Rolls-Royce debuted its latest coachbuilt model, dubbed the Droptail, at Pebble Beach during Monterey Car Week 2023. The custom-built Rolls is the first of four Droptails, which the British automaker will unveil as they are completed following a meticulous production process that takes years to finish. That ought to justify the Droptail’s estimated price of over $30 million, according to Bloomberg. But for all its luxury and exclusivity, the Rolls-Royce La Rose Noire Droptail will still make owners manually remove and reinstall their own top.
You’d think that for such a hefty sum, the Droptail would have a retracting roof mechanism as complex as that of the Aston Martin DB12 Volante, but the Rolls-Royce lacks a power roof. Instead, the latest Rolls will come with a nice watch built into the dashboard. Take that Aston, I suppose. The watch is a one-off Audemars Piguet Royal Oak, made to match the aesthetic and theme of La Rose Noire, named thus after the Black Baccara rose that inspired its design.
But much more than being an expensive watch winder on wheels, La Rose Noire is what Rolls calls an “open-top roadster.” A convertible, in other words — if not in name, then in spirit. The Droptail is 17.3 feet long and 6.5 feet wide, per Bloomberg. It’ll be powered by the same 6.75-liter twin-turbo V12 as that of the Rolls-Royce Ghost.
Rolls-Royce also says the Droptail becomes a “dramatic coupé” once the carbon fiber roof is installed. That’s more or less what owners of hardtop convertibles with broken roofs should call their cars. Dramatic, indeed. The roof, by the way, comes with a full-length electrochromic glass roof that darkens and clears at the touch of a button.
Bloomberg suggests the Droptail’s “nautically influenced roadster degisn” differs from a convertible because its roof isn’t stored in some hidden partition at the rear. Fair enough, but that just highlights the inconvenience of the design. To be fair, the lack of a retracting roof gave Rolls-Royce designers the freedom to create a strikingly beautiful car, devoid of superfluous lines. There’s no doubt that the Droptail is beautiful both inside and out.
It may be mostly form over function in certain ways (for example, what do you do with the Audemars if you’re already wearing your favorite Blancpain, and you park in a dodgy area without the roof on?) but I can appreciate that the cabin’s woodwork took nearly two years to develop, produce and install by hand. The exterior paint was likewise labor intensive, taking over 150 iterations to perfect. The paint is called “True Love,” taking after the Black Baccara rose. It appears black under the shade, but glimmers red in the light.
The long, arduous production of the first Rolls-Royce Droptail partially explains the car’s price, though this is a bespoke Rolls, after all. Previous coachbuilt models cost $28 million, but Rolls is dealing with the push-pull of proliferation v. profit. Rolls-Royce can’t run the risk of diluting its brand by making and selling too many cars to the demos. So, the carmaker uses its coachbuilt series to balance rising sales volumes and its need for exclusivity. Rolls reportedly sold 6,021 vehicles in 2022, a first in its 118-year history.