Few mechanics get to work on million-dollar cars, but for Jack Tomlinson at Rolls-Royce, it’s all in a day’s work.
Of all the work shirts to pull on each morning, having one with letters R and R alongside each other must feel rather special. Being a Rolls-Royce technician puts you in an elite group qualified to work on some of the most luxurious, rarest and most valuable cars in Australia.
For Jack Tomlinson, one of two who wears the shirt for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Brisbane’s service department, it’s clearly a privilege earned through ability and hard work. Even so, he accepts there are certain stresses involved with servicing and test-driving cars worth more than many houses.
“It’s somebody else’s million dollars, so on the drive I’m always looking very far ahead of me,” he says with a smile. “It’s probably the biggest challenge, the stress of not damaging the car. You mask up everything you can, and always check it’s not damaged or scratched before you get started.”
These aren’t your average vehicles. Rolls-Royce’s current inventory includes the Ghost (from $595,000), Wraith ($645,000), Cullinan SUV ($695,000), Dawn ($749,000) and Phantom ($1.1 million if you go long wheelbase). Of course, these customers enjoy getting busy with the options, so expect the final bill to shoot up significantly from these numbers. You can use Rolls’ Bespoke department to fit things like a Starlight headliner, where hundreds of fibre optic lights are used to recreate your favourite constellation in the roof. Not many Toyota technicians need to perform a pre-delivery check on this sort of stuff.
Now with 15 years’ experience, Jack served his apprenticeship with Ford, moved to a European car specialist and then to Brisbane BMW in the city, where he trained on BMWs, Minis, and ultimately Rolls-Royce. “I showed an interest in Rolls-Royce as soon as I heard it was possible,” the 32-year-old says. “BMWs are nice, but as far as the next level goes, Rolls-Royce is about as good as it gets alongside hyper stuff from Bugatti or Koenigsegg.”
The Asia-Pacific training centre is in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, so Rolls technicians are trained there, supplemented with numerous online courses. “It’s to familiarise you with the products, any common issues, communication networks, control units, driveline, chassis, and all that’s different to a BMW product.”
The contrast in vehicles to his Ford starting point is vast. “Everything is more in-depth, Rolls-Royces are right at the front of technology,” Jack says. “The Fords I started with were quite basic, and maybe had two or three control units. There are at least 25-30 in an average Rolls. Everything’s a lot more thought out, the brakes are twice the size and the tyres twice the width. Then when you feel the quality of the steering wheel in your hands, the seats, and when you drive it, there’s quality everywhere. It’s definitely not mass produced. They’ll put a ball joint in instead of just a rubber bush, things like that.”
Even so, Jack’s aware that beyond the automatically folding away Spirit of Ecstasy bonnet figure, doors that close with the touch of a button and luxury umbrellas popping out from inside the doors, it’s just a car. “The fit and finish is way above average, but mechanically it’s still a car. There’s still an oil filter to change and tyre pressures to do. Recently I had one with a door gas strut fault, and I was stressing that I had to take a door trim off that someone had spent a week making. It was just a case of removing the right trims and the door card came off. Getting it right and fixing an issue is the most enjoyable part of the job.”
“Getting It Right And Fixing An Issue Is The Most Enjoyable Part Of The Job.”
You’ll be pleased to learn Jack doesn’t have to wear a pressed suit and white gloves when working on a Rolls, although he’ll stay as clean as possible to uphold the brand’s immaculate image. There are special tools and model-specific guard covers, and each car receives a thorough walkaround. Special parts can be flown from England to Brisbane within 48 hours.
As the only Queensland service department there’s collecting and returning the car to the customer – services are condition based, with annual check-up and oil changes as per other brands – but Jack says they do take a lot of oil. “Eleven litres for the V12; but it normally comes out pretty clean.”
Having done BMW’s electric and hybrid training on the i3, i8 and plug-in models, Jack’s excited for Rolls-Royce to take a similar path in future. “There’s lots of room for electric motors and batteries, and electrification would suit the quietness these cars always have.” For now, blessedly, Rolls’ famous 6.75-litre V12s still have their place (twin-turbocharged, of course), but Jack accepts it’s rapidly going from less of a mechanical industry to an electric one.
“It excites me,” he says. “It’s a real positive to upskill, so if you are with a dealership embracing the electric side of things, you can future proof your career pretty well.” With that in mind, Jack suggests if any mechanic wants to achieve what he has, work with a brand at the forefront of hybridisation and electrification. “Start with a premium brand, learn from your colleagues and work hard. Having an interest in the product helps too. With Rolls-Royce that’s the easy part.”