We’re used to “special editions” from auto manufacturers trying to lift sales with a lick of paint and some fancy decals, but when Rolls-Royce does a special edition it’s a much more cerebral and artisanal endeavor as befits the mindset of its customers. The Phantom Coupe Aviator recently shown at Pebble Beach is a subtle but rather lovely limited edition inspired by the Rolls-Royce engined Supermarine aircraft of the 1930s; a precursor to the iconic Spitfire and from a time when cars and aircraft engines were actually made by the same company.
"Our founding forefather Charles Stewart Rolls was a pioneer who pushed the boundaries of motoring and aviation to the limit," said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce CEO. "With our exclusive Phantom Coupé Aviator Collection we celebrate this great British hero, presenting a car which hints at experiments in early flight married to the best engineering, modern design and exquisitely crafted materials.”
The only exterior clue is the striking grey metallic paint which is given a contrasting matte finish on the hood, windshield surround and grill surround. The interior however is a riot of detailing – it includes a hand-crafted mahogany lower dash with Sapele contrasts underneath a matte grey stainless steel fascia with custom matte black dials, and an aviation standard mechanical clock.
The transmission tunnel cover is in anodized aluminum with exposed torx fixings and swage lines that echo the oil cooling veins on the Supermarine fuselage side. These highlights are repeated on collection car armrests. The tunnel incorporates two extraordinary polished aluminum cup holders that look like they should be in a jewelery shop.
The leather-lined glove compartment includes an embossed Charles Rolls quote following his first flight with the Wright Brothers in 1908: "The power of flight is as a fresh gift from the Creator, the greatest treasure yet given to man." Deep. A center console chrome plaque describes Rolls – only the second man in Britain to hold a pilot's license – simply as Pioneer Aviator, below a representation of his signature. The floor mats are in leather with machined aluminum protective bullet rods.
All very tasteful, and the marketing narrative just about holds together. Only 35 examples will be made, so get your order in quick. Price? Don’t be silly; get your people to talk to their people.