The Rolls-Royce Arcadia Droptail Is The First Coachbuild Car To Be Revealed In Asia

A new episode of Rolls-Royce’s ultra-exclusive Coachbuild cars has arrvied, and it is the Arcadia Droptail. It was revealed to the world earlier this year in Singapore, just before the private handover ceremony, making it the first Coachbuild car to be announced in Asia. “Bespoke in Asia, it’s an important market for us,” says Emma Begley, Rolls-Royce’s director of communications. “We see in our clients here their intent and their dedication to creativity and artistry. And they’re getting younger and bolder in what they want to achieve and how they want to express themselves.”

Jonathan Simms, the marque’s head of bespoke, adds: “Southeast Asia has been a destination for some of our most exquisite bespoke commissions.” For most luxury brands, bespoke—something made exclusively for a particular customer—is the endgame. For Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, it is the baseline experience. A Rolls-Royce car is not generally bought straight off the shop floor. Rather, they are made-to-order and handcrafted by the manufacture’s artisans in Goodwood, England, from an extensive array of options. The basics of customisation are a given, of course—exterior finish, interior woods and leathers—but buyers will also get to specify the likes of dashboard clock, door sill treadplates, the hand-painted coachline that runs the length of the car at the shoulder and, of course, the colour of the umbrellas that live in the doors. “Bespoke is Rolls-Royce. We believe this is right at the heart of the DNA of what makes Rolls-Royce unique and special,” Simms says.

It is also much more than just an assembly from a list of specifications. For most of their clients, a bespoke Rolls-Royce is a project of passion and significance, be it to commemorate a particular event or just to express themselves. “Our clients are not just commissioning luxury items. They feel that they are making a significant statement,” Simms explains. “And for some of them, these commissions become part of a legacy that says much about them.” A bespoke Rolls-Royce is thus less about defining the image of its owner and more about being made in the image of its owner. Indeed, the potential for personal expression is enormous. A Phantom, Ghost or Cullinan can have wildly different attitudes depending simply on colour choices. Although his clients come from diverse backgrounds and equally diverse tastes, Simms notes that there are some things that they have in common. “And that is this idea of our heritage, our artisans and our patrons,” he says. “A bespoke commission is a beautiful unity of these three things coming together to make something unique.”

Then there is Coachbuild, which takes the concept of bespoke to a different level. Unlike the previous options, which are based on a standard model car, Coachbuild cars are more exclusive, wherein even form and function are tailor-made. It is a level of customisation unheard of in the automotive industry—unless one goes back to the early 20th century, when it was the norm for dedicated coachbuilders to fit custom-made bodies over a supplied chassis. The best of these are prized today as historical works of art, and this is the spirit that Rolls-Royce sought to tap into when it created its Coachbuild division. The first project was the Sweptail, revealed in 2017, a coupe inspired by 1920s and 1930s Rolls-Royces and fitted with a panoramic glass roof. This was followed by the Boat Tail in 2021, with a rear deck that opens at the touch of a button to reveal a hosting suite replete with telescopic parasol. According to our counterparts at Robb Report USA, the owner of the Boat Tail is widely believed to be music mogul Shawn Carter—better known by the moniker Jay-Z. His purchase of the Boat Tail for an eventual reported price of US$28 million made him the owner of the most expensive new car, that is, until the Arcadia Droptail, which is guessed to be slightly more.

The Droptail is the third act. It was unveiled in its first two examples last year as the first two-seat roadster in the marque’s recent history and a homage to classic early-era Rolls-Royce cars that exemplified adventurous, open-top driving. It has an unconventional attitude for Rolls-Royce, with a lowered, athletic stance as opposed to upright and formal. Even the normally sacrosanct Pantheon front grille has been tweaked, its vanes tilting backwards at the top to accommodate the sweeping profile. The aft deck section is not only a meticulous wooden sculpture, but it also contributes to aerodynamic performance—a spoiler is simply too uncouth a solution for Rolls-Royce. There is a detachable roof, too, that can transform it into a coupe.

The Arcadia Droptail is the third of four Droptails that will be produced. With a focus on purity of form, it has an understated exterior with a white finish that scintillates under closer examination thanks to the infusion of aluminium and glass particles. The highlight of the interior is the extensive use of exotic Santos Straight Grain hardwood, 233 pieces in all, with 76 of these in the rear deck and the result of 8,000 hours of work. “The Arcadia Droptail represents a pure reflection of the principal designs we set out to achieve as a creative team for Droptail itself,” says Alex Innes, head of Coachbuild design. “It is a testament to the clarity and the vision the client carried in their collaboration with us as a design team. The car’s stance and the proportions are particularly unique because this is the bit where it’s a fundamental departure for us as a marque—to have something that has that level of agility and that level of visual impression that is so different to anything than we’re used to seeing from Rolls-Royce.”

Innes has been part of the Coachbuild saga from the beginning, recalling that the first conversations about the Sweptail date back to 2013. These projects are exacting, multi-year affairs. While a typical Rolls-Royce bespoke car may take something like 18 months from ordering to delivery, the Arcadia took about four-and-a-half years, and in that time the client acts much like a collaborator. “With this particular client and the commissioning family, it was a remarkable time,” Innes says. “Not only the clarity of vision, but also their warmth and personal graciousness in the whole process was extraordinary. We are given a client and we have to understand and nurture their ideas. And then we also have the visions and the ambitions of the marque itself. And in that space of confidence, we create something like this. And this is why Droptail, for me, is so powerful. Because not only does it represent the client’s exacting wishes, it also projects a modern impression of what the marque represents.”

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