Three models sum up the brand's anti-conventional spirit.
Rolls-Royce is one of the most exclusive brands on the planet, and there's no such thing as an affordable model. The brand has created an image of exceptional luxury and quality, having made some of the finest vehicles ever. Many view the brand as traditionalist, and that is true to a certain degree, but the company will happily admit that eschewing convention is a part of its DNA too. While a regular Rolls-Royce Phantom would impress the average person beyond their wildest expectations, the British automaker's success is partly attributable to its willingness to create the unexpected for its super-wealthy customers. This willingness to rebel against tradition is most evident in Black Badge models, but how did Rolls-Royce come to welcome personalization as part of its allure? Three models can be accredited as key driving forces behind this
We start with the Phantom II Continental from 1933. It was designed in 1930 at the request of Henry Royce and came with a short chassis and close-coupled four-seat saloon body, featuring a pair of spare wheels mounted vertically behind the luggage compartment to improve weight distribution. On its first outing, the car was driven to a concours d'elegance event in Biarritz where it won the Grand Prix d'Honneur. This win motivated RR to create a series model, the first of which was built in 1933 with 'Owen Fixed Head Coupe' bodywork. Its adjustable front bucket seats, twin windscreen wipers, and flush-fitting direction indicators aft of the side windows were all unusual for the time but contributed to make long-distance touring more relaxed. And as you can guess, it was finished in black.
In 1959, the Phantom V was launched as a replacement for the Silver Wraith. This Phantom was much larger and was intended primarily for chauffeur-driven use. Most were finished in black and used only for special occasions. An exception to this rule was an example known as 5AT30, which was delivered to The Duke of Gloucester in 1960. This is where personalization truly came to the fore for the first time, with His Royal Highness requesting a combination of matte black paint on horizontal surfaces and gloss black on the vertical ones. The custom work continued with a smaller-than-standard backlight, large fog lamps, sliding shutters for the rear windows, and a pair of Stephane Grebel spotlights. Lucas R100 headlamps were fitted too, replacing the usual faired-in headlights. Most notably, the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot was supplied but not fitted, being replaced with the Duke's own mascot, an eagle in flight. Additionally, the Duke ordered 'an umbrella in holder,' something that is now standard on all Rolls-Royce cars.
The final vehicle is also a Phantom V from the Sixties, namely 5VD73. This was ordered by John Lennon in 1964, and he wanted something truly unique. He wanted everything on the car to be black, and we mean everything. Rolls-Royce, despite Lennon's celebrity, still had lines that would not be crossed and insisted that the Pantheon grille and Spirit of Ecstasy mascot retain their traditional chrome finish. This car was among the first in Britain to feature blacked-out windows, which were chosen partly for privacy but mainly for late returns from nightclubs in the early morning when the sun could bother Lennon. The car boasted a television and a seven-piece fitted luggage set too, and rumors say that it even boasted a rear seat that could become a pull-out bed. Whatever the truth, it's clear that challenging conventional car design and specification is a big part of the Rolls-Royce legacy.