Earlier this year, a former Disney Imagineer debuted an $83m designer jet inspired by the fictional antihero Captain Nemo’s submarine, the Nautilus. Now, the same designer is at it again — this time, with an equally lavish (and nautical) Rolls-Royce.
Eddie Sotto, that experiential designer and Disney alum, lamented the absence of fine automobile craftsmanship from nearly a century ago, when craftsmen at a host of coachbuilding firms outfitted Rolls-Royce chassis with gorgeously detailed bespoke bodies, including regal boat-tail models featuring handsome inlaid wood and meticulous joinery fit for the aristocracy.
Now, Sotto determinedly fills the vacuum with a most elegant solution: the Regatta, a customized Rolls-Royce Wraith that’s perfectly suited for modern-day Jay Gatsbys — tech billionaires craving Gilded Age opulence.
"It’s the ultimate Rolls-Royce", says the ex-Disney executive and founder of SottoStudios/LA. Sotto recently made a splash when he revealed plans for the $83m Skyacht One, that customized Embraer Lineage 1000E that raised the bar considerably for luxuriously appointed private jets.
In fact, Sotto (once named one of America’s most creative people by TED founder Richard Saul Wurman) says the Regatta was created as a mate of sorts for Skyacht: a gleaming pair of multi-million-dollar, high-tech cufflinks, if you will, destined to be sported by the Silicon Valley tycoon who has everything.
“I wanted to bring a car up to the level of the Skyacht aircraft,” Sotto explains. “It’s not a reproduction of a Rolls-Royce, but it’s a return to that handmade finish and Old World craftsmanship you’d expect in a car like that. Exposed joinery and craftsmanship like this are so rare in today’s world.”
Sotto, a design purist, is inspired by classic wooden motor yachts — boats like the Chris-Craft Riviera. As such, he says the Phantom II boat-tail Rolls-Royce model, with its rich combination of lacquered wood planks and steel, “absolutely captivated my imagination.” He decries many of today’s customized Rolls-Royces, noting they’re more garish than graceful.
“You see giant wheels and gold and bright colors,” he notes. “We’re less interested in bling than in creating a car with details that reward your close inspection every time you look at it.”
We’re less interested in bling than in creating a car with details that reward your close inspection every time you look at it.
So what does the Regatta bring to the table? On the exterior, the rakish-looking Wraith gets the stem-to-stern treatment, with its hood, roof and rear wrapped in mahogany planking, outlined in sensual satin-finish aluminium. If mahogany’s not your thing, Sotto says customers can personalize the car by specifying a different wood-paint combination.
Inside, the luxury-liner treatment continues with marquetry and intarsia reminiscent of the classic Italian studiolos: small, lavishly decorated rooms in mansions and palaces created for meditating, studying and relaxing. Other features include nautical-brass inlays, brass-trimmed vents, engraving on the wooden dashboard and door panels and bejeweled controls.
“We’re aiming to give customers a decidedly non-plastic experience", Sotto notes. "We’re striving for that juxtaposition of two worlds: nature meets technology. By seeing the exposed joinery and handcrafted details, customers will be able to appreciate how things are made, like a fine watch or stitching on an expensive handbag.”
No surprise, such artisanship will come with a hefty price tag; Sotto estimates customers will have to pony up more than $1m for a Regatta (in the US, the standard Wraith starts at about $305,000). After purchase from Rolls-Royce, each car will undergo Regatta transformation by the Aria Group, the California-based design and fabrication firm responsible for creating a host of high-profile carmaker concept vehicles, including the Mazda Furai and the Kia GT4 Stinger. Naturally, the Regatta's bottom line will depend on the depth of a customer's desire for Nemo-worthy opulence.
And, of course, whether they want a Skyacht to go with it.
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