(from Rolls-Royce Press Release)
While to a high degree machines have replaced people in conventional
automotive manufacturing, the finest quality work and detailing can only
be achieved by hand. However machines have the advantage over
traditional hand building in their consistency and precision. Combine
the two though – hand-built quality with the intelligent assistance and
quality assurance of the latest technology – and it is possible to
produce a hand-built car that is right first time, every time.
This is one of the things which makes the Rolls-Royce Phantom such a
special motor car.
Aluminum Space Frame
The Phantom’s aluminium space frame is
the largest of its kind ever built for automotive use. Made up of more
than 200 extruded aluminium profiles and 300 sheet parts, it combines
low weight with extreme strength. The whole bodyshell weighs just 550 kg
yet has a torsional rigidity of more than 40,000 Nm/degree – making it
at least twice as stiff as any previous Rolls-Royce.
Each frame has 120 metres of welds at
over 2,000 separate points, every one completed by hand. The weld at the
rear C pillar alone is almost 2 feet long. The expertise of the highly
specialised team, based at Dingolfing, combined with state-of-the-art
measuring equipment means that the entire body is constructed to within
a plus / minus tolerance of just 0.1mm (0.004in). This level of accuracy
allows the coach doors, for example, to clear each other by just 2.7 mm.
The driveline of the new Phantom is
unique to Rolls-Royce, delivering all the virtues and traditional
characteristics of a Rolls-Royce engine, and making use of the latest
engineering technology. A Rolls-Royce motor car has a specific type of
performance which has been referred to as “waftability“. This means a
powerful performance without apparent effort or disturbance to the
driver and passengers. To deliver this the power unit needs to produce
tremendous levels of torque, extremely smoothly, whatever the engine
speed, but especially at low revs.
Each engine is hand-built by a team of
specialists based in Munich, in the same facility where the BMW M Series
engines are produced. Hand-building means that every component can be
selected and assembled by some of the most skilled power train engineers
in the world. The result is an exceptional engine which has been
specifically designed for Rolls-Royce to give exactly the correct power
characteristics – quite different to those required for a BMW. It is
unique to the marque.
This lightweight, normally aspirated,
6.75 litre V12 engine develops its peak torque of 720 Nm (531 lb ft) at
3500 rpm – an impressive figure. More impressive still, is that 78 per
cent of this (or 560 Nm) is produced at just 1000rpm – fractionally
above tick over. This makes for smooth, effortless and extremely rapid
acceleration from a standstill. The sprint to 60 mph takes 5.7 seconds
(0-100 kph in 5.9 seconds).
Lying within the engine is the very latest technology, including direct
injection, variable valve timing and variable valve lift – the latter
which removes the need for throttle butterflies and their accompanying
efficiency losses. The result is an engine which is not only powerful,
but also extremely fuel efficient, returning 25.7 mpg (11.0 l/100 km) on
the extra urban cycle and a combined figure of 17.8 mpg (15.9 l/100 km)
– remarkable figures for a motor car of this size and performance.
About six times a year, the
manager of the interior wood trim meets the supplier – the only one of
its kind in England – to select personally the veneers for the Phantom.
This painstaking process ensures that the highest quality veneers of the
correct colour and grain characteristics are chosen.
The woodshop team has been carefully selected too and comes from a
variety of backgrounds. Each member brings specialist skills to the team
- true craft skills, like musical instrument making, the construction of
fine furniture and cabinet work, and also from the fitting of luxury
yachts. Intensive training allows them to turn these skills to the
production of Rolls-Royce motor cars.
Throughout the new Phantom, wood take an
architectural form, not merely an ornamental one. Each of the 60
separate panels is constructed of a core wood and an aluminium substrate
of up to 40 layers. This lengthy process helps deliver the best
crashworthiness properties and means that the wood parts are not simply
veneers glued to aluminum or plastic.
The craftsmen hand select the veneers to
apply to each panel. A complete “wood set” of matching and complementary
veneers is constructed to give each individual motor car its own special
character. The wood grain is bookmatched on each panel – the right and
left grain structures are mirror images of each other. More elaborate
woodwork to a customer’s specificiation is also possible. The effect is
aesthetically pleasing and demonstrates the meticulous attention to
detail that is essential for Rolls-Royce.
The hides used in the new Phantom come
only from carefully controlled breeders. Hides are sourced from mature
bulls that have been breed for their meat, producing leather as a
by-product. The animals are kept in conditions as close to their natural
habitat as possible.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars uses a newly developed colouring process whereby
the dye permeates through the depth of the hide. This produces a
supremely soft, natural finish that will not fade or crack. Conventional
methods require the final colour to be painted on to the surface before
being covered with a clear lacquer. This can produce shrinkage and
creaking as the leather moves and can eventually lead to a cracked
Between 15 and 18 hides are used in each motor car and each one is
checked by hand for blemishes before laser equipment is used to assist
in laying out the pattern pieces. The interior of the Phantom is made up
of 450 pieces of leather, which are cut by a computer-guided knife. The
individual panels are sewn together by a highly experienced team before
the completed parts are fitted to the interior panels on custom built
jigs. Ergonomically designed to allow the optimum working angles, the
jigs have continually running vacuums to extract any fumes.