Luxury today is about uniqueness. Automakers constantly enrich their services and offer a range to satisfy every client’s desire. Luxury automotive nowadays cannot be anymore just about producing beautiful, insanely fast, or extremely luxurious cars. The Customer journey has to be richer and involve the client in every step of the ownership.
The way to uniqueness begins with Tailor-made or bespoke programmes which allow each client to choose the car’s specification down to the smallest detail, making it effectively unique, as long as enough money is spent on it. Over the last decade, all the major luxury automotive manufacturers have significantly expanded their respective personalisation programmes including bespoke colours, materials, and even car components along with dedicated experts that will help clients get their own perfect specifications.
There is a further step to all this though, during which really unique products, or one-off, are developed and it is not just down to specifications.
The concept of one-off vehicles commissioned by a wealthy client to a manufacturer is not new but dates back to about the beginning of the last century. At the time though, automotive was not about mass-production, economies of scale, and standardisation as it is today, so modern one-off are treated differently.
In this article, I listed 6 of the most interesting modern one-off cars ever produced in the luxury segment, either for their significance, or their history. The list could easily be much longer, but this time I decided to synthesise bringing only one example (almost) from each manufacturer considered.
First in alphabetical order is the Aston Martin Victor. Presented in September at the Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace. It is a bespoke car commissioned to and developed by Aston Martin’s Q (any James Bond fan here?). It is valued at around £2 million.
*Source: Aston Martin
It utilises the carbon monocoque of another iconic and rare One-77. The engine, 7.3 litre V12 is also taken from the One-77 but completely reworked by Cosworth and produces now 836 bhp. It takes interior and exterior elements from the expertise acquired from Aston Martin Vulcan and Valkyrie.
This car is extremely special, not only because just only one exists, but because it is Aston Martin's tribute to the 70s and 80s. A period when Aston Martin introduced a boxier look with the V8 Vantage.
The name Victor, instead, is a tribute to Victor Gauntlett, executive chairman of the company from 1981 to 1991. Under his guidance, the automaker embraced this particular styling but also cancelled the production of another special and now unique model, as only one exists today, the Aston Martin Bulldog.
One of the most expensive cars in the world, priced at over £14 million, La Voiture Noire was presented at the Geneva Auto Show in 2019.
Built on the chassis of a Chiron heavily revised, with longer wheelbase, the same 8 Litre W16 producing 1500 bhp. The design by Etienne Salomé features some exclusive elements like 3D printed taillight bar, black-hued carbon fibre, six exhaust tips as well as advanced innovation like the wheels internal structure developed by AI.
This car too has an interesting story. The concept is based on the 1930s Type 57 Atlantic of which Bugatti built only 4 units. One, completely black and owned by founder Ettore Bugatti’s son Jean, went missing during World War II and was never found. The stunning modern interpretation pays tribute to the original La Voiture Noire.
Ferrari has produced a considerable number of one-off cars throughout the years, with a program started over 10 years ago now, and vehicles’ styling varying to different degrees from their original platforms.
While all of them are noteworthy just for being unique Ferraris, the P80/C or SP36 is, if possible, even more special for two main reasons. First of all, because it is a race car. Differently from the other one-offs, it is not road legal. The platform is a 488 GT3, and the engine is the 3.9L Twin-turbo V8, not limited and producing 660 bhp, but at least externally it does not preserve any aesthetic element of it. Secondly, it is inspired by what are undoubtedly some of the most beautiful cars ever produced by the company, the Sports Prototypes such as 330 P4.
The car, in fact, is conceived to be presented without the rear wing too, in order to preserve a more elegant look. Price is said to be around £5 million.
Ferrari also published an interesting video featuring Flavio Manzoni himself, along with other Ferrari executives, discussing the P80/C development project.
This is a very special, yet not well-known Lamborghini. The Marzal was initially conceived to be just a display car for international auto shows and add a more practical 4-seater to the Lamborghini lineup. It does preserve numerous Lamborghini typical design cues, such as hexagon shapes and rear window louvers. To that, many other elements like the large glass doors, the futuristic interior, and silver colour interior trim, make this design even more unique
The overall styling, realised, as many other Lamborghini designs by Marcello Gandini for Bertone, was then used for the Espada which has since become a classic Lamborghini. The engine is a 2 litre 6-cylinder engine designed by Mr. Dallara and producing 175 bhp.
What makes the Marzal even more interesting is the story of its first appearance. Monaco's Prince Ranieri III was so impressed with it that in 1967 chose this car for the lap of honour along with his wife Grace Kelly, then Princess Grace, before the F1 Grand Prix.
Value stands around €1.5 million.
McLaren presented its first one-off in 2012, the X-1. It did not produce other one-offs since, but according to a 2017 interview of McLaren Special Operations (MSO) Managing Director Ansar Ali with Autocar, the division had at that time the necessary facility to realise up to two or three similar projects per year.
The X-1 was modelled over the chassis, components, and 617 bhp twin-turbo V8 of the first McLaren Automotive model MP4-12C. According to Top Gear, discussions for this project began three years before its release between an undisclosed client and the then CEO Ron Dennis, and its price would sit at around £7 million.
Overall, despite its polarising look, it is definitely a significant and interesting project from the Woking manufacturer as its first venture in the one-off development.
Last but not least, a look at the pure luxury of Rolls-Royce with the Phantom VII derived 2-seater Sweptail. Presented at Concorso D’Eleganza Villa D’Este in 2017 and priced around £9.5 million.
The Sweptail features numerous luxury options available within the Rolls-Royce range like the champagne bottle cooler, umbrella stored in the car side panel, as well as some more unique ones like the side drawer containing a bespoke laptop bag.
The development process between client and company lasted four years and took inspiration from Rolls-Royce coachbuilding swept tails models of the 1930s. What makes this car more interesting is the mix of design cues from automotive and aeronautics, with clear inspiration from classic and modern yachts styling evident in exterior and interior elements such as the back deck behind the seats.
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