These one-off Rolls-Royces are made for English rock royalty | Top Gear
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These one-off Rolls-Royces are made for English rock royalty

Check out these RR Wraiths, each ‘Inspired by British Music’

  • ‘Inspired by British music’? What do they mean by that?

    Pretty much what it says on the tin. According to Rolls-Royce, each Wraith illustrates and celebrates “the illustrious career of a British pop and rock legend".

    Each of the musicians was personally involved with the project, creating what amounts to a rolling piece of memorabilia that expresses the length and breadth of their musical legacy, and can also be used for a trip to Waitrose.

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  • So, define ‘legend’, then.

    Aha. We sense your scepticism, and are therefore happy to report that they’re actually legends of music. Rest assured that there isn’t a Rolls-Royce Sugababes Edition or a Take That Wraith. 

  • Phew. So, who’s done what?

    Well, Roger Daltrey (the frontman of The Who, in case you haven’t experienced the unalloyed joy of listening to Quadrophenia on a surround-sound setup) has designed two.

    The first celebrates the rock opera Tommy, one of The Who’s most-loved albums, with the album’s cover art recreated on the Wraith’s bonnet. The coachline – that’s the intricate stripes down the side of the car – features “a bird in flight”, which also references the album’s inside cover. 

    “That was the album that saved the band,” says Daltrey. “It changed everything for us. That was the one that introduced the idea of the ‘concept’. I always loved the artwork and it was a privilege to work with Mike McInnerney, who did the original.”

    Inside, there’s unique embroidery that depicts motifs from the album artwork, as well as a pinball machine that alludes to the massive hit ‘Pinball Wizard’. Lyrics from the album are engraved into copper door panels.

    The second celebrates Daltrey’s own musical legacy, featuring The Who’s bullseye logo, lyrics from The Who Sell Out and embroidery alluding to their habit of destroying instruments (and hotel rooms for that matter).

    Daltrey’s had a few now, but Rolls-Royce ownership wasn’t something he expected during his working class upbringing in Shepherd’s Bush in the 1950s. 

    “When you’re starting off and the arse is hanging out of the back of your trousers, you don’t imagine that for a second,” he says. “I did end up with a few – I had a couple of original Flying Spurs.”

    What are you driving at the moment?

    “Oh, a couple of beaten-up old Land Rovers, and I have a Range Rover,” he says. “Actually, I’ve also got an old Mercedes. It’s the CLS, the first AMG 63, the one with that incredible engine. An F1 driver – and I’m not going to tell you who – said to me, ‘Never sell that car. The engine’s a masterpiece’. And he’s right – it is.”

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  • Nice. So, who else is involved?

    Songwriter, singer and rhythm guitarist for The Kinks, Ray Davies. You have him to thank for the driving sound of ‘You Really Got Me’ and the wonderfully biting lyrics in ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’, among other things. You can also thank him for the seemingly endless karaoke renditions of ‘Lola’, although we’d prefer if you didn’t. 

    For his special edition Wraith, Davies has chosen lyrics from The Kinks’ 1969 album, Arthur, as well as including the refrain ‘raining on a sunny afternoon’ on the Wraith’s pop-out umbrellas, which is genius. 

    “I did toy with the idea of including a musical ejector seat,” says Davies. “But we decided it would be a good vehicle for some of the lyrics from Kinks songs.”

    The Kinks most ‘English’ album of all was The Village Green Preservation Society. It bombed when it was first released, and it’s only now that it’s really being appreciated. Why?

    “1968 was a very heavy year,” says Davies. “The Vietnam war had started, music was getting heavy too, people weren’t interested in cricket, beer or steam trains. We were also banned from visiting America at the time [by the American Federation of Musicians, who thought the band were troublemakers]. But I’m pleased a new generation gets it now. That’s what I love about music: it gets passed down the generations.”

    So, did you own a Rolls back in the day?

    “No. I failed my driving test five times,” says Davies. “I passed it eventually.”

  • Do the Stones get a look in?

    Well, kind of. Ronnie Wood – likely best known as part of the Rolling Stones – has chosen to celebrate his solo career, which kicked off back in the 1970s.

    As such, there’s embroidered cover art (designed by Mr Wood himself) between the rear seats and lyrics engraved in the door panels. 

  • There are some pretty big names here. So, is there a Pink Floyd edition?

    There’s one on its way, actually, with Nick Mason’s personal involvement (that's him on the left). There’s also a Francis Rossi / Status Quo edition, and one for George Martin, who’s also been referred to as ’the fifth Beatle’. 

    As George has, unfortunately, passed away, the version that bears his name is a tribute to the 30 number-one hit singles he produced in the UK. Yes, 30.

    As such, the title of each hit is embroidered into the ‘waterfall’ divide between the two rear seats.

  • What if my musical tastes don’t include classic rock?

    Well, then there’s something very wrong with you. Luckily, Rolls-Royce is a more forgiving bunch than we are, which is surely why there’s a Shirley Bassey edition. It could also be because of her incredible contribution to music through James Bond theme songs and brassy, in-your-face cabaret anthems. 

    And please, for all concerned, don’t make any ‘hey big spender’ jokes. You’re better than that.

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  • Fine. Spoil all my fun. Tell me then, what’s the point of the special editions?

    Glad you asked. Apart from celebrating British music (and it is rather good), they’re all going to be sold, with the profits going to a charity close to the heart of each artist involved. 

    For instance, Roger Daltrey is supporting the Teenage Cancer Trust, which raises awareness about early-onset cancers and supports teenagers with the disease.

    “To be able to help the Teenage Cancer Trust – which I’ve been involved with for 27 years – is obviously very important,” he says. 

    “People still don’t realise how big a problem it is, and charities like this really are invaluable.”

    Interview: Jason Barlow

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