Rolls-Royce Motor Cars: Making a Legend

by Simon Van Booy & Harvey Briggs

“A Rolls-Royce motor car transcends its primary function as a means of conveyance to become a work of art, a luxury object, a lifestyle enhancement.” 

—Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO Rolls-Royce Motor Cars


Two things make this book different than many of the hundreds of others written about Rolls-Royce motorcars. This well-rounded author is not a Rolls-Royce scholar (think Davide Bassoli, Klaus-Josef Roßfeldt); Van Booy is known for his adult fiction, children’s stories, and philosophical studies. He has written for the New York Times, The Washing Post, and The Financial Times. Briggs had been in advertising; he now publishes an online automotive magazine. All of this gives Making a Legend a somewhat different mindset, a different take on automotive production and aesthetics, a difference as compared to many other automotive publications. The second area is problematic. Although it is common for a car manufacturer to provide researchers and writers technical details, design renderings and photographs, in this instance the author and photographers have been given so much access to information, images and company personnel, it almost seems that this book was designed, from conception, to be quite the elaborate commercial advertisement for the Rolls-Royce arm of its corporate parent, Bayerische Motoren Werke AG. 

As Making a Legend unfolds, the focus, in words and images, is on the fact that, more and more, especially in the last few years, Rolls-Royce is dedicated to the company’s intention to make each car an ongoing collaboration between the client and the factory, to make each and every car an individual statement, to eliminate the very possibility that two identical Phantoms, Ghosts, Wraiths, Dawns or Cullinans could ever be found on Earth. We find that throughout the planning stages, the fabric installation, the wood preparation and installation, the painting and the pinstriping (and, for those of very deep pockets, body modification) clients are invited, encouraged, to express their ideas and tastes, and to work closely with the coterie of artisans who will ultimately create an individual work of mechanized art. The operating details of these various production units are explained in words and pictures. But…

Our book comes alive by way of the biographies, insights, and photos of the craftspeople; the explanatory texts and factory photographs (sometimes contrasted with vintage photographs of both the Derby and the Crewe Rolls-Royce factories) that illustrate the hands-on production procedures (there are only two robots in the factory and these are for painting); and the often beautiful, dramatic photos of the finished motorcars; But…

This is an oversized book fine for the coffee table or den. Glitzy sometimes, mostly artistic. It would make a handsome gift to any automotive buff—and a very welcome gift to any Rolls-Royce enthusiast. But there is one major flaw. If the photographs, superior work from the eye and hand of Mariona Vilarós, are found on a single page, they radiate profound light and luminous color; but if the photographs are spread over two pages, across the gutter, the photos, although fine and luminescent, become noticeably, centrally truncated. It is like looking at an Vaclav Zapadlik painting that had been folded and creased in the frame. If this could be fixed in subsequent editions—five golden stars!

A rounded spine would have prevented image area getting swallowed by the gutter.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars: Making a Legend
by Simon Van Booy & Harvey Briggs
Acc Art Books, 2021
296 pages, illustrated, hardcover
List Price: $65
ISBN-13:‎ 978-1788841009

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