If you happen to be Rolls-Royce, then you build a one-off, bespoke Sweptail coupe, which is reported to be the most expensive car in the world.
Inspired by some of the more obvious expressions of wealth such as private planes, vintage Rolls-Royces and super-yachts, the Sweptail was created for one of the British car maker’s most loyal and valued customers, who could not be satisfied with one of those two-a-penny, off-the-shelf Rolls models.
Of course, Rolls would never be so uncouth as to discuss the awkward matter of money when it comes to such an aspirational and unique vehicle, but we will - if reports that the Sweptail cost upwards of $16m are accurate, it takes the record as the most expensive known new car offered to date.
Despite sharing the proportions and length of a decent sized boat, the Sweptail accommodates just two, with all of the remaining space reserved for luggage and artistic licence.
Its interior is a festival of hard-to-pronounce materials and features, including Macassar Ebony, Paldao and an item dubbed the Passarelle, which is veneered to resemble a yacht deck. The dash is kept uncluttered by the absence of switchgear and even the titanium and Macassar-finished clock is embedded into the fascia.
Its snout is framed by a continuous brushed aluminium band more akin to a Dyson cooling fan and dominated by a huge version of the traditional Rolls-Royce Pantheon grille, which has been machined from a single piece of aluminium and painstakingly hand polished to a mirror finish.
Allowing prison inmates to stamp out a Rolls rego plate would be as inappropriate as starting a Mexican wave at the opera. Instead, the car maker machined the two-digit ID from more aluminium and inlaid it to the lower grille and boot lid. One assumes the customer is not considering the possibility of the car ever having a second owner.
At the back end, the special model’s haunches taper from the vast glass roof down to an extended overhang and a rump that is more maritime than motoring. While the vehicle is the result of a project that was driven by passion rather than cost, the car maker appears to have minimised some cost by recycling the tail lights of the now discontinued Phantom.
Examples of Rolls-Royce’s hyperbolic accessories include a mechanism installed to the centre console, which produces a bottle of champagne and a pair of flutes at the touch of a button, and implies the car is going to a country with relaxed views on drink driving.
When the owner is working and not sculling bubbles in the car, a ‘pannier’ concealed in the panel behind each of the massive doors houses a special carbonfibre case which has been tailored to accommodate a laptop, because chucking it in the boot with your Zegna jacket is so very undignified.
The Sweptail takes design cues from a number of classic and vintage Rolls cars, including the Phantom I Round Door, Phantom II Streamline, Gurney Nutting Phantom II Two Door Light Saloon and 20/25 Limousine Coupe, all of which are also rare and exclusive in their own right.
Not only is the ultra-opulent car a shot across the bow of the finest gear from the big German three, it also serves as a muscle flexed in the direction of arch rival Bentley, which rolled out its own one-off customer special in the form of a stretched Mulsanne dubbed the Grand Limousine last year.
The Sweptail made its debut at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este on the weekend on the shores of Lake Como in Italy, but exactly where in the world it will call home remains undisclosed.
Its right-hand drive configuration leaves only a handful of possible global locations, and the number eight in its registration chalks Hong Kong as a likely location, where the figure is considered especially auspicious.