The History of Rolls Royce
They are the ultimate cars of luxury. Kings and Queens have been chauffeur driven in them and Hollywood stars love being photographed in them. They are the epitome of opulence. But what is the history of these famous cars?
On 4th May 1904 the Midland Hotel in Manchester Charles Rolls had lunch with Henry Royce. Charles was an aristocrat and adventurer, born in 1877. He was also an engineer and the first pilot to complete a double crossing of the English Channel. Henry was a mechanical engineer and was born in 1863. He set up his first business at the age of 21 and registered his first patent in 1887. The pair discussed joining forces.
In 1902, Royce had built his first car – a Decauville. He wasn’t happy with it and set about building the best cars in the world. In 1903 he had built his first engine and in 1904 a prototype was taken to the road.Charles Rolls was the first Cambridge undergraduate to own a car and he soon began racing. To fund his passion he set up a car dealership. He mostly sold foreign cars but was seeking quality English cars- a quest that led him to Henry Royce.
Following the now famous Manchester lunch, the pair agreed that Rolls would exclusively sell as many cars as Royce could make, and in 1906 Rolls-Royce Limited was officially founded.In 1907 Henry Royce announced the six-cylinder Silver Ghost – a super smooth car of great repute. It broke the mould for craftsmanship, engineering and attention to detail and earned a reputation as the best car in the world, covering 15,000 continuous miles with little wear.
The company also produced aircraft engines and their first was produced in 1914. By the late 1920’s aviation made up most of their business and during the First World War nearly half of all the aircraft engines used by the allies were made by Rolls-Royce.During the war, their Silver Ghost car chassis was toughened with armour and used as a combat car. The Silver Ghost remained in production until 1926.
After the war in 1946 Rolls-Royce brought out the Silver Wraith and made more cars again. The Silver Wraith was produced until 1959.In 1950 HRH Princess Elizabeth took delivery of the first Phantom IV – a car that was designed exclusively for heads of state and royalty. Only 18 were ever produced.
Rolls-Royce celebrated their 100th birthday in 2004 and they have had many successes along the way. Their ‘R’ engine design powered the winning plane in the Intercontinental Schneider Trophy seaplane contest and a new air speed record was set. In 1933 George Eyston broke the land speed record with a top speed of 312.2mph in his car Thunderbolt which was powered by two ‘R’ engines.
Charles Rolls was sadly killed when his biplane crashed at an air show in July 1910 and Henry Royce died in April 1933 in West Wittering, aged 70.