When asked about profit for a project that requires such intensive handiwork, Müller-Ötvös declined to specify a margin. "I would never enter the company into anything that is not profitable, rest assured. It is also, of course, quite boosting for the brand, but it's not an investment where we do it just for the brand. We also do it for commercial reasons."
The customization does not extend to underneath the hood, at least for now. The Boat Tail has the same 6.75-liter V-12 engine as the Phantom, Cullinan, and Ghost. No one asked for anything different, Müller-Ötvös said: "The engine is a fantastic Rolls-Royce engine with enough power. That never came up for a single minute, to make changes around the engine."
Müller-Ötvös also does not rule out future examples from the Coachbuild program one day being powered by alternative engines or fuel.
"I would not outlaw that one day, but this is not really the point--the point very much is in the body," he said. "I do not know if it will come up in the future, but why? There is sufficient power" in the V-12 engine.
An historic precedent
Rolls-Royce has long sent the majority of its cars out of the factory with high levels of customization and made-to-order options--beginning with a choice of 44,000 paint colors. Commissions have increased year-over-year since modern bespoke production began at Goodwood in 2003, according to the company. In the first quarter of 2021, every vehicle built at Rolls-Royce across the entire model family included bespoke elements, it said in a written statement.
The company pioneered the "coach-built" model strategy a century earlier with such one-off icons as the Rolls-Royce 40/50HP Phantom I Brougham De Ville of 1926, which re-created the rococo ambience of a Palace of Versailles salon with polished satinwood veneers, Aubusson tapestries, and a painted ceiling inspired by a sedan chair owned by Marie Antoinette. It was built for Clarence Warren Gasque, an American businessman of French ancestry living in London at the time.
The Rolls-Royce 17EX of 1928, which could hit then-astounding speeds of 90 mph (145 kph), and the Phantom II Continental Drophead Coupé of 1934 followed. In 1972 the Phantom VI, famous for its burled walnut picnic tables and accompanying "toadstool" seats that clipped to the front bumpers, became the final Rolls-Royce model constructed in the old built-to-order manner.
Many of the most significant coach-built cars are worth high six and seven figure sums. In June, a 1933 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Special will be offered with an estimated price of 1.3 million Swiss francs to 1.75 million Swiss francs ($1.45 million to $1.95 million) at an auction in Lichtenstein.
Müller-Ötvös declined to name the buyers and the pricing of the new Coachbuild series, though he said he has known the three clients personally for "a long, long time."
"There is an idea to bring them together one day, but they are spread all around the world," he said. "They all three enjoy life. They love to celebrate. And when you see what you can do with the car, it's quite celebratory. Unbelievable picnicking and dining experiences can happen, that is kind of the idea."
Meanwhile, the next batch of Rolls-Royce Coachbuild cars are already being planned, with allocations available by invitation only--personally extended from the CEO himself.
"For us, it is the jewel on top of everything, the true pinnacle of our entire business model at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, and for that reason it needs to stay super rare," said Müller-Ötvös. "We are not in any way tempted here to go into more and more and more. That would devalue the entire thing."