How Niels van Roij is Bringing Back Coachbuilding in Automotive Design

niels van roij sixtysix magazine

Niels van Roij's most recent project, the Silver Spectre Shooting Brake. What is a shooting brake? A throwback term for customized wagons used to transport groups of sport shooters and their gear in comfort and privacy in the rear of a vehicle.


January 8, 2021

“I’m always in a three-piece suit,” Niels van Roij says. “They’re tailor-made with fabric from cars I’ve worked on.”

The 36-year-old designer’s studio specializes in coachbuilding, a throwback to the days when cars were sold as a rolling chassis and the body was custom-built. “The design was up to the client, and in a way we’re reintroducing that terminology.”

Niels studied automotive design at the Royal College of Art in London. There he worked for major car manufacturers but found the nondisclosure agreements and stalled projects frustrating. “You cannot put anything in your portfolio or on your CV.”

When a friend introduced him to a Tesla owner who wanted to do something “interesting” with it, Niels jumped at the chance to coachbuild a Tesla Model S.

Today Niels is back in the Netherlands running his studio fulltime. His most recent project is the Silver Spectre Shooting Brake, a highly customized Rolls-Royce Wraith. It was painstakingly redesigned with a reverence to this history, first digitally and then in a full-scale foam model. Niels hints that “it costs about double retail,” which would put the Silver Spectre in the high $600,000 range.

It’s his love of design, not luxury, that keeps him motivated. “I still drive a 1991 Volvo 940 that I bought when I was 19.”

niels van roij sixtysix magazine

Niels van Roij is always dressed in a three-piece suit made with fabric from cars he has worked on. Photo by Max Thijssen

A version of this article originally appeared in Sixtysix Issue 05 with the headline “Niels van Roij: Automotive Designer Utrecht, The Netherlands.” Subscribe today.

Interested in going behind the design of other vehicles?  We speak with the designers behind the Toyota SupraLotus Eletre, and Livewire.