Drop-Head Gorgeous

Three tons, 12 cylinders, two coach doors, four seats and a base of just over $400,000: one superlative automobile.

The long-awaited Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé, which began as the 100 EX concept vehicle at the 2004 Geneva Auto Show, has arrived, but if you want it to arrive soon in your garage, motor on down — now — to Rolls-Royce Motorcars Scottsdale, 6725 E. McDowell Road.

Only 300 of these mega-convertibles will be delivered in the United States, and the waiting list will put you in with kings and queens and business royalty, but you’ll have to have the patience of a luxury car saint for delivery, which is more than a year out: late 2008 or early 2009.

“There’s a waiting list here, but this is a car that you can get almost as much pleasure dreaming about as driving,” says J.B. Saunders, a sales consultant for the Scottsdale agency, a Penske Automotive Group company.

“It’s easily the most elegant automobile I’ve ever seen and is a worthy successor to the Corniche convertible,” he adds. “It’s effortlessly quick and nimble, it’s technologically advanced in design, features and build technique, yet it keeps the old world craftsmanship that makes a Rolls a Rolls.”

The Drophead is the Phantom sedan but sportier, younger and not afraid to take its top off and flex its extraordinary build, its finely toned coachlines and hand-precision detailing.

Whether you speak in “tyre” and “bonnet” and “boot” and “colour” or “tire” and “hood” and “trunk” and “boot,” this convertible, drophead, is just plain gorgeous: an iconically beautiful, elegant woman who enters a room and everyone looks and tries not to stare.

The Goodwood, Great Britain-based company got this car rolling when it received 250 orders at the Geneva show. That’s quite impressive, given that the MSRP is $412,000. The first Drophead to arrive in Scottsdale stickered at $439,650, so this vehicle, fully customized, or as the RR people put it, “bespoke,” could debit one of your more liquid accounts for half a mil.

The people in Sussex Downs dedicate 350 people-hours to hand assemble a Drophead Coupé, and everywhere this craftsmanship is evident. It’s inspired by the great J Class racing yachts of the 30s, and if any car is a “boat,” this is.

Start front to back. The Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament, wings brushed back in elegant flight, sits above the stainless-steel grill, flanked by LED side lights. Inspired by the 100 EX bare-metal look, the anti-corrosion hood is a brushed finish, which wraps around to the rear teak deck. Here, more than 30 pieces of hand-waxed teak, all meticulously 3.5 mm thick, are assembled. The machined grooves between them carry black caulking, still used by yacht builders. All of the wood is farmed from sustainable forests.

Just below the deck, which lifts to receive the cashmere-lined fabric top and is covered by it when deployed, is a spacious trunk, whose lower bulkhead folds down as a carpeted picnic bench. The Rolls people must have thought a retractable hardtop would have been just too mechanical and not elegant enough for this car, which looks back nostalgically as much as it incorporates the finest contemporary amenities.

The vehicle is ably propelled by the 6.75-liter V12 that’s found on the Phantom. It’s an all-aluminum powerhouse that delivers an impressive 531 lb ft of maximum torque. Even better is that 75 percent of this is available at 1000 rpm. The driving experience? One car writer gushed: “Big, audacious, gloriously smooth and effortlessly powerful.”

Proudly and effortlessly, the car rides on a multi-link rear suspension and a double-wishbone front suspension as well as air springs with continuous electronic damping control. PAX alloy wheels with Michelin run-flats are standard, but you can order 21-inch chrome-finish alloy wheels with Goodyear EMT run-flats.

On the body, choose from 44,000 colors, a fairly broad palette, even for the most demanding; whatever you choose, the finish includes five layers: primer, paint, and high-gloss clear coat.

The romantic coach doors are standard; they’re rear mounted, offering easy access to both the front and rear seats, and are also provided with a button-activated closing-assistance system. “The sense of occasion is simply unparalleled,” Saunders says. “With what other car is mere entry and exit so eventful?”

Inside, the Rolls deftly combines high-tech with high-touch. The steering wheel provides fingertip control of the entertainment systems, and a hidden LCD (it’s behind the clock) controls systems such as navigation and communications. The stereo system brings Royal Albert Hall into the cabin with nine amplifiers and 15 speakers.

Chrome organ-stop controls, eyeball vents and hand-stitched leather upholstery as well as lacquered wood make for luxurious touring that is comfortable and elegant at regal standards.

“After 103 years, since its first 10-horsepower two-cylinder vehicle in 1904, Rolls-Royce has signified motoring excellence, an affirmation that getting there should be as comfortably accomplished as if you were sitting in the finest living room,” Saunders says. “The Drophead Coupé says this again, and then some.”

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Scottsdale 480.421.3332