My Car Quest

September 19, 2021

The 2008 Rolls Royce Hyperion

by Wallace Wyss –

Don’t fret, you can still order your next Rolls with your own body design

Back in 2008, I saw something at Pebble Beach I didn’t think I would see anymore—a coachbuilt Rolls Royce. A new coachbuilt Rolls Royce, not some crreeky old barge from the Fifties.

The Fifties was pretty much the swan song of having a Rolls or Bentley custom bodied to your tastes. There were still coachbuilders here and there, though some of them had been absorbed “in house” like Mulliner-Park Ward.

In this case in 2007 the wealthy buyer went to an Italian coachbuilder, Pininfarina, the same folks who designed and built many a Ferrari, (and even back in the Fifties a few Rolls and Bentleys).

This new one-off was called the Hyperion, and made its world debut at the 2008 Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, perhaps the ideal place to show off a new design, though when new designs are shown there on the “dream car lawn” it’s usually an automaker debuting the car not an individual.

Rolls Royce Hyperion

The car‘s name comes from Greek mythology.

The car was built at Pininfarina by their Special Projects Division which had only recently completed a modern reinterpretation of the P4/5 for Jim Glickenhaus, and also done a Ferrari, the 612 Kappa, for New Yorker Peter Kalikow, called the Scaglietti “K”.

In this case the buyer was a British gent, Roland Hall, whose brief to Pininfarina was to create a custom-built car that recalled the long bonnet swoopy art deco cars of the 1930s.

The actual designer was, ironically, a Yank , one Jason Castriota, an American automobile designer born in White Plains, New York, who was raised in Greenwich, Connecticut. He is a grad from Emerson College in Boston and attended Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He won an internship at the Pininfarina design studio, and was hired aboard before he graduated so decided not to go back to Art Center.

While at Pininfarina, he took part in the design of production cars such as the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and Maserati GranTurismo, concept cars like the Maserati Birdcage 75th and the Hyperion, and became Head Designer for Special Projects,.

Castriota left his position at Pininfarina on the eve of the Paris Motor Show in September 2008, and went to rival Bertone.

Rolls Royce Hyperion

When Rolls announced the car, they referenced some of their other cars for that marque’s chassis, including the Silver Dawn saloon of 1951, and the Camargue coupe of 1975 which was their only production car for Rolls.

HALL’S REQUIREMENTS

Hall wanted something 1930s in flavor, with a mile long bonnet, and a cockpit that was small by comparison, intended for only the driver and passenger (the regular Phantom dhc was a four seater).

To make the bonnet that long, the driving position was moved further back (400 mm) and the rear seats removed.

A new convertible top was designed, which folds behind the seats under a wood-lined cover. In front of the windscreen there was an unusual request–two compartments for small items or for sports equipment, such as Mr. Hall’s hunting rifles (Rolls did not disclose the caliber… but I think their presence might provoke some interest when crossing borders…).

Hunting rifles in a Rolls, reminds me of the old days hunting tigers in India…doesn’t it Cedric?

The bodywork was made of carbon fiber. The doors, Rolls said, were made of solid wood by craftsmen who work in wood for luxury boats. I think they meant the inner paneling not the exterior door.

A lot of automotive suppliers were brought in to make special parts for the car, such as Fraschini for the carbon fiber, Isoclima for the glass, Proxi engineering for the drawings of the car, Triom for the lights and headlights, Fondmetal for the wheel rims, and Materialise for components created using fast prototyping.

MY BESPOKE DESIGN ANALYSIS

Ah, Roland, me lad, you came close but no cigar. The bonnet is indeed of prewar proportions. But the car appears too long and narrow. You were lucky Rolls let you incline the grille, but perhaps it needed to be inclined a tad more yet, even as it is on the Round Door Rolls at the Petersen Museum, a car done more than a half century ago but with modern styling in some respects.

The taillamps somewhat recall the Silver Cloud but are too tall and modern from the side view. If they were half as tall, they would be classier, and more tied in with Rolls history (they look like Cadillac taillights now).

Rolls Royce Hyperion

The sculpturing on the side is good, the double edges both high on the door and low on the door, which give it more identity than the fairly flat-sided doors on the production Phantom dhc.

It’s too bad you couldn’t have had them build a thinner-framed windscreen, as in the drawing. The one you have is clunky, the pillars too fat and not inclined enough to give that rakish roadster side view shown in the drawing. I have a feeling they kept that windscreen frame for convenience, and thus failed to achieve the look of the drawing.

Rolls Royce Hyperion

Rolls Royce Hyperion

The headlights are an aesthetic failure, but at least not as bad as those tiny cheap looking circular ones on the 1st gen production Phantom. I would have preferred round ones, maybe 6” to 8” in diameter with interesting lenses but no need to wrap them around toward the corners as they did.

Rolls Royce Hyperion

The interior has a generous amount of polished wood, which I think you expect in a Rolls though it still seems like it’s a double dashboard, with two different levels when it could have all been one.

The rear end, in side view, is a little too abrupt, though I can see why you wanted it inclined downwards, similar to a speedboat.

Rolls Royce Hyperion

The removable watch which can be removed from the dash and attached to a bracelet is a good gimmick—I noticed Bentley has adopted that on a production car, the Bentayga, with a different watchmaker (how else are you going to let people know at your next party on the Cote d’Azur that it is your fancy car out front?).

Not for me, tho–I would be worried the parking lot jockey would steal it while I was inside, quaffing a chardonnay and trying to catch the eye of that fetching blonde.

One report says Mr. Hall sold it for between $4.5 and 5 million. If so, methinks he did well, years later, the car was spotted at an Abu Dhabi car dealer, Al-Ain Class Motors for under $2 million.

Hey, less than it cost to build it…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss, author of 15 car histories, has been a guest speaker at the Art Center College of Design.

Addendum

While looking for pictures of this Pininfarina design, I came across the work of a man named Raymond Picasso who has created hundreds of images of modified cars, and he tackled the Hyperion. I only found his front view but I found his grille-all-the-way-to-the-ground very satisfying.

Keep at it, Raymond! He gave me permission to reproduce this image. I thought his treatment of the bottom of the grille surround was brilliant! In fact it made me happy all day…

Wallace Wyss

Rolls Royce Hyperion

Rolls Royce Hyperion by Raymond Picasso

 

 

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Summary
The 2008 Rolls Royce Hyperion
Article Name
The 2008 Rolls Royce Hyperion
Description
The Hyperion is a coachbuilt Rolls Royce by Pininfarina.
Author

Comments

  1. one mans dream. has made the world go round.
    the author has american style..250 years old at best..
    britain is 2000 years old and have class..are one offs and dont rely on a dot com to make an entrance.
    the author has freedom of speech he does not have the funds to make his own so therefore no right to take the piss..
    simply my opinion of course.
    borralan

  2. I remember seeing this at Pebble and thinking it was something truly special. Individual details of the aesthetics can be argued but, just like pre-war coachbuilts, cars like this were built to the specific taste of the patron; not necessarily to accepted artistic norms. Resale value will reflect the mass appeal of any individual design. In any event, one has to applaud the person who makes such a move as this in today’s world.

  3. An Addendum with an additional photo has been added by the author.

  4. Ciaran Payne says

    Well, I have to say that for me it works out all round, but opinions do vary of course, I would be pleased to be, if ever, the owner. Keep up the good and interesting articles.

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