I cannot tell you just how excited I was (and just HOW jealous my poor father was!) to be invited to explore the Rolls-Royce factory in Goodwood, ahead of their exciting exhibition, ‘Inside Rolls-Royce,’ that opens to the public at the Saatchi Gallery tomorrow.
An epically sprawling, yet peaceful structure designed in 2003 by Nicholas Grimshaw (who also designed the Eden Project), the factory is a brilliant, natural extension of it’s environment, invisible from the road and air, with a roof made of living plants and plenty of natural light pouring into each and every room.
Upon entering the building, you are immediately met with co-founder Henry Royce’s moto displayed across the entrance; 'Take the best that exists and make it better: when it does not exist, design it,' - advice still very much adhered by the current designers and engineers at Goodwood.
After a quick lunch and presentation from Marc Mielau (right), the Head of Marketing at Rolls-Royce, where we heard lots more about the upcoming exhibition but also about the luxury car company’s history, we set off in our beige Rolls-Royce attire (less Burberry, more biology GCSE lab coat!) to commence le grand tour.
With 1500 employees, 20 Rolls-Royce cars are made each day in what I saw to be the most immaculate of factories. On utterly pristine white floors (no grease or oil in sight!) each Ghost and Wraith (the more girl friendly of all the designs) go through 16 stations for 45 minutes a time, and the Phantoms (enormous!!) have 11 stations, each lasting for 2 hours a time. It seemed an almost surgical process, as I witnessed incredible amounts of precision and care taken at each stop along the long assembly line.
With so much to see, and such little time, our more than wonderful guide June thankfully knew her audience, so we spent less time having the inner workings of all the car engines explained to us, and FAR more time spent in the design arena...
With cars well known for their heritage, as well as their sleek and ever-evolving design, detail is everything at Rolls-Royce. Forever pushing boundaries, there is no challenge too small for this company to tackle for their clients and it was fascinating hearing some of the more particular bespoke requests!
From hand painted stripes on cars (performed in the factory using squirrel haired brushes by a single artisan and his steady hand – WOW! Imagine THAT pressure?!) and customized, non traditional paint jobs (once to match a lady’s much-loved red setter dog, another her pink Chanel lipstick - above!) to hand stitched embroidery, in-built microwaves (for hand towels, duh!), champagne chillers (naturally!), detailed wood, diamond (yup!) and mother of pearl door (below left) designs and twinkly lit, fibre-optic star light head liners (below right). This factory really can, rather effortlessly, make your every fantasy car wish come true!
Above: Large, super soft and colourful leather hides hang, ready to be stretched, then traced and eventually lazer cut in particular patterns for various car seats.
I did not find it particularly surprising, given the absolute treasures inside, to find that as our tour finished there was a giant rainbow outside, its end landing at the exact foot of the factory...
After the tour I was allowed to take a Rolls-Royce out for a wee test drive… It's a tough job buuuut...
Driving through the beautiful countryside roads of Sussex in quite possibly the PIMPEST car possible was pretty extraordinary! I was a little nervous at first, although smaller and sportier than the Ghost and the Phantom, the Wraith is still considerably bigger (and just a taaaad more expensive) than the lil’bumper car I roll around town in! Soon, I was completely in the swing of things and only wished the drive had lasted longer (or my family, who were terribly worried for the CAR’s safety) had seen me!
After such an amazing afternoon, I am really looking forward to attending the ‘Inside Rolls-Royce’ exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery later this week, ahead of its world tour. With complimentary entry, the public can expect a multi-sensory journey, spread across nine rooms, giving an amazing insight into the world-renowned engineering, design, craftsmanship and remarkable lengths required to create the world’s pinnacle super-luxury car. I am particularly excited to visit the room where you can, for a brief time, transform into the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy (the ethereal statuette that adorns the front of every Rolls-Royce) on a video wall in a beautiful light particle animation.
‘Inside Rolls Royce’ at the Saatchi Gallery: 13 November until 16 November.