It’s always a pleasure to talk with a chief designer whose competence is greater than his ego. It doesn’t happen that often, but with Giles Taylor of Rolls-Royce, it’s a given that everything he has to say about one of his company’s projects is going to be worthwhile and educational.
Taylor began our conversation by characterizing key Cullinan design goal elements as “proportion and presence” and went on to say that he’d been encouraged to treat the shape as “a piece of bedrock,” which is rather a nice image for a car meant to be on the one hand incredibly capable in difficult conditions and on the other supremely luxurious and elegant when depositing passengers in front of an exceptional hotel or restaurant. One of the options for the Cullinan is an internal glass partition separating the cabin from the luggage space so a doorman removing luggage does not inconvenience the passengers.
Mountain references came up as we talked, with mentions of Kilimanjaro, the Matterhorn, Everest, and the Himalayas, eliciting scenes of imposing magnificence, geological endurance, permanence—all attributes that R-R embraces. I questioned in my column the abandonment of the classical flat-plane radiator shell. He provided a logical explanation for altering the “Parthenon” grille. “We get buffeting on the windscreen, increased noise, so we have had to modify the shape yet keep our identity,” Taylor said. “I had to insist on a small horizontal area at the top, and it was extremely difficult for the stamping engineers.”
Taylor makes a lot of the fact that Rolls-Royce was in the business of getting through deserts and jungles long before any of today’s luxury SUV providers and suggested that some of the supposed competitors for the Cullinan were “all right for the school run but not necessarily for tiger hunting in Indian jungles, where our cars excelled for Maharajahs long ago.”
He was also inspired in part by military staff cars, which were definitely not trucks but were intended to “get senior officers in and out of combat situations quickly and safely.” But Taylor also wanted to have the Cullinan “at home in Mayfair in the evening, with enough brightwork to catch the light, but only just enough.” We’d say the Cullinan does that extremely well, too.