These days when we talk about custom-made cars, the most we get is special colour or stitching for the leather and maybe exotic wood for trim.
Rap stars may go a bit further with ridiculous sound systems and tasteless gold trim but that’s about it.
There are a lot of custom car builders who modify classic cars into special rides but there are very few people who order custom-made cars from manufacturers.
While I understand that the great unwashed need to be motorised so they can get to work on time and they can only afford factory-made Exactorides and Similacars but what about the one per cent.
What about the super-rich who rob and enslave the rest of us poor?
Don’t they have a duty to show off their wealth to the rest of us?
They should take their GDP-sized cheque books and tell the likes of Rolls Royce and Toyota that they want something incredible and just barely possible.
Ask for a 5,000hp super sports limousine made of carbon fibre with semi-precious stone lensing for the laser headlamps, upholstered in something already extinct and with two-million-year-old fossil dust in the paint, or something like that. I read somewhere that, currently, there are more than 200 superyachts being built.
Sure, ocean-going money wasters are great power projectors but actually cars are better at showing off who is richer. A 400ft yacht may cost upwards of US$400 million. Basically, you are looking at burning a million bucks per foot of floater but for a car you need only to spend around US$400,000 per foot.
A custom-designed supercar based with one-off bodywork, hand shaped and fitted onto an existing set of mechanicals and some platform bits would set you back only around US$4-5 million.
A real bargain you see.
A boat can only be seen in the ocean and you have to keep telling your friends that you have it or they might forget who owns that big boat they keep seeing in the Monaco Formula One passing shots.
A custom-made car is going to make it around all the news outlets because the public is far more interested in cars than they are in boats and therefore websites and newspapers will get more visitors and readers if they carry stories about glamorous cars than boats.
By this point you are rightly guessing that I am missing the point of boats; they are bought to impress other boat owners, and you’re right, but this is a column about cars so I have to miss the point.
That said, I do wish for a time when there are more custom cars being made.
Rap stars are doing their best but they don’t have sufficiently good taste or, as a group, genuine financial muscle to crank out custom cars in significant numbers.
We need tech moguls and really old and evil banking money to fall out of love with boats and back in love with cars if we want to see gorgeous and incredible custom cars on our roads again.
The car you see on this page was owned by 1950s screen siren Diana Dors and from your non-plussed reaction I am guessing that you don’t know who she is, and neither do I.
The white and blue Delahaye 157S is closely associated with her most famous owner, a B-list movie star from the 1950s who specialised in skin flicks.
The original car was finished in blue and white and in 1951, Dors, who had just started making a bit of money decided to splash on this car, paid a hefty £6,000 which was at least five times more than the most expensive Jaguar XK120 of the era.
In the 1970s, it was bought by one William Parfet in the US, who tired of the unreliable French mechanicals, had the suspension and entire powertrain ripped out and transplanted Oldsmobile Toronado underpinnings, including the 7-litre V8 engine, into the beautiful girl.
While the car ran beautifully since, it could not take part in Concours shows because it has been Frankenstein-ed. It took part in Pebble Beach in 1982 as exhibition-only display.
Thankfully, the Delahaye six-cylinder unit and Dubonnet suspension bits were kept and it was sold together with the body to one collector to restorer to collector and, for a time, it seemed that no one could put DDD back together again.
Well I needed a nursery rhyme that’s related to putting things together again to complete that paragraph and so resorted to cheap acronym-ing. DDD is, of course, Diana Dors’ Delahaye and not some other risqué reference.
The dismantled Delahaye was bought in 2003 by Chicago millionaire and car collector with particular penchant for French torture, Ron Benach.
Benach had English coachbuilder/restorer Rod Jolley on his Rolodex, which is like the prehistoric version of favourite numbers on your phone today.
After the amazing bodywork and ash wood body framing were completed, the car was shipped back across the pond for mechanical restoration and finishing by Fran Roxas who reinstalled the correct six-cylinder engine, Cotal gearbox and restored the interior to what it is today.
The difficult bits included recreating the clear resin steering wheel, which was cast in one piece onto a steel centre and rod.
Detective work on the paintjob found crucial evidence in the boot where the original paint had never seen sunlight, giving the restorer a nearly perfect sample to work with.
The rest were just a matter of matching photographs for the wood and leather bits, which is probably the least difficult part of the restoration.
The car was last on the market in 2010 when it changed hands for US$3 million, underperforming the auctioneer’s estimate of between US$4 million and US$6 million.