Rolls-Royce Motor Car: Making a Legend Book Review

As I’ve mentioned on this website before, I don’t know a whole lot about cars. Nevertheless, I continue to read about various types because A. If I didn’t, that would contradict the premise of this site, B. My soon-to-be-husband and Detroit editor is a car fanatic, so he always wants to know what I think of them, and C. He drives around in a lot of press cars for his job, so it makes sense for me to learn more about them. Recently, we got the chance to spend some time in a Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV for a few days, and it just so happens that I was reading Rolls-Royce Motor Cars: Making a Legend by Simon Van Booy and Harvey Briggs at the same time. It’s endorsed by the Rolls-Royce automobile company, so what do I think about it? The coffee table book is exactly what it is: it’s about how these famously luxurious British automobiles are made, and being in one of these vehicles enhanced my understanding of the brand.

When I had started reading it, I noticed that it really wants readers to see how bespoke these cars are. These mainly come through the photographs that are peppered throughout the book, and I’m not mad. They’re absolutely stunning! These high resolution pictures taken by Mariona Vilaros capture even the simplest of details. For example, one of the motor cars displayed the exact air coordinates of the flight that founder Charles Stewart Rolls made to France and back non-stop. That event impressed King George V so much that he sent Rolls a personal message of congratulations (p. 41). The book also contains several archival photographs. These are absolutely necessary when comparing how a task was done back then as opposed to now. For instance, a picture of a man cutting leather has the caption “A time when lasers were pure science fiction” (p. 174). 

The photo was taken at a time when the production methods were different, and seeing how Rolls-Royce makes it now shows an evolution in the process.

The book also wants readers to know that these motor cars are still being made by human hands (as much as possible). I’d suggest taking a drink everytime they mention craftsman (meaning both men and women). In fact, every chapter interviews at least two members of each department, and I definitely got the sense that they love working for the company. A lot of them have a passion for cars and making them as precisely as possible. For example, Sami Coultas and Tobias Sicheneder are responsible for the color (oh sorry, colour) of every Rolls-Royce. Coultas admits that she always tries to meet with customers in person to fully understand what kind of color they want for their Rolls-Royce, even if it means making the specific hue, which they definitely can. She understands this notion as she states, “Colours and wheels are the most important thing on a car…If you don’t get those right, a vehicle looks completely wrong” (p. 57-58).

Even though the book is mainly targeted towards those who have an invested interest in cars, I found myself engaged throughout. Like with the Caterham book, I found some of the jargon (the car ones, not the British ones) to be confusing. However, unlike that book, the Rolls-Royce one finds multiple ways to appeal to those who are not typically car lovers. These include stunning photography as well as the interviews with various passionate workers. It also provides pictures of various celebrities who either were in or owned a Rolls-Royce like Prince Charles and Fred Astaire (his dance and comedy act with his sister Adele was popular in the West End in the 1920s, and she later married Lord Charles Cavendish).

When I was in the Rolls-Royce Cullinan SUV for a few days, I was able to visualize what I was learning from the book. For example, they stress the importance of having the perfect colour for every customer. The Cullinan SUV that I rode in was  Galileo Blue (insert reference to the opera section from “Bohemian Rhapsody”). It also displayed a gold coach line and matching lining on the inside that compliments the Galileo Blue. As one can see from these pictures that I took during that time, the outside looks inviting and charming. On the inside, it’s clear that the people who worked on it wanted the driver and the rest of the passengers to have a one-of-a-kind experience. These include the speakers on the doors, the snug leather seats with the logo stitched onto the headrests, a traditional analog clock, and a star liner lighting system on the roof of the SUV. I can easily see someone spending cloudy evenings in a Rolls-Royce vehicle just to stare at the stars displayed on the roof. One might even be able to see a shooting star if they pay attention. I can easily see why one would want to spend money on a car this bespoke.

In conclusion, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars: Making a Legend by Simon Van Booy and Harvey Briggs is a great book to showcase the Rolls-Royce brand and how their cars are made. It was great learning how the cars are designed from inception and to the test drive and how they are tailored-made to each owner’s specifications. I also enjoyed how it doesn’t feel forced when trying to appeal to those outside of the car fanatics. Not only would I recommend this to car lovers, especially of this brand, but also to those who are Anglophiles looking for more British stuff to read and are into luxury. Now if you excuse me, I will sip some Earl Grey tea and watch Rich & Famous on Amazon Prime while fantasizing about the next Rolls-Royce I’ll be in.

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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