In the world of luxurious, elite SUVs, there's a new name in the game. Rolls-Royce just unveiled its new and extremely posh Cullinan, the company’s first ever SUV. It’s designed to go head-to-head with the luxurious and fast Bentley Bentayga, and it’ll do so with better styling, more presence, and a long list of luxurious features and equipment.

rolls royce cullinan red front
The long-awaited Cullinan is unmistakably a Rolls, even in flaming red paint.

While the Cullinan is the company’s first-ever SUV, it wouldn't be the first rugged Rolls to roam the earth. If you travel back in time, you'll find that there were two vehicles in the Rolls-Royce stable that could very well be called the ancestors of the Cullinan: the armored Silver Ghost and the Silver Shadow Pickup. Whodathunk? 

The Rolls-Royce Armored Silver Ghost

Rolls Royce first armored car
The first Rolls Royce armored car. (image: Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club and Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation)

What do you get when you cross a Rolls Silver Ghost and an armored half-track? Well, the answer actually existed way back in the early 20th century. Rolls-Royce conversions have happened on occasion. One of the most famous was the armored Silver Ghosts that were used in WWI. Before the war, all Silver Ghost chassis were requisitioned to build armored cars for the British military, according to Auto Week.

Rolls-Royce armored car
T.E. Lawrence drives an armored car. (image: Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Culb and Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation)

T.E. Lawrence (otherwise known as Lawrence of Arabia) actually used a squadron of these cars to fight Turkish forces. He once referred to the vehicles as “more valuable than rubies”. It was also noted that the car’s presence in the Italian and Austrian Alps in 1913 had many people calling the vehicles the best cars in the world. Versions of armored Silver Ghosts were used in a military capacity until the 1950s. It doesn't seem remotely luxurious like current Rolls-Royce vehicles, but it clearly served its purpose. 

The Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow Pickup

A beautifully restored version just might off to the horse stables (image: Drive-My).

If you thought a Rolls-Royce pickup was a weird idea, you're not alone. Rolls-Royce conversions certainly aren’t anything new, but the end result doesn’t have to be an armored war-machine. Check out the Silver Shadow Pickup shown above. Though they weren't factory built by Rolls, they're still the genuine article with luxury appointments within. It poo-poohs on the Ford El Camino in true elitist style. 

rolls-royce silver shadow pickup
What do they say instead of "Yeehaw!" in Britain? 

Numerous coachbuilders have crafted these Silver Shadow Pickups over the years. Most that we can find appear to be from the early 1970s, though there are probably a few from the '60s, as well. The Silver Shadow was built from 1965 to 1980 and is often thought of as the last of the real Rolls-Royces from Crewe, according to Classic Motoring. It was also called the best car in the world when it first came out. Probably the same thing wasn't said after the back was guillotined and replaced with a pickup bed and a tailgate.

Rolls Royce Pickup
Attention to detail is what makes this model so special. (image: Drive-My)

The Silver Shadow was a standard unibody car, which actually made converting it into a pickup a challenge. The model shown in the photos was a project recently completed by Clark & Carter vehicle restoration specialists profiled on Drive-My. Lord Antony Bamford found himself an unrestored but already converted Silver Shadow pickup truck and had Clark & Carter get to work on restoring it. Oh, check out that bespoke wooden bed liner. 

The idea for the vehicle was based on a Rolls 20/25 commercial that Bamford saw Rolls mechanics using when he was young. Rolls Royce often built utilitarian versions of its vehicles for its own use. Bamford never forgot the vehicle and the model shown in the photos is the ultimate unibody pickup. Forget the El Camino, Ranchero, and especially the new Honda Ridgeline. This is the truck we want.

The Cullinan is Still Very Much a Rolls

Cullinan
The Cullinan is named after the world's largest diamond, so not subtle.

If you thought the Cullinan was some totally radical ideal, you're wrong. Not only does it capture the ethos of the current Rolls-Royce brand, it has the right underpinnings, ride, power, and luxury to essentially make it a taller, more rugged version of the Phantom. The Cullinan gets a 6.6-liter twin-turbo V12 (even though the engine badge says 6.75-liter), and it's good for a hefty 563 horsepower and 627 lb-ft of torque, the same as the Phantom's horsepower but with a drop of 37 lb-ft of torque. 

rolls-royce cullinan red rear tailgate open

The Cullinan "tailgate" is called "the Clasp", which is essentially an electrically operated two-piece hatch where the lower portion folds down to reveal and support a nifty electronic drawer in what's known as the Recreation Module, a feature that can store the owner's gear, or you can opt for the magnificent and brilliant motorized Rolls-Royce Viewing Suite, where two retractable padded leather seats (and a table for adult beverages) deploy for the ultimate in outdoor motored luxuriating (no, there are no Ottomans). 

rolls-royce cullinan red driving front 34

Regarding its on and off-road capabilities, there are two suspension height buttons, and the Cullinan can wade through up to 21.3 inches of water. That's 1.7 inches deeper the Bentley Bentayga, as if either SUV owner will ever ford a stream. Pfiff. 

rolls royce cullinan red top front

The Cullinan can also lower the body 1.6 inches when the driver unlocks the doors, and then it returns to standard height when the ignition button is depressed. Behind the back seats, the cargo floor can be raised to create a fully flat floor, though, in normal mode, the load floor is lower than the rear seat cushions to keep cargo in place when the rear seats are folded. 

Rolls-Royce Cullinan

rolls royce cullinan interior rear

You can opt for a rear bench seat or two captains chairs that have a nice beverage station that includes refrigerator, a drink cabinet, whiskey glasses, champagne flutes, and even a matching decanter. Passengers, of course, sit higher up than the front occupants so they can see which Michelin 5-star restaurant they're pulling up to. 

rolls royce cullinan drive mode selector

The Cullinan has a unique self-leveling and electronically controlled air suspension that does something special when it's dialed into the Off-Road mode: The struts automatically extend to keep the wheels on the ground, and there are also a full six terrain modes: rough track, gravel, wet grass, mud, snow or sand. They can be selected manually or the driver can leave it up to the vehicle's camera and data to interpret the surroundings. Driving's enough work for the rich and famous, right? 

rolls royce cullinan engine

Rolls-Royce’s new Cullinan isn’t a complete revolution for the brand, but it does mark a shift in how the brand views luxury. In its press release for the Cullinan, the company states: “The super-luxury lifestyle is evolving and Rolls-Royce is in the lead. Luxury is no longer an urban concept. More and more it is about embracing and experiencing the wider world. Our customers expect to go everywhere in luxury, effortlessly and without compromise, conquering the most challenging terrain to enjoy life’s most enriching experiences, wherever they may be. For this reason, they have asked us to create a Rolls-Royce that offers uncompromised luxury wherever they dare to venture. Cullinan is that car. It is Effortless, Everywhere.“

Watch the Rolls-Royce Cullinan in its full and rather glorious reveal: