PRESTIGE. AND THE BOX IT COMES IN .
A COUPLE OF decades back, somewhat awestruck, I held a simple—primitive, really—wooden car model as old as I was, nothing more than a block of wood that had been sliced longitudinally at an angle on both sides sometime in the late 1930s so its transverse cross section became a symmetrical trapezoid. The block was then jigsawed to a profile that described a hood, windshield, and body to which were appended rough plaster of Paris fender forms. It was Flaminio Bertoni’s own crude, brutal ... and astonishingly precise physical description of a car that was subsequently manufactured for nearly half a century in exactly that shape, the legendary Citroën 2CV.
I have never seen a design model for the Rolls-Royce Cullinan, but one can easily imagine a block of wood similarly jigsawed to profile (and slightly narrowed above the waistline) that would be perfectly adequate to define and describe the three-dimensional surface envelope R-R’s design team had to work within to create this ferociously expensive SUV. Nothing is the least bit awesome or particularly imaginative about the Cullinan. But I am nonetheless impressed by the subtlety and, yes, relative elegance of the surface modulations executed within the confines of the few inches between my imagined wooden block’s rough-sawn perimeter and the lavish interior crafted for the enjoyment of the world’s tenth-ofone-percenters who will become owners of this OTT SUV.
Unlike the ancient 2CV, there is nothing at all brutal or crude about the Cullinan. There are even vague hints of voluptuous curvature in the front and rear fender profiles, although there’s only a few millimeters deviation from a dead straight line. In my notes
I’ve referred to the Cullinan as the “Rolls-Royce truck,” and indeed that’s what it is, just as history’s longest-lived passenger car model name, Suburban, was first applied to Chevrolet’s panel delivery truck with some windows punched into its sides. If there never has been a production R-R truck, there have indeed been quite a few utilitarian bodies built for placement on RollsRoyce chassis, in perfect accordance with Sir Henry Royce’s idea that one should be free to interchange bodies at will, depending on need, whim, or just season of the year.
In our modern world of unitized body-chassis units, that long-ago concept is no longer applicable, so it is now necessary to dedicate a specific set of tools to make each separate type of body, even if engine, driveline, and suspension elements can be shared by them. The Cullinan may be seen by some as shamelessly following a popular trend for SUVs, but I don’t think so. This vehicle, with its flawless execution and lavishly appointed interior, is perfectly aligned with the glorious history and respected traditions of the fine old British firm. Rolls-Royce may be German now, but there’s nothing wrong with that. So is the British royal family. Long live Betty Battenberg … and Rolls-Royce.