AutosRolls-Royce's hidden factory: Where bespoke cars become art

Rolls-Royce's hidden factory: Where bespoke cars become art

In front of the entrance to the Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
In front of the entrance to the Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
Images source: © Press materials | Mark Fagelson Photography

8:41 PM EDT, July 7, 2024

One of the conditions for establishing the new Rolls-Royce factory was that it "disappears" from the landscape of lands belonging to the Duke of Richmond. And so it did. I visited the place where cars worth millions are being created at a leisurely pace—although in Goodwood they prefer to call them "works of art."

No more than 6,000 cars— that's how many vehicles annually leave the Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood. Last year, the British brand, owned by the BMW Group, announced plans to invest in expanding its production capacity. However, this is not to increase the number of cars produced there. The goal is for the number of Bespoke and Coachbuild cars to increase, those that are personalized and bespoke. This is where Rolls-Royce makes the most profit. And—as the former company president told money.pl—no one buys a base variant of a Rolls-Royce.

Customers can bring pearls from their family collection or their wife's favorite lipstick to perfectly replicate the color in the paint of the ordered car. Limited model series such as Boat Tail are also created in Goodwood. Rolls-Royce does not disclose who bought them or how much they paid.

Paint on request

In one of the rooms on the upper floor of the Goodwood plant, they show a wall with balls that serve as color samples for the paint. These can be rotated to observe how the color changes under light. The palette of paints doesn't end there. The words "we don't have it" and "impossible" do not exist in the Rolls-Royce language. There's also a puzzle: several items prove what inspires this brand's customers. One example is a private jet whose paint had to correspond with the Rolls-Royce color. Or a brightly colored... tropical frog that caught someone's eye. The Lime Green color adorned the Black Badge Ghost model.

That can also be done if someone wants a masterpiece on the hood. Proof? An exhibition of such works from the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown periods when engine covers became unusual canvases for artists.

With each such wish, Rolls-Royce adds more digits to the bill amount. The most expensive model of this brand so far is estimated to have cost between $23 and $28 million.

Before readers start holding their heads in disbelief, let's remind them that we are talking about a world where parents buy luxury cars for their children as gifts, and children for their parents—for wedding anniversaries. The autokult.pl service wrote about a pink Bentley instead of an engagement ring—with the name of the beloved and the question "Will you marry me?" on the thresholds.

In Rolls-Royce cars, a starry night sky woven from LED diodes on the headliner can reflect any star arrangement. Every client wants something "of their own," even if it's just a monogram on the headrest, although that's quite simple and rather standard. There are also requests, such as a constellation of the zodiac sign of the child who will sit there above each seat, or a client who wanted to be surrounded by embroidered roses on the headliner, door panels, and dashboard, said Chris Brownridge, the new CEO of Rolls-Royce Motors Company.

On that particular day, the assembly line was dominated by white and black cars. The red Spectre stood out against them.
On that particular day, the assembly line was dominated by white and black cars. The red Spectre stood out against them.© Press materials | Mark Fagelson Photography

Kilometers of thread and thousands of hours of work on wood

At the Rolls-Royce factory, they don't count the time and don't race against it. During the work on the Arcadia Droptail model, 8,000 hours were spent on the wood finish and details. The upholstery in each car has about 2.2 million stitches, and the length of thread used reaches 11 miles. "Every Rolls-Royce is built by hand," emphasized Brownridge.

  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce Bespoke
[1/5] Rolls-Royce factory in GoodwoodImages source: © Press materials

I visited the Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood on the occasion of the premiere of the refreshed Cullinan model. Today, it is a hit for this brand—two-thirds of its buyers are also new Rolls-Royce customers. As the manufacturer calculates, the car retains about 80% of its purchase value over the years.

The Cullinan is also an experimental ground—the brand is experimenting with a new approach to luxury upholstery. It doesn't just have to be leather. A fabric upholstery with a new pattern has been developed. Door panels and foldable tables in the seat backs can be decorated with the new perforated pattern—from the catalog or on request. Machines that still work under employees' watchful eyes were punching thousands of different-sized holes. The "weaving" of the illuminated headliner is done by hand.

Author on the assembly line at the Rolls-Royce factory
Author on the assembly line at the Rolls-Royce factory© Press materials | Mark Fagelson Photography

The Rolls-Royce factory. How to "hide" the plant?

Rolls-Royce has been operating in the market since 1906. The company was founded in Manchester, two years later it moved to Derby, and since 1946 it was connected with Crewe for many years. In 2003, after being taken over by the BMW Group, a new plant was opened in Goodwood in Sussex.

  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce Factory in Goodwood
  • Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood
[1/19] Rolls-Royce factory in GoodwoodImages source: © Press materials | Ciaran McCrickard, Mindworks Marketing - RRMC Chichester

The term "invisible" factory comes from an anecdote I learned in at least two versions. First, the Duke of Richmond agreed to the factory's construction on his estate, provided it did not disrupt the landscape. In the second, his daughter-in-law, Lady March, said "okay" while not wanting the factory in her garden.

Either way, a building was created that doesn’t rise several stories above ground but is hidden within it. The facility was built in a hollow. The roofs are covered with natural vegetation, and the environmental impact is minimized through, among other things, fish-stocked ponds, beehives, and wild animals. The building’s architecture and details don’t resemble typical office and factory halls.

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