A few years ago Rolls-Royce and Bentley
were split, with Volkswagen buying Bentley and BMW buying
the Rolls nameplate. Naturally, BMW takes a more modern
view of marketing than the hide-bound British , which
is reflected even in their brochures and press kits.
Their first new model, the Phantom a huge slab-sided
monolith of a car was not greeted with universal
favor but appears to be ever so slowly winning over
the upper crust.
Rolls management found a way to make it more appealing
when they came out with a shorter wheelbase 100EX concept
car, a convertible (which the British call a "drophead
coupe"). This show car was a grand touring tour
de force, with such touches as "coach doors"
(their phrase for rear-hinged doors) and a brushed metal
hood. Really unique was a wooden-clad boot lid for the
folded convertible top, with slats that are reminiscent
of the teakwork on fine yachts.
To promote the concept they put it on tour and even
issued a beautiful little booklet entitled simply "100EX"
to the press. The booklet measures roughly 6" tall
by 8" wide, and has a full color cover. The booklet
has many design sketches and clay model shots as well
as quotes from the designers. Some of the pictures are
black and white.
It is rare that an automaker goes to
the trouble to make an actual book rather than a phamplet
on a concept but you have to figure that Rolls' strategy
was to pre-sell the convertible even a few years before
it would be available. They obviously figured right
as the order book filled for one year's worth of production
once they displayed the production car outside the concours
at Pebble Beach.
The prototype book has a CD-ROM so
you can see the pictures in greater glory on your computer.
A smaller press kit book was issued for the production
car, this one called "Rolls Royce Phantom Drophead
Coupe Press Information." It has a nice simulated
brushed-aluminum cover. This one is about 5" tall
and 8" wide. It is full color and shows the production
car (one with the optional brushed finish bonnet and
optional wood on the rear boot lid) being driven out
in the country, probably at the preview in Spain. It
has many unusual views of the car such as one shot aimed
down on the car from directly above. And shots in the
Rolls factory, the body being sanded, and so forth.
The words are a "sell job" but very well written
with lots of facts ("350 man hours to build each
When comparing the two books, each
only half an inch thick, I have to say that the concept
book's attraction is mostly in the rough sketch drawings
that show the character of what the designer was aiming
for. But that book is overshadowed by the production
car press kit which has wonderful first class printing,
plus color from cover to cover, including many exciting
shots of the car on the road.
Now the problem is arriving at a value for such booklets.
Officially, this type of limited edition press kit is
only handed out when the car is introduced at major
auto shows and even then dispensed them only to reporters.
Unofficially, the souvenir hunters always get these
things and they pop up for sale before the car hits
I would say that, since they represent one of the most
expensive cars in the world, they are worth far more
than, say, a preview book on the Ford GT, maybe $250-300
for the set if you get everything intact (both have
sleeved cartons they fitted into) including the CD-ROM.
Let's face it, $440,000 cars aren't offered that often
(Chevrolet is even nervous about offering a $100,000
Corvette in '09
) and these books celebrate the
freedom the Rolls' designers had in creating a modern
car that would match the quality and panache of the
Duesenbergs of the 1930s.
Although my forte is fast Fords, I collected these simply
because they show the most expensive convertible on
the American market and thus constitute celebrations-in-print
of the glory that a mere car can attain when the automaker
tells the designers "cost is no object".