TRANSPORT

Aluminium at the Height of Opulence

Rolls Royce will soon make a brand-wide switch to aluminium architecture, but they have found other uses for aluminium as well.
6 February, 2017
The streets may not be paved in gold, but these Rolls Royce Phantoms are painted in it – and aluminium makes the coat and color perfect.
The 30 Rolls Royce vehicles are parked at The 13, a new luxury hotel in Macau, and available for guests to ride in style between transportation hubs and destinations in the resort city-state. They are even ferried by special chauffeurs trained at Rolls Royce headquarters in Goodwood, England.

It's the vehicles themselves, though, that are getting well-deserved attention.
Image: Carrrs
The first two are gold-plated both inside and out, with diamond-encrusted brand badges, and at the time they were ordered set the record for the most expensive Rolls Royces ever made. The exterior of the remaining vehicles comes in a gold-flecked signature "Stephen Red," with all the amenities that rounded out the USD$20 million price tag

The Rolls Royce fleet complements the USD$1 billion hotel, called The 13 in honour of King Louis XIII, a 22-story masterpiece with rooms that go for as high as $130,000 a night. So it's no surprise that these Phantoms are designed with every conceivable luxury and the bespoke approach to those amenities, including gold leather or checkerboard upholstery, clocks, instrument dials, door umbrellas and more.
What may come as a surprise is that the gold-plated exteriors also contain aluminium particles. The designers at Rolls Royce wanted the paint to be perfect; ultimately, they needed the patience for eight tries to get the exterior exactly the way they wanted it, and the gold paint is actually a 10-layer solution.

"Only at the Home of Rolls Royce would a team embark on such an ambitious project on behalf of one of our patrons," said company material scientist Nick Geehan, explaining the obsession with perfection.
The gold layer is 40 microns thick, about half the width of a human hair, with aluminium and glass mixed in for extra shine power. Yet for all the uncompromising attention to appearance, it's actually practical.

The engineers discovered that 24-carat flakes of pure gold wouldn't work – yes, they tried – without being alloyed with the aluminium and tiny glass chips, which account for just over 1 percent of the composition. By adding the aluminium and glass, they were able to get a consistent and perfect cover.

All told, the paint on the two gold cars is more than double the thickness of paint finish on a standard Rolls Royce, and all the vehicles were completed with specially designed spray painting equipment. There is a touch of pure gold, though: The trim lines were handpainted in gold by a Rolls Royce expert.
Image: BMW Blog
As for the other exterior elements, the signature grilles are gold-plated, as is the Spirit of Ecstasy figurine, which is lit from below. The brand badge is cast with 97 grams of 18-carat gold because pure gold is too soft for the process. It was then gold-plated as well, because the color didn't match right. One might be forgiven for not knowing this, but 18-carat gold has a reddish tinge in its natural state when compared with pure gold, and the unacceptable precious-metal mismatch needed to be resolved.
Images: BusinessInsider, ABC News, Daily Mail / Louis XIII Holdings
Elements of the Phantoms also are designed to align with the Macau hotel's architecture, and in the gold units they include a starlight headliner depicting the night sky when the hotel groundbreaking was held – a nod to Hong Kong entrepreneur Stephen Hung, who built The 13 and whose name appears on the engraved gold tread plates when a guest steps in or out of their elegant experience. Watch for the opening of Hung's hotel, scheduled for Q1 2017.
Banner image: The 13