Take a look at some of the most notorious Rolls Royce cars on the planet.
It's hard not to love Rolls-Royce, even if your chance of owning the last word in luxury, style, and quality are slim. The rich, the famous, and state dignitaries have enjoyed Rolls-Royce cars as a way to get from A-B while showing their status or financial situation, or both, for over 100 years now. But along the way, there have been some unusual and outright outrageous examples of what a Rolls-Royce can be.
Whether as a statement on society, an item of pure art, for racing in the desert, or being tactically deployed in wartime, it appears there's nothing you can't use a Rolls-Royce for. These are ten of our absolute favorites.
The Paris-Dakar Rally was a long, grueling, annual rally raid that, unlike typical rally racing, the vehicles have to be true off-road machines capable of tackling any terrain to take part in. As a result, this Rolls-Royce Corniche isn’t quite the smooth and serene vehicle that Rolls-Royce initially built. It runs on a 350-horsepower Chevrolet V8 bolted to the transmission of a Toyota HJ45 Land Cruise all bolted to an H45’s chassis.
It was seen as a comedic entry the 1981 Paris-Dakar, but when it reached 13th place halfway through the event and handled the large sand dunes that caught out more capable-looking vehicles, people stopped laughing. Unfortunately, the team hit a tree and lost enough time to end their chances of success.
This isn’t the pink model of a six-wheeled Roller from the 1960s British science-fiction television series Thunderbirds. It’s a homage to the kid's TV show that Rolls-Royce donated to a fundraising drive for the Breast Cancer Care charity in the UK. The Ghost features a pink exterior decorated with Breast Cancer Care ribbons, a pink and crème interior, pink umbrellas stored in the fenders, and the legendary FAB 1 number plates. The car was then put into service as a hire car with all proceeds going to charity.
John Lennon is one of the most adored musicians and songwriters cemented in musical history who, along with his band The Beatles, changed the trajectory of pop music forever in the 1960s. Lennon was a subversive figure that didn’t mind making bold statements, and his wildly painted Rolls Royce Phantom V was a testament to that. His treatment of the Rolls drew a lot of ire that included, according to a story told be Lennon himself, a woman in the street shouting "You swine! How dare you do that to a Rolls-Royce!” and attacking it with her umbrella.
When the first BMW owned Rolls-Royce met the public it was a return to form for the luxury brand. Then, in 2016, Rolls-Royce unveiled an extreme autonomous concept car that positively drips in opulence and swagger, and even goes so far to feature a luggage compartment that is positioned, according to Rolls-Royce, conveniently for servants and helpers.
The Rolls-Royce Vision 1 is an almost 20 foot long two-seater that looks like it will swallow even the largest of passengers to cocoon them in the height of comfort, technology, and luxury. If this is our autonomous and all-electric driven future, then we're fine with that.
It’s not the first time an artist has used a car as a canvas, but it’s the first time we’ve seen a Rolls-Royce Dawn get an artist's treatment quite as bright and cheerful as this. The work was commissioned by Miami car dealer Norman Braman and the wrap was designed by the Brazilian neo-pop artist Romero Britto, who has created other art cars in the past and worked with a long list of major companies including Disney, Pepsi, and Rolls-Royce parent company BMW.
Rolls-Royce drew some criticism for the Cullinan, its first SUV, for being un-Rolls-Royce like. It’s worth noting though, that Rolls-Royce cars were developed and made their name before roads were really paved and earned a reputation for being able to go almost anywhere. During WWI, the Belgian army convinced the British hierarchy of the effectiveness of armored cars in combat, and they in-turn ordered Rolls-Royce to build a chassis with armored plating and went as far to requisition civilian cars to be converted. It’s unlikely those chassis were returned, let alone the ones fitted with 0.303 water-cooled Vickers machine guns.
The armored Rolls-Royce vehicles weren’t the only deadly Rollers to be commissioned. In the 1920s, the Maharaja of Kotah was amongst the money-loaded elite that could afford to have a Rolls-Royce built and customized as he wanted for hunting. His 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom Torpedo Sports Tourer was kitted out with everything you could want to hunt big game, including an elephant rifle and, incredibly, a hand-cranked machine gun.
The actor Rowan Atkinson is most famous for playing Mr. Bean and Johnny English in movies, but he's also a true and hardcore car enthusiast. In enthusiast circles, he's well known for historic racing and daily driving a McLaren F1 that he crashed twice. For the Johnny English Phantom, legend has it that Atkinson was at the Rolls-Royce factory and knew of the existence and history of a V16 engine that was there, and asked for it to be put into a Phantom rather than the prescribed 6.75-liter V12. The car features in the movie Johnny English Reborn with other non-standard, but made up, extra features including a self-aware computer with a female voice and a laser cutter that shoots out from the Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament.
The big headline for the Rolls-Royce Sweptail is that it’s a one-off Rolls-Royce built for a mystery client who paid a staggering $13 million for the privilege. The Sweptail is a coachbuilt Phantom Coupé with the bodywork inspired by the "golden era” of car design in the 1920s. The word "dramatic” is an understatement when you’re checking out the enormous polished grill, the elegant yacht-like lines of the bodywork, and the single-piece panoramic roof that gives a view of the polished Macassar Ebony and Paldao wood adorning a next-level of opulence interior. When people argue about whether a car can be art or not, we just point at this.
Strap in, because there’s one hell of a story to this crazy one-of-a-kind Rolls-Royce. It started life in 1925 as a cabriolet bodied Phantom I for the widow of one of the Dodge Brothers, who never actually completed the sale. The car was instead purchased by the Raja of Nanpara who took the Phantom to India. After a succession of owners, the Phantom ended up in Belgium in the early 1930s and someone (the records were destroyed in a fire) took it to the Jonckheere body company for its radical and ominous art deco makeover.
Somehow, the Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe survived WWII only to end up in a New Jersey scrapyard in the 1950s. There, it was bought by car collector and entrepreneur Max Obie who painted it with real gold flake. Obie then claimed it was formerly owned by King Edward, and charged people a fee to look inside.
Then, in 1991, a Japanese collector paid $1.5 million for the car at the start of the 90s car collecting bubble and let it sit for a decade in his collection. Finally, the Petersen Museum in LA purchased the Jonckheere Aerodynamic Coupe and completed a period correct restoration ready for it to become a jewel in their collection as well as a multiple-award winning show car.