“Building the Rolls-Royce SRH for St Richard’s Hospital was tremendously satisfying for all concerned. That it has been used so extensively and made such a positive contribution to so many children’s experiences, makes it all the more rewarding. It was wonderful to see it back at the Home of Rolls-Royce and to have the opportunity to return it to its original, magnificent state.”
Andrew Ball, Head of Corporate Relations, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
Every motor car that is meticulously handcrafted at the Home of Rolls-Royce is, of course, unique, with its own story and inspiration. But one Bespoke project has a special place in the affections of the marque’s 2,000-strong workforce – and it recently returned to the company’s Global Centre of Luxury Manufacturing Excellence, at Goodwood, for some much-needed TLC.
The Rolls-Royce SRH belongs to St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester, where it performs a vitally important role: young patients on the paediatric day surgery unit use it to drive themselves to theatre when the time comes for their operation, rather than walking or being wheeled on a trolley. This simple yet ingenious idea transforms what would otherwise be an anxious, intimidating moment into a truly memorable and enjoyable experience for the children, their parents and staff alike.
Since the car entered service in 2017, it has conveyed no fewer than 2,000 brave youngsters in true Rolls-Royce comfort and style. But inevitably, its singular working conditions – the marque is unaware of any other Rolls-Royce being routinely driven along corridors by unlicensed children in a state of nervous excitement – had exacted a toll on its beautiful Bespoke bodywork and paint.
The car was therefore recalled to the Home of Rolls-Royce for its first 100,000m* service, lovingly carried out by specialists from the Bespoke Team and other technical and craft departments, to restore it to its original condition.
The car was built in 2017, when the hospital asked Rolls-Royce if it could repair the original theatre transport – an electric plastic Jeep – that had succumbed after suffering one too many traumatic injuries of its own. The marque respectfully declined, offering instead to create a new one, to Rolls-Royce standards.
A small team designed and constructed a Bespoke bodyshell in fibreglass reinforced with carbon-fibre, complete with the marque’s iconic Pantheon grille. The bonnet strips were ‘real’ ones cut to length; the two-tone finish was applied exactly as it would be on a full-size commission, with the wheel covers, seats and coachlines all perfectly colour-matched.
The seat was hand-made from wood, with padding upholstered in medical-grade vinyl, hot‑welded to eliminate seams that could trap dirt. The team also designed a custom aluminium footwell that lifts out for cleaning.
In keeping with a Bespoke project, a number of components were individually created, including handcrafted treadplates, 3D-printed dash, wheel caps and spacers and trim pieces. As a true Rolls-Royce, it is completed with a laser-etched RR badge and its own Spirit of Ecstasy mascot.
Electric power provides the authentic noiseless Rolls-Royce driving experience; and like its road-going counterparts, its speed is limited, in this case to 4 mph rather than the usual 155. The project took around 400 hours to complete, with all the work undertaken in colleagues’ own time.
Following its service and repairs, the car has now returned to the Hospital to resume its humble but transformational duties.
Linda Collins, Day Surgery Unit Sister, said, “The servicing of our mini Rolls-Royce is perfect timing as we transition out of Covid restrictions and begin to restore our paediatric surgical services. Once again, our youngest patients can experience the full use of the car as part of their journey to surgery. This helps to take the emphasis away from the procedure they’re undergoing and focus on the unique experience of driving a genuine Rolls-Royce while being safely supervised through the hospital corridors. A huge thank you to Rolls-Royce Motor Cars for helping to keep our beloved little car in tip top condition.”
David Clayton-Evans, Head of Charity for Love Your Hospital, the dedicated charity for St Richard’s, Worthing and Southlands Hospitals, said, “A huge thank you once again to the amazing team at Rolls-Royce for this wonderful support to St Richard’s Hospital. This very special car continues to bring joy, smiles and a positive hospital experience for young people and their families.”
Andrew Ball concludes, “In its design, materials and manufacture, this really is a Rolls-Royce in miniature. That it has come through four years and 2,000 journeys in its challenging work environment so relatively unscathed is a testament to the care and attention to detail that went into its construction. It’s very rare that a motor car returns to the Home of Rolls-Royce to have scuffs and scrapes buffed out of its paintwork, and in this instance we’re entirely untroubled. It shows that the car is being used and enjoyed, which is ultimately what every Rolls-Royce is for. We’re delighted to provide ongoing support for this unique car, and its very special owners and drivers.”