THE GREAT ROCK AND ROLLS SWINDLE
Text and photography by Eric Pasquier
In an old garage in Adelaide, Australia, the greatest car in the world is made.
Here, old Holdens are slowly transformed into the ultimate symbols of understated luxury: Rolls Royce Silver Spurs.
And you’d be hard put to tell them apart from the real thing.
Tony, the counterfeiter, was almost sued by Rolls Royce, but eventually let off the hook on one condition: that none of his ‘Glammer’ cars bears the Silver Lady.
ERIC PASQUIER takes a humorous look at the phoney Phantoms of Adelaide.His name is Tony, he is an Australian from Adelaide and his profession is transforming old Holdens into fake Rolls Royces.
He does this in his little garage at ‘Creative Cars’.
And you have to have a sharp eye if you want to distinguish the copy from the original. Perhaps the best way of telling them apart is comparing the staggering difference in price. The models ‘Made in Australia’ sell for just over US$ 40,000 each. Whereas the real Silver Spurs, as everyone knows, are priceless.
The idea is simple. Tony begins by finding in some car cemetery an old Holden Premiere, an average car driven by average Australians. Then he cuts the old carcass in two, straight down the middle. Between the two halves, he solders beam that will make the future “carriage” sturdy. The next step: putting the side panels in place. Then, the essential act: creating the famous front and rear radiator frames out of fibreglass; exact copies of those of the Silver Spur. The details of fabrication are, evidently, top secret.
From a length of 5 meters 30, the Holden has become a respectable 7 meters 50. All that remains of the original model is the chassis, the instrument panel and a new motor, but of an Australian trademark, which also helps explain the difference in price.
The major part of the work is finished. Now it is time for a paint job, and then, after 600 hours of work, the “Rolls” is ready to roll. Thirteen to fifteen weeks go by, from the time of the order to the date of delivery. The bar and champagne are optional…
Purchasers are, for the most part, entrepreneurs who rent out cars for weddings, hotels or airports, at rates far more affordable than those for the real thing. Of course, the Made in Australia Rolls does not exhibit, on its hood, the legendary Silver Lady – the trademark for the Rolls Royce.
Tony insists that he has no intention of abusing his clients by passing off his models for the real thing.
In the beginning, Rolls Royce’s commercial director in person was highly displeased at the news that there were fake Rollses rolling off a production line somewhere in Australia.
At the time, the business did not belong to Tony but to the inventor (who wished to remain anonymous) of the “Creative Cars.”
For the first time, the boss of the British enterprise travelled abroad with one thought in mind: to bring the forgers before the courts.
But once on the spot, he finally opted for a friendly agreement with the Australian. He would not sue on the condition that Creative Cars respect five conditions: the front radiator frame was to count a number of vertical bars higher or lower than the 24 of the original. The Silver Lady must never appear on the hood. The silver rectangle with the double ‘R’ for Rolls Royce would have to disappear from the lock of the trunk as well as the hubcaps. Finally, the width between the headlights and taillights would have to be different.
Since Tony took over control of the business, he has never heard any more from the Rolls-Royce Commercial Director. Not that he has failed to innovate. He is the only one to have manufactured a false Rolls-Royce pickup truck and, above all, to have dared cut up a genuine Rolls limousine to transform it into a station wagon…
A crime of passion? Perhaps.
But if we are to believe Tony, Rolls Royce may be planning to bring out its own first station wagon. What finer tribute for the Australian?
Copyright © Eric Pasquier
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