GALLERY: Go Behind The Scenes On Our 2005 Rolls-Royce Phantom Film Shoot
To most, a Rolls-Royce is symbolic of a certain standard of life—or at least a certain degree of comfort as you live it—but for David Lee and his father, Hing Wa Lee, the winged Spirit of Ecstasy that’s perched on top of the Phantom’s stout grille stands for gratitude.
His father had held the brand in high regard since his teenage years running his own business in Hong Kong, but he never bought a Rolls for himself, even when he could finally afford one, preferring to take care of his family instead. Many years later in America and working in the business that his dad created, David was able to purchase the then-new 2005 Phantom for Hing Wa as a way of saying thank you for putting the comfort of his family’s lives before his.
Born in China during a difficult time when communism was gaining popularity and sweeping through the country in the late 1940s. Landowners and educated citizens were commonly scooped out of their homes and brought to reeducation centers, and so prospects for Hing Wa’s farming did not look very bright when he was growing up. So, he and his brother escaped to Hong Kong by hiding away on a boat headed to Macau before jumping off in the bay and swimming to shore to begin a new life.
They both worked hard, and sent the money they made home to help their remaining family in China live a better life than the one they’d escaped from. His brother became an apprentice for a suit-maker, while Hing Wa went down the gem-cutting route, and rather than the usual three years spent five apprenticing for and learning from a master of the craft. He was only 13 when he swam to shore, and by 18 he had struck out on his own and began his business after just five years in Hong Kong.
Hing Wa Lee would walk back and forth between his showroom and storage unit and home quite often during this time, and one of his main routes brought him past the view of the Peninsula, the Hong Kong hotel famous for its massive fleets of Rolls-Royce concierge cars. Seeing the fleet of luxury sedans parked in front of the elegant hotel’s entrance had left an impression on Hing Wa after years of walking past it, and so what else would define “making it” than to own one of this special automobiles? He loved the cars—especially the green ones that were often parked at the front of the line—but his hard work and the money he earned from it always went towards making sure his family was secure and content.
A Rolls-Royce was something that he admired but would never have bought for himself, so in 2005 when the new BMW-backed Phantom was released, David knew that the car would be a perfect way of saying thank you to his father for all that he did for his family. A well-deserved and symbolic gift that just happens to take the form of a multi-ton sedan.
When Hing Was first saw his own Rolls he found himself in a state of happiness verging on disbelief. He enjoyed the car for what it was, but more for what it stood for, and he would proudly tell his friends that his son had purchased it for him. Hing Wa felt it was a mark of success in the sense that he taught his son well. David was just happy that he was happy.
Hing Wa has since passed away, but David hasn’t touched any of the settings in his Phantom, using the experience of driving his car as a way to add to the memory of the man who raised him. “As I drive, I really feel what my dad was feeling in this car.” All the settings, all of the switches, all of the knobs are left just as he’d adjusted them, so when David listens to music while driving his dad’s Phantom, it comes from one of the radio station presets that he’d selected. It’s the little things like this that keep our memories close and vivid, because we all know it’s the details that count.