financial crisis is behind us.  He says that despite their wealth, Bespoke clients still expect value-for-money and the exquisite attention to detail that comes from the hand-crafted cars.

Australia remains a small market but Trivett Classic, which sells Rolls-Royce here, says there is growing interest from Rolls-Royce owners.  Trivett Classic general manager, Bevin Clayton, says as word spreads buyers are becoming more interested in personalising their cars.  "We're interested in the Bespoke program because it's a great way of getting someone out of their four or five year old Phantom and personalising their new car," he says.

Hartley says Bespoke services are restricted to trim and paint.  There is nothing so crude as chipping the engine for better performance, he says.  "Generally speaking our clients find the power more than adequate," Hartley says.  Hartley says Bespoke can match an exterior colour to just about anything and has even had one request to match a colour to a particular hand cream.  "People can also reserve an exterior colour for themselves and have it named after them," Hartley says.

Apart from specific colours, which can cost more than $11,000, Bespoke also has 44,000 colour combinations available for customers so no two Rolls-Royces are the same.  "We have customers bringing us a handbag, lipstick or a tie and we'll colour match it," Hartley says.  The same goes for the interior, where options are only limited by the clients' imagination with the extensive range of leathers and hand-crafted woods.

The cheapest item ranges from a few hundred dollars for personalised lambswool mats to one-off features that are done upon customer request that can run into telephone book numbers.  One customer wanted - and got - his wood veneer from a particular tree on his estate.  Another female Phantom owner wanted her car in lilac and Rolls-Royce Bespoked obliged. She also got a full leather lilac interior.

Rolls-Royce can also measure customers, as you would for a suit, to determine the exact position and angle of the rear footrests in a Phantom.  No task is too small, minor or considered insignificant.  On one occasion, the Bespoke team asked an owner what drinks they preferred and engineered the cupholders to a particular-sized drink can so it would fit snugly without rattling.

Among the more popular ‘options’ in the Phantom are the Starlight headlining with minute fibre optic lights inset into the roof lining for a cool $18,000 and a jewelled illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy radiator mascot for $7400.  If the illuminated variety is not to your liking, you can order the Spirit of Ecstasy in solid silver or gold plate for $10,000 and $11,396.

Need privacy? The partition wall between the driver and rear passengers in the long-wheelbase Phantom will set you back a cool $100,000.  To date the most expensive Bespoked Rolls-Royce was a $780,000 Drophead coupe but a special one was recently auctioned for charity and fetched $2 million at a US wine festival.

Bespoke guides its customers with a polite but firm hand. Yet if you really want a hot pink paint scheme and lurid interior, the Rolls-Royce folk will reluctantly oblige.  Ultimately though Jefferson says Bespoke is the arbitor of quality and craftsmanship.  "Style is very uniquely personal and it's important to allow the customer to have the final say in their personal style," he says.

What you can buy
Starlight headlining in oatmeal leather $18,480
Tilt sunroof $10,230
Vanity mirrors for rear passengers $3795
Picnic tables with veneer backs $5005
Individual rear seats $17,435
Drinks cabinet for individual seats $22,605
Drinks cabinet in rear doors $40,040
Solid silver Spirit of Ecstasy $9988
Gold-plated Spirit of Ecstasy $11,396
Humidor in the glovebox $7766
Pen set in the glovebox $10,560
Secure safe with electronic lock $15,950
Silver bezel clock face $7128
Silver bezel white clock face $7128
Partition wall/glass $100,056
Drophead Coupe Lambswool floor mats $2706
Leather trimmed boot $14,410
Starlight headlining in bamboo or dark grey $26,620
Teak decking $19,305

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