Wednesday, August 15, 2012


MY DEAR READERS:  Just a few years ago long before I started writing this blog and just about the time when the website had just started, I submitted an answer to the question, "How long does it take to build a Rolls Royce?," that just recently was awarded a trust point and the best answer to a question that was submitted by a reader.  I was notified by email just recently of this even though I had long forgotten that I submitted the answer. Looking at the answer now to see how it fits within the topics I write here, I thought nothing could be more fitting than to clip, paste, edit, and update the answer from 2007 to fit this forum and submit it for your reading and approval. Several years ago I used to have clients in the security business that owned luxury bespoke automobiles and in several cases I was responsible for not only their maintenance but at some or all parts their purchase as well. It was an interesting experience ordering a custom handmade $400,000 car for people who hired me, an experience I will never forget. It has been a few years since I submitted this answer; so while I’m sure the manufacturing process hasn’t changed much, please do not hold me to every detail. If any further questions I direct you to a Rolls Royce dealer or the Rolls Royce Motor Cars website as their site has some cool and nifty products and features if you are interested in these kinds of cars. I hope you enjoy.
Within 48 hours of leaving a $50,000 deposit that becomes NONREFUNDABLE and 72 hours after you sign the contract, your Phantom or Ghost will start to be assembled in a process that if not overtaken by a priority order will be ready in as little as 3 1/2 months.
DEAR SERGEANT AL: How long does it take to build a Rolls Royce motorcar? What does the process entail from ordering to delivery? –ROLLS ALL OVER ME.
DEAR ROLLS ALL OVER YOU: It takes approximately three and a half months from order and deposit to delivery for a Rolls Royce Phantom Standard Wheel Base Saloon and this answer depends on production priorities. Unlike other custom hand built car brands, I often call "bespoke cars," like Maybach or Bentley which can take a bit longer to manufacture, The BMW produced Rolls Royce Motor Car, sold in the 2012 model year, as the Phantom SWB (Standard Wheelbase) or LWB (Long Wheelbase) Saloons, the Phantom Fixed or Drop Head Coupes, or the LWB or SWB Ghost take a little less time than other brands from order to finished hand assembly. 
The process of ordering the car, very much like ordering a yacht from the keel up, is called “the commissioning.” Once you give the dealer the required $50,000 USD deposit, you have up to 48 hours to change your mind, otherwise the deposit is non-refundable. I have had clients who purchased cars from order cancellations, as there are customers who do WALK AWAY from $50,000 to lose their money. Depending on current orders, that is to say for example, a sultan from an emirate orders 50 of them all at once for Rolls Royce to stop making your car, to close the factory for an indefinite period, and to exclusively build that sultan's 50 Phantoms, otherwise the factory will commence assembly of your car. The sultan's order will however take priority. This sometimes happens, believe it or not. You'll then have to wait for Rolls Royce to finish the sultan's order before they either start or finish making your car. This is in the contract a customer signs when they leave their deposit. This is a reason why it could be the year 2012 and in the month of October you could be just taking delivery of your brand new 2011 Phantom--a drawback to buying a Rolls Royce brand new. But this doesn't often happen.
When purchasing a Rolls there are options that are on the options list like any other car, and then there are the "bespoke" options; options you can order that are not on any list but they can certainly build into your car like this roll out picnic ensemble for example.

Sultan aside, after you sign the contract at the dealer and hand over the deposit, your Phantom or Ghost actually will start to be hand assembled at the Goodwood Leicestershire UK factory usually within 72 hours of signing the contract. While robotic welds have vastly improved quality control over the years, most of the car is assembled by hand, particularly the interior. If the plant is not closed to visitors while simultaneously assembling top-secret cars for heads of state, they invite customers to the plant to witness assembly of their car and participate in the assembly process. If the customer is away and there are problems with any particular unit, a plant manager will call either the customer or the dealer right off the assembly line to let them know what the issues are to be resolved. I remember a plant manager once called a client of mine to tell her the color she picked for the car’s interior didn’t match the piping on the seats and to go back to the dealer to pick another color. 
"It takes 15 to 20 bull hides and 350 leather pieces per car to cover the seats, dashboard, and other interior parts of the Phantom. Only bull hides are used because cows get stretch marks. Chalk lines on the hides divide the skin into four quality zones. Only the most perfect are used for visible areas, such as the seats or arm rest. A computer and laser-driven diamond-tipped blade cuts the hides. The baby Rolls will have a slightly grainier leather." --Bloomberg Business
The plant keeps their customers fully informed of progress start to finish. When finished they like to keep the car at the plant for about a week for quality control to get the bugs out. If you opt to standard ship it overseas by boat (takes about 7-10 days to North America), the regional Rolls Royce Office in the country the dealer is located (i.e. Rolls Royce North America Woodcliff Lake, NJ) will keep it for another week to make sure Goodwood stomped all the bugs out. This is why Rolls Royce never warranties their cars at mileage 0 and why a new Rolls Royce always has a few dozen miles on it before an owner takes delivery--the warranty starts when they hand you the keys to the car. Bespoke cars are hand made which allows for more error, so test-driving is mandatory to ensure quality control. It is then the salesman's responsibility to ship your car from regional to the dealer.
Once a car has completed assembly it stays at the UK plant for up to 10 days to constantly test track and tweak the car for quality control and then shipped to the regional office for further testing before delivery.
If the dealer is close to the regional office they may actually drive your car themselves to your home or office. For an extra charge you can have your Phantom or Ghost put an a 747 jumbo cargo jet to be shipped anywhere you want in the world for your salesman to be there to hand you the key . . . Roll Royce usually delivers their products to the new owner's residence or work place with an on-site orientation to the car's features, and to my knowledge, rarely does a customer come into the dealer to take delivery, like most of us do when we buy a new car. A dealer on average sells one car per month, for the saloons (sedans) about 1000 or less per year worldwide. I believe they make less than 500 coupes per year. This answer is predicated on the assumption one does not order a limited production run, or one of the coupes or dropheads, or any special edition that will be rare (i.e. "Centenary Edition" or "Phantom Black"), or a car that has been "tricked out" with lots of bespoke options (not on the options list but put in the car anyway, like an exclusive color (your favorite lipstick) or wood veneer in places it normally isn't, or a cigar box, extra fridge, or a built-in picnic basket in the boot)--such cars take longer to delivery time, usually around 6 months, sometimes up to a year. The more rare the car the longer the time takes from ordering to delivery. 
There you are, ROLLS ALL OVER YOU, ordering a Rolls is quite an experience I’ll never forget to see how it is quite similar to ordering a custom hand built yacht, thus the expression “land yacht” for these kinds of cars. Maintenance for four years is totally free as they do NOT want you to touch anything under the bonnet: call them up and they'll come to your home or office to drive your car in for servicing. The prices range anywhere from about $250,000 to more than $500,000 depending on the model, and how much you are willing and able to pay! Don't have any shame if you have no money, so as long as you have credit: believe it or not financing and leasing IS available!
The hood ornament whether on a 2011 or a 1927 Phantom is called "The Spirit of Ecstasy."

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  1. Hey Sarge -
    I have been following your blog for a while and I am very impressed with your knowledge and acumen of automotive history. Tell me, is it something that you went to school for or is it learned through experience?

    Keep up the great posts on auto history!

  2. Thank you reader: My secret is reading lots of newspapers and car magazines, like the Automobiles section of the New York Times cover to cover over the years. I am more of a automotive design and history buff than I am a car nut. My experience as a mechanic in high school and college and recently in the security business also probably helps. I also collect rare and unusual diecast replica cars as a hobby. So my knowledge of the automotive industry and law enforcement go hand in hand as I try to find a way to integrate them here in this blog to keep it interesting. I'm glad you enjoy and please keep reading. Let me know if there's a topic you would like for me to cover!


Sgt. Al here. I welcome your comments, ideas, and suggestions. You have questions about the police, and I'm interested in hearing what you have to say as a citizen. Thanks!