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The Automotive Chronicles

Monthly newsletter published by McLellan's Automotive History. Dedicated to literature collectors, restorers, museums, publishers, manufacturers and investors who collect and preserve automotive literature
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April 2008 Issue
 
ARTICLE
 
Review: Two Press booklets on the Rolls Phantom Drophead coupe
By Wallace A. Wyss
 

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 car", etc.)

 
     

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 the showrooms.

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".

 
 

You may have noticed that we are privileged to have a well known author, Wallace A. Wyss, join with us as a frequent contributor. Two of his books are available through McLellan's Automotive History. Click on the links below for additional information on ordering the following:

DETOMASO: THE MAN AND HIS MACHINES
FORD GT 40 & THE NEW FORD GT
 
 
 
The Automotive Chronicles, April 2008
 
 
 
 
 
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