Why Rare Editions Like Rolls-Royce’s Black Badge Are Good Investments
The $362,700 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Badge costs $47,000 more than the standard Rolls-Royce Wraith. Which is a lot to pay additionally for virtually the same model.
Here’s what you get for that 13 percent price increase: high-gloss chrome (a lot of it) and edgier performance. Also, you get something that’s well-known among fans of the brand but is, at 150 cars a year, very hard to get.
"Black Badge" denotes a special line of motorcars from Rolls-Royce plc that come with higher performance and are outfitted more preciously, with a darker overall aesthetic. (There is also a Ghost Black Badge.) At first glance, this coupe doesn’t look radically different from the conventional Wraith. Both feature a dark hood that seems to stretch a mile down the road in front of you, and a roofline that unfurls like smoke around you.
They each have two carriage-style doors, too, which helps their investment value: Two-door cars generally do better at auction. During the past 10 years, all two-door collectible Rolls-Royces tracked by Hagerty Insurance Agency Inc. have increased 60 percent in value, while Rolls’s four-door sedans have increased by only 25 percent.
Moreover, the Wraith Black Badge is unique in having a dark chrome Spirit of Ecstasy ornament and blackened air inlets, plus new, 21-inch, jet-black, carbon-fiber composite rims that channel Italian supercars from the 1960s; these took four years to develop, and it takes a week to make one. It also has carbon fiber and aluminum threads woven together in a new sort of technical fascia along the dash, if you choose that option.
The Wraith Black Badge is that rare kind of car that often slides down the road much less noticed than its standard-issue sibling—until it’s noticed. Then people realize it’s major.
Powerful and Potent
It’s when you get behind the wheel that you start to take in the real differences.
The 624 brake-horsepower Wraith Black Badge is equally as powerful as the Wraith but has a brand-new, eight-speed gearbox that makes it smoother to drive.
It also has been engineered for increased torque (642 pound-feet vs. 605) and Intuitive Throttle Response, which works to sharpen gear and engine responses based on the style of your driving. The intelligent air suspension system has been upgraded, too, to help maintain the signature Rolls-Royce glide effect, even with the edgier engineering.
This is by far Rolls’s most powerful car to date. Zero to 60mph takes 4.1 seconds (compared to 4.4 in the regular Wraith); top speed for both is 155 miles per hour. I drove the original Wraith when it debuted in 2014 and spoke highly of its handling and braking. This one—just as silent and smooth in a straight line—has a noticeable advantage in quality.
Any collector knows that, when given a choice between similar models, always pick the one with the juice.
Devilish, With Details
Passengers will notice the details, too, as mine did last weekend, when I had this car. (Wraith has generous seating for four.) Once you’re inside, you can’t ignore the bold crimson-and-black leather seats; the singular Black Badge clock set in the dash, with hands tipped in orange, or the infinity logo set below the clock and woven into the rear seat as a way to inspire inhabitants to push the limits of the car. Pure marketing Kool-Aid, yep. It’s for effect, not for everyone.
Above you, more than 1,300 tiny, pinpoint, fiber optic strands glitter across the ceiling of the car. (“It’s a star field!” a passenger from Texas exclaimed; she loved it.) You can dim their brightness with the touch of a button, something that will surely delight your children. On the more adult end, the organ pump cigarette lighters and ashtrays are charming throwbacks, though you might trade one in for a USB port.
The bigger point here is that collectors go wild for fanciful, extravagant, and extraneous minutia. Each year at Pebble Beach, I see little dopp kits, original radios, special tool bags, fancy cigarette lighters, and the like ogled for hours. People are paying Rolls-Royce $46,000 for picnic baskets.
I’ve mentioned the price disparity here between Wraith and Wraith Black Badge, but that is a big part of helping a car remain aspirational after 30 years have passed, even if the reasoning is a little flat.
To wit: At the Scottsdale auctions this year, a 1932 Rolls-Royce Phantom II Roadster sold for $341,000; a 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost London-Edinburgh Sports Tourer sold for $698,500. When they came to market, each was among the most expensive cars ever produced and was the most expensive Rolls-Royce of its type.
The sheen of extravagant wealth on cars does not seem to wane.
Each Black Badge Wraith takes more than 70 hours to hand-build; the waiting list for one is three months long and counting. Roughly 1,000 Wraiths will be made this year; 15 percent of those, or 150 globally, will be Black Badge editions. This limited number per year works to your advantage, if you have the patience.
After last year's $345-million Monterey auctions, Hagerty’s Jonathan Klinger told me the collectible market is leveling out after several years of wild growth, except for “the most exceptional examples of a given model.”
“Any time there is a perception of exclusivity with special-edition vehicles, they will likely hold their value over time. vs. standard models,” he said. The caveat: These special-edition vehicles must offer something truly special.
The truly special Rolls-Royce is the one that is totally bespoke from the ground up, and made to exact specifications in a one-off order from a wealthy private customer. But with its increased performance and additional creature comforts, the Wraith Black Badge also embodies Rolls-Royce sport touring in the modern age. It fits the prime investment criteria for 30 years.
You’ve just got to fit it into your budget.