Here are the first photographs of some of the very last Rolls-Royce Phantoms. The current generation of Phantom comes to the end of its natural life towards the end of this year to make way for a new generation of Rolls-Royce motor cars and they’re already tearing down the line; each of the 50 of these new Zenith special editions includes a chunk of that very production line, artfully re-smelted into a little ingot engraved with its co-ordinates inside Rolls’ Goodwood home. What exactly you do with it in an era where’s there’s very little paper to weigh is up to you. You might just want to leave it in its little box in the car. Whatever the case, it’s a lovely little touch.

Which is of course Rolls-Royce’ schtick, or has been since production re-started in 2003 under BMW’s not-a-foot-wrong management. Whimsy has been part of the story since that first, seventh-generation Phantom saw the light of day. BMW had a huge amount of toxicity to remove from the brand and did so by stirring up a signature cocktail of German engineering and bubble-bursting English wit - umbrellas in the doors and a “power reserve” on the dash. To this day I’m still not certain quite everyone understands the warmth and charm of that particular joke. Big cars take themselves terribly seriously, don’t they?  Rolls-Royce showed it doesn’t always have to be so. 

So the 50 Zenith cars - Phantom Coupes and Phantom Dropheads - are rammed with little moments where an individual’s imagination has been indulged and not merely managed out of the process. Hidden from view unless the doors are open are little engravings of the locations of the debuts of the prototypes from the two cars. And what locations; Lake Geneva for the Coupe, Lake Como for the Drophead. 

The speedometer is now finished in brushed steel, the front seats trimmed in a lighter shade than the rear and - in the Drophead - the arrangement of hundreds of fibre-optic "stars" in the roof lining now favours the front seats; all details meant to remind folks just what a departure the two-door Phantoms were for the company. Nothing as crude as a sports car of course, but a motor car definitely meant to be driven and not just ridden in. 

Inevitably it’s the little champagne bar in the rear of the new cars that will attract the most attention. Coupes and Dropheads have always had split tailgates and now the rear, lower section has been manoeuvred to include a small glass table and ice bucket while further back in the boot is a fridge big enough for two bottles of fizz and storage for eight Rolls-Royce flutes. 

All 50 Zeniths will have the full roster of details listed above but they may not look all the same. Rolls-Royce has indicted that with Phantom VII coming to the end of its time, the bespoke department is busier than ever creating very individual cars. There are suggestions - Madeira Red with the company’s newly developed glass clearcoat (as seen on the Coupe, top in the group of three) and Midnight Blue with Arctic White (right) - but Rolls-Royce’s business is not based on telling customers what they can have.

Coupes and Dropheads have always been very rare beasts - it’s part of their appeal - and all 50 Zenith cars have already been sold. Given that Rolls-Royce has already made it clear that while there will be a Phantom VIII Limousine, there will be no PVIII Coupe, no Drophead. The opportunity to commission your own then is disappearing by the day. 

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