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The most expensive cheap thing you can buy?

Some of us, particularly those who have worked on car accounts, spent some time wondering through the Goodwood Festival of Speed a few weeks back. We’re a passionate bunch, love automotive engineering, technology, ingenuity and seeing the actual designs. We enjoy seeing the evolution of car design, flowing lines interrupted by jarring angled lights and aggressive grills. Car design is certainly becoming something of a creative art form. Function has long been lost to the purpose of making a very visual statement.

And then there’s is the commercial aspect. We’ve always been interested in the branding behind the great marques, the perception of value attached to an image that comes with an associated price tag. BMW, Mercedes, Bugatti, McLaren, Audi… all doing their best to wow the public and showcase upcoming designs and tech innovation. 

And then we found the Rolls Royce pavilion. Now this is a brand with a history. Years ago only a small percentage of people were allowed to own a Rolls. It wasn’t about ‘affording’ the vehicle it was about ensuring you were worthy of the brand. After a complete family history check you might have been approved as a customer. But you then also had to ensure that you never sold the car to just ‘anyone’. You were not allowed to make any alterations to the car, and no matter what happened to the vehicle on your travels, under no circumstances was it ever to be serviced or repaired on a public road. In other words it should never be seen by the public with the hood open. 

All of which left us gaping in some fascination at the Black Ghost presentation in front of us. Is this the ultimate incarnation of brand defiance? With purple and neon blue leather options and the ability to create a personalised version that could stand out like a camel’s bum on a high street, Rolls Royce has embarked along a truly interesting journey. 

Whether anyone really knows just quite where it’s headed is anyone’s guess. Sure enough, it’s a powerful car, and we have no doubt that the driving experience would be hugely rewarding. But what can surely be debated is whether the brands offering might now be verging on the kitsch, something quite unthinkable not that many years ago when it’s uniqueness was it’s pure simplicity and esteemed values of good taste.