How a child's car doodles led to the creation in Chichester of the world's most chic Rolls-Royce

While many kids at school were surreptitiously doodling spiders' webs and geometric patterns in the backs of their exercise books, young Henry Cloke's artistry was wholly devoted to cars.

Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 9:03 am
Updated Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 9:06 am

That childhood passion for creating the most elaborate of vehicles was to signal the shape of things to come.

When the new Rolls-Royce Ghost was unveiled at the company's Chichester headquarters earlier this autumn, Henry - from Wadhurst in East Sussex - could speak with both pride and authority about the design.

He had been one of the lead designers working with a team of 20 over a seven year period to create a car that was minimalist, incredibly pure, but with all the charm of a classic R-R.

Henry Cloke

Henry's story is an inspiration for any youngster trying to decide what career path they should follow. He has always been committed to his automotive dream.

Now aged 32, he recalled the journey to turning Ghost from a fleeting idea of post-it notes and a pastiche of images into a 'post-opulent' reality.

"At the beginning you think what will our customers want in the future? It's almost philosophical at that point. What should the character be and what emotion are you hoping the person will feel when they later drive it? That will be six or seven years in the future from when you are having that first conversation."

Initial inspiration comes from what customers have said they like about previous models - but the designers also embraced the creativity of fashion shows, yacht shows and architectural exhibitions.

"Then there are more global trends you are looking at. You are using it to inform the decisions and what you are trying to achieve.

"When we started we all had a penthouse in London for a few days and that's where we gathered and went through all of this information that we had assembled from all the different sources.

"It really is a team effort so people are helping with different details. At the very beginning of the project everybody is submitting drawings and designs and in effect pitching their personal vision of how this car could be.

"As you go through the process from that to a finished car you move from drawings to working with teams of modellers to create a full size clay model of a car and shape the bodywork.

"Once you've got the shape and the image together it's then a very long process of liaising with the engineers as to how that can be produced and how every detail fits together.

"It gets gradually more and more technical so at the very end you're discussing the fraction of a millimetre for a rubber piece inside the doors - but at the beginning you were talking about, in the case of Ghost, this post-opulent idea. So the job has a very wide range."

Henry classes himself as 'one of the really lucky people who does for a job what they probably would just have done anyway.'

"I was the kid that was always drawing cars in an exercise book so it's been a long term passion. I did all right at various things at school from mathematics to arts and I think being able to do both is really quite important. You can step from an artistic world to an engineering one very easily."

Achieving good grades is important - it got Henry to both university at Coventry to study automotive design and then to the RCA.

But it all began at the back of an exercise book at his East Sussex school in Wadhurst.