Customisation Programmes for High-End Cars

What sort of customisation is possible for luxury cars such as Rolls-Royce, Maserati and Bentley? Turns out the choices are as rich as your imagination.

Dec 2, 2009
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The Rolls-Royce Ghost
The Rolls-Royce Ghost
Photography ©Rolls-Royce Motor Cars LTD
Bespoke touches inside the Rolls-Royce
Bespoke touches inside the Rolls-Royce
Photography ©Rolls-Royce Motor Cars LTD
Maserati GranTurismo Convertible
Maserati GranTurismo Convertible
Photography courtesy Maserati
GranCabrio's luscious interior
GranCabrio's luscious interior
Bentley Arnage T
Bentley Arnage T
Photography courtesy Bentley
Bentley Arnage Final Series' distinctive cockpit
Bentley Arnage Final Series' distinctive cockpit
Photography courtesy Bentley

Automotive customisation has been a constant since the debut of the motor car in the late 1800s. But high-end customisation has always held a great distinction over owners tinkering with their Model Ts and, later, Mustangs. Coach builders (auto body manufacturers), for instance, once were standard operating procedure for a buyer of a Rolls-Royce or Bugatti. A coach builder might have been responsible for the entire chassis or simply the upholstery, depending on the make of car.

Today, with modern manufacturing so critical to safety and performance, automakers cannot take such chances, nor need they. That said, bespoke details can still be professionally and acutely tended to, although these days that’s largely handled in-house to ensure that aforementioned standards aren’t compromised.

Here are few examples of what’s possible. Note that these kinds of tweaks don’t even begin until you’re spending well north of US$100,000 for the base price of a car and that this price will certainly go much higher for off-the-menu requests. If you’re merely talking custom paintwork, that price may add no more than US$10,000; but few buyers in this realm stop there, and many exotic, handmade cars include one-off details that escalate prices 30% or more over the typical “sticker.”

Rolls-Royce
There is almost no limit to what a Rolls buyer can request. Rolls-Royce offers a Starlight Headlining option in which 1,600 optical fibre strands are sewn into the headlining, creating the faux starlight. Customers can choose the colour of the leather background for this light show. Another customer wanted the trunk lined in teak, like what you might find on the deck of a yacht, and still another wanted the trim, seats, floor and trunk lining all blanketed in a rich Arctic white leather. A few years ago, Rolls had a customer request cup holders milled from solid blocks of aluminium, which have since become a bespoke option all buyers may request. Rolls-Royce says that most of their cars are sold with some degree of customisation and that the requests typically add no more than six months from the date of order to delivery, provided the job isn’t too extraordinary.

Maserati
“Stock” details in Maseratis continue to swing further upmarket. The company, which for 2010 debuts the US$135,800 GranTurismo Convertible is now well-aligned with the Turin furniture maker Poltrona Frau—a renowned house that has recently teamed up with the likes of Frank Gehry on large projects but continues very private work as well, such as outfitting the interiors of personal jets and helicopters. Maserati also offers its Atelier service, which allows for a buyer to visit the factory in Modena, Italy, choose materials and arrange for custom paint and interior hues and then return to take delivery of the car, if he or she chooses.

Bentley
Unlike many makes, Bentley chooses to armour its own cars in its Crewe, England, facility, and yes, armouring is a request of many Bentley customers, particularly those based in less-stable political environments. Bentley says that roughly 90% of Arnage model cars (US$246,990) receive some bespoke detailing. Past requests include hidden safes, pipe holders, hidden flat panel screens connected to Sony PlayStations, a concealed drawer system in the floor of a car for an art dealer to transport canvases, and even extra tall roofs for rulers of monarchal states to ride around with crowns still perched atop their heads.


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