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Inside The Rolls Royce Styling Dept

1971 -2001

Graham Hull

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For some cars (small or medium sized) the front or front three-quarter view is most impt. But for larger cars, it's the side section through the doors that is paramount. The 1991 Mercedes S Class had a featureless side section, lacking any sort of positive statement, and as a result went straight from the production line to the taxi rank.

Took a while to convince R-R engineers to adopt alloy wheels. The clinching argument was that alloys are truly round, whereas the steel wheels aren't. (But persisted with 15" wheels!)

Conservative colours - even into the 1990's, most were either black or dark blue. One customer of the Bentley Turbo R wanted everything black - all the wood was replaced with piano black.

The first Continental R was launched at Geneva Car Show 1991, in bright red. Sultan of Brunei was so taken with it that he offered R-R MD three times retail price for it, and had it loaded on a plane home the same day. (Good for R-R bank account but it was the only finished model in existence at the time.

The old 'pram' style folding for convertible roofs was replaced with a multi-layered sandwich, which made it akin to folding a mattress. Hired Italian design firm to figure out how to stow this without having to raise the boot line too far. "I was always a touch concerned when they said 'No problem' bc this could mean 'no problem, bc soon you will return to England, or no problem, we always beat you at football anyway."

How to deal with consultants: "When preparing a brief, don't put in too much detail bc if you leave something out it's your fault. If it's all left out and the consultants don't query it, it's their fault."

Engineers simply enjoy being combative - even when they agree they do so violently.

Author once had to sit through a boring meeting in Munich (after BMW had bought R-R) where he was his opinion of the meeting. "Absolutely fascinating" he replied, to be met by gales of laughter from German colleagues. It transpired that BMW had organised classes for their managers on cultural differences between Germans and British, where it was explained that 'absolutely fascinating' was English for 'bored brainless'.

Author described one supervisor who he apparently struggled to get on with, but said he never saw any traces of anger or even irritation; that sort of grace under pressure is no mean achievement. He was asked to do a framed drawing of the Siver Spirit for the guy's retirement. "Some years later George told me that he still had it, although not in which room it hung ....."

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