Sunday, July 17, 2011

The White Rolls Royce

In some circles a wedding isn't a wedding without the shiny white Rolls Royce purring outside, available to squire the bride to the ceremony and later the happy couple off to begin their lives together. It wasn't always thus. A white Rolls Royce is a fairly modern conveyance.

Prior to WW2, a RR customer would first commission Rolls Royce to build a chassis, then they would hire a firm to build a body and all interior fitments and perform all that was necessary to assemble a finished car. North Americans may recall the "Body by Fischer" tags on their GM cars. It was the same sort of arrangement.

During the war, the body makers found their skills quickly transferred to air plane manufacture. Several coach builders were destroyed during the blitz, the skilled talent found more lucrative work or died, and the days of custom coach building quickly came to an end. After the war, RR manufactured their own automobile bodies and completed assembly in house.

Rolls Royce knew what their customers wanted, and built motorcars to suit. For the most part they were large, stately, conservative. Customers could customize to suit their requirements but nothing garish would ever be considered. Then along came novelist Barbara Cartland.

In 1963 her husband died and his employer reclaimed his company car, so Barbara needed new wheels. Being a successful author, politician and campaigner, a woman with an image to uphold, she went to Rolls Royce. "Make it white" she said. RR refused. "Make it white or I'll go elsewhere." Wanting her money RR eventually agreed.

Cartland was the first person in London to own a white car - a white Rolls-Royce - making quite vocal later on in her life, her utter disdain at the Rolls-Royce takeover by "foreign people". (BMW took over the RR name in 1998.) It was her only Rolls. While complaining of the foreigners, she was driven in a Mercedes.



Karena said...

Cartland, a woman with a mind of her own, always!


Art by Karena

Anonymous said...

Great post Toad. I'm a car buff, including RRs, yet didn't know this. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, do you know the model of the Rolls Royce that is on the picture.