It's not very often that you get to enjoy something as sublime as two new Rolls-Royce models in one weekend, but incredible things can happen when the British bespoke carmaker decides to celebrate founder Charles Stewart Rolls at the same time as the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and Quail car show in Monterey, Calif.
Rolls-Royce doubled down and unveiled both the Phantom Coupe Aviator and the 2013 Ghost last weekend, and the cars provide a unique glimpse of both staid and stodgy Rolls-Royce design and a ready grasp of the brand's aviation heritage. While the Ghost follows closely in the footsteps of Rolls-Royce's recent offerings -- big, imposing, refined and in need of a chauffeur to complete the picture, the new Phantom Coupe Aviator's design recalls the early days of self-reliant aviation.
The 2013 Rolls-Royce Ghost has the carriage and square shoulders common to the Rolls-Royce family. The newest edition to the Ghost lineup was released with a one-off edition in honor of the Quail motorsports gather at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and was trimmed accordingly with a two-tone white and blue paint job, tread plates with a special orange poppy logo that say "Pebble Beach" and a variety of other interior trim and color options.
Likewise, the 2013 Rolls-Royce Ghost makes use of some of the company's latest tech like "Night vision with person recognition," which will pre-brake in the event of obstructions in the road, keeping people, deer and the car's pristine paintjob safe. The trunk of the car also features a sensor which allows you to open it just by waving your leg in its general vicinity lest you get fingerprints on the paint or strain yourself while loading your golf clubs.
While the new Ghost is all well and good, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe Aviator is a far more romantic and captivating offering. Rolls is making 35 Phantom Coupe Aviators, a collection "which celebrates the spirit of human endeavor that drove a very British hero and subsequently led Rolls-Royce to simultaneous world speed records on land, air and in the water," or so they say.
The quintessentially British hero in question is Rolls-Royce's founder, Charles Stewart Rolls, who early in the 20th century was the second person in the U.K. to hold a pilot's license. He was also a racecar driver and a balloonist who hung around with the Wright Brothers. Always looking for the latest technology and means of speed, Rolls said he preferred flying to driving because "there are no policemen in the air." After his first flight with the Wright Brothers in 1908, he reportedly said, "The power of flight is as a fresh gift from the creator, the greatest treasure yet given to man." Rolls eventually became the first person in British aviation history to die in a plane crash in 1910 at the age of 35.
As surprising as it may sound, the Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe Aviator does capture the sensibilities and adventurousness that Charles Rolls seems to have exemplified, and even a brief glimpse of the car calls to mind silver-screen newsreel images of early 20th century aviation and car racing. The interior of the car is encrusted with polished steel, brown leather and a plentitude of dials in reference to the early days of aviation, and the exterior profile of the car is swept back, giving it a sleeker, more aero-dynamic look than the 2013 Ghost. Rolls-Royce seems to be looking forward with the Ghost which adheres closely to the stock shapes and carriage of the Rolls-Royce brand, while the Phantom Coupe Aviator is steeped in the retro-futurism of the early 20th century engineer and adventurer.
There's no word yet on how much either vehicle will cost, although you can be sure it will be a pretty penny. Models in the Phantom line typically begin at around $400,000; models in the Ghost line typically begin at around $250,000. Shares of BMW (Frankfurt: BMW), which owns Rolls-Royce, fell €0.24 (29 cents) to €61.22 Monday.