19-year-old Antwon is an art student who, upon speaking to Xzibit, has expressed an interest in keeping exotic fish during his spare time.
His car, a 1989 Mitsubishi Mirage, should’ve been scrapped in favour of a $99-a-month rental years ago. But this is episode five of MTV’s Pimp My Ride, and 60 minutes later, Antwon’s Mirage now resembles an aquarium complete with working fish tank in the boot.
There are many red flags occurring here, not least Antwon’s fish tank being framed by two 12-inch subwoofers that would surely trigger PETA the moment Dead Prez started playing. But glance past this over-exaggerated TV build and the end result is something we all buy into on Speedhunters: bespoke customisation to make a car more personal to you.
If we consider Antwon’s Mirage at one end of the custom car spectrum, much further away at the other end we have this – the Rolls-Royce Boat Tail. A one-of-one, £20,000,000 (approximately US$28,352,000) coachbuild designed to pay homage to the owner’s passion for luxury yachts and fine wine. There’s no boot-mounted aquarium, but there are two refrigerators.
Uber-expensive, ultra-exclusive cars are nothing new to this industry, but if you’re wondering why this should be relevant to Speedhunters, you make a valid point. However, unlike traditional limited editions which combine a sprinkling of customisation with a hefty price tag, the Boat Tail has been entirely drawn-up and commissioned by its owner in collaboration with Rolls-Royce, making it now the most expensive (new) car in the world.
This is the result of what happens when your life takes a path not even the 1% can dream of. And while I envy the idea of never checking my bank balance ever again, I’m also massively fascinated by seeing how this other half lives – especially when it comes down to the cars they own and how they’re used. We all embrace this mentality on some level but, when money isn’t an issue, does a limit even exist?
‘There’s 44,000 exterior colours to choose from on the standard palette,’ explained a Rolls-Royce spokesperson.“But if that doesn’t meet the requirements, the Bespoke team can perfectly match any hue from any object. Notable examples include a lipstick, stiletto and pink rubber glove…”
“One lady even asked for the leather colour of her Rolls-Royce to be matched to her Red Setter,” the spokesperson added. “This was achieved with no harm coming to the dog.”
Bespoke. That’s the name given to Rolls-Royce’s department for all things bodacious, from crushing several thousand ethically-sourced diamonds into one car’s paintwork, right through to a shrunken drinks holder for another. Its owner – a renowned sumo wrestler – wanted to ensure his favourite JDM beverage didn’t rattle around despite it being smaller than ‘typical’ drink cans. Like a boss.
Understandably, this process doesn’t involve a standard online configurator or brochure. Located at Goodwood is the Rolls-Royce Atelier, a fancy word to otherwise describe a super-secret room where every trim, finish and bespoke request can be taken care of.
Not content with simply hanging the various options on the walls, the Rolls-Royce Atelier has its own custom lighting system which can mimic any hue or condition from around the world.
Yup, if you’re unsure how a metallic paint will look in the harsh California sun, it’s available at the push of a button. I can only assume the Scottish setting requires grey curtains and the aroma of batter being pumped into the room.
It’s both alarming and brilliant to think that a car costing upwards of £300,000 (stock) can have its value doubled or tripled in this one room. But then when I think back to putting £2,000 worth of wheels on an old £1,500 Civic, I’m handily reminded that everything is ‘relative’. And both cases make absolutely no sense to anyone bar the owner.
The Atelier is customisation ramped up to 11. Rolls-Royce is a brand famous for declaring that no request is ever too much (assuming your pockets are deep enough), but what happens if even this level of bespoke isn’t sufficient?
You guessed it, there’s a further level beyond this which isn’t even accessible by just being rich; you’ve got to be stinking rich. And that’s Rolls-Royce Coachbuild.
Carrying on with the Speedhunters theme of over-simplifying ritzy aspects of luxury lifestyle, coachbuilding dates back to the 1920s when carrozziere (Italian for coachbuilder) culture was absolutely booming. A bit like overfenders in 2021.
Back then, a proper coachbuild involved buying your chosen chassis from one of the many manufacturers, then choosing a specific coachbuilder who could make you a body as wild as your imagination would allow.
Think of it like going to Nissan and buying an R35 GT-R chassis and drivetrain, before sending it over to Rocky Auto for a Hakosuka body to be crafted on top of it. But with much more gold, a small forest of veneer and some kind of porcelain cutlery thrown in for good measure.
What happened to this culture, then? Several savvy companies including Zagato, Bertone, Pininfarina and Karmann all morphed their businesses into styling houses, occasionally (and still to this day) building special bodies for carmakers in the process.
But as car manufacturers moved into monocoque construction – required for both safety regulations and mass production – it became almost impossible to follow traditional ways. Outer panel modification? Fill your boots. But structural components and altering proportions? Forget it.
Well, unless you happen to have around 20 million quid spare and get on very well with Rolls-Royce. Who – handily this week – announced they’re getting back into the world of proper, traditional coachbuilding. They’ll provide the chassis – you provide the vision (assuming it’s backed up with a sort code and account number).
There’s no better advert for this than with the Boat Tail, as pictured. It’s the ultimate statement for the ultra-wealthy; 5.8-meters in length, hand-built and covered in swathes of wood. The back even has an aft deck; the term ‘Boat Tail’ needs to be taken quite literally here.
In the rear you’ll also find the ‘hosting suite’ accessed by electronically raising the two veneer-clad compartments. There’s a double refrigerator (a proper one with gas, not a chilled box) meaning copious amounts of booze can be stored away.
Umbrellas? Not only are they stored in the doors, but there’s an additional parasol housed beneath the rear centreline. Then you’ve got two two rotating cocktail tables, Italian-made folding stools and more crystal than an evening with Rick Ross.
It is completely out of control, and that’s skipping over the hundreds of intricate (read: expensive) details incorporating precious gems, a BOVET 1822 timepiece and much, much more.
But what I love about Rolls-Royce is, despite how or if this ever gets used by its owner, the entire thing has to be engineered just like a typical road car. There are five additional ECUs just to control the accessories housed in the rear.
Every component was tested between 80°C (176°F) and -20°C (-4°F) to ensure none of the parts warped, leaked or deteriorated. It was even Vmax’d to guarantee wind noise is all but non-existent.
Is it all an unnecessary and absurd display of wealth? Of course it is, but that doesn’t mean it can’t (and shouldn’t) be celebrated. The super-rich will always be rich, and while I don’t aspire to that kind of lifestyle there is something profoundly interesting about witnessing what’s possible when money really is no object.
I’d be a terrible millionaire. My plot of land would be entirely covered by hastily erected buildings to house several hundred cars, all of which cost no more than around £1,500 each. Think of it like a Tesco own-label version of the Sultan of Brunei.
But in an automotive world littered by legislation, cross-platform sharing and greenwashing, it’s refreshing to see that – even amidst a global pandemic – there’s still much more to come from modern motoring than just mobility.