History Of Rolls-Royce

  • on October 24, 2021
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History Of Rolls-Royce

1904-1913 The best car in the world

Rolls-Royce Limited was born in May 1904 when Henry Royce and Charles Rolls met. Henry Royce had founded a factory for electrical and mechanical equipment, and in 1904 he introduced his first automobile. 

For his part, Charles Rolls, a passionate motor aristocrat, owned a dealership dedicated to importing French luxury cars. Still, his idea was to create a British vehicle that would outshine the rest. When Rolls begins to hear the wonders of the cars made by Royce, he asks Royce for some units to evaluate their quality, and he is pleasantly surprised. Thus, in 1904 an agreement was closed whereby Rolls would have the exclusive right to sell the cars manufactured by Royce. 

Immediately afterwards, at the Paris Motor Show that same year, the new firm exhibited several models under the slogan “the best car in the world”. The 10 hp, 15 hp, 20 hp models and the six-cylinder and 30 hp engine presented great success, which led the two partners to sign a new contract, in which the cars, despite being still models from Royce, would be renamed Rolls-Royce. 

Finally, in 1906 comes the 30 CV, the first car developed jointly. In 1907, they made the mythical Silver Ghost, a luxurious and costly vehicle, which broke the record of resistance of its time by travelling just over 23,000 km without a single breakdown. It had a 7036 cc six-cylinder engine. Their success with this model was that they had to move their Manchester facility to a larger one in Derby. In 1910, Charles Rolls, an aviation enthusiast and personal friend of the Wright brothers, died in a plane crash. 

The 20 hp and the six-cylinder 30 hp engine presented are a great success, leading the two partners to sign a new contract, in which the cars, despite still being Royce models, would be renamed Rolls- Royce. Finally, in 1906 comes the 30 CV, the first car developed jointly. 

In 1907, they made the mythical Silver Ghost, a luxurious and costly car, which broke the record of resistance of its time by travelling just over 23,000 km without a single breakdown. It had a 7036 cc six-cylinder engine. 

Their success with this model was that they had to move their Manchester facility to a larger one in Derby. In 1910, Charles Rolls, an aviation enthusiast and personal friend of the Wright brothers, died in a plane crash. The 20 hp and the six-cylinder 30 hp engine presented are a great success, leading the two partners to sign a new contract, in which the cars, despite still being Royce models, would be renamed Rolls- Royce. 

Finally, in 1906 comes the 30 CV, the first car developed jointly. In 1907, they made the mythical Silver Ghost, a luxurious and costly car, which broke the record of resistance of its time by travelling just over 23,000 km without a single breakdown. 

It had a 7036 cc six-cylinder engine. Their success with this model was that they had to move their Manchester facility to a larger one in Derby. In 1910, Charles Rolls, an aviation enthusiast and personal friend of the Wright brothers, died in a plane crash.

1914-1919 Rolls-Royce and aviation

The First World War caused the production of the brand’s vehicles to skyrocket due to the need for ambulances, transport and armoured cars demanded by the army. Even some Silver Ghost is transformed into a tank and put at the service of Lawrence of Arabia. 

In addition, Royce designed his first engine for aviation, a business in which his late partner Rolls had pointed out the need to invest. The brand begins to assemble the Eagle engines, which power the Vickers Vimy, and since then, it has not ceased its presence in the world of aeronautics.

1920-1929 The Belle Époque

After the First World War, the brand finished forging its legend with the manufacture of the R engine, designed by Royce on the sand of a beach.

This engine was developed for Great Britain’s participation in the 1929 Schneider Trophy airshow. Riding on the Merlin, he won the trophy, as well as broke a new airspeed record. Later it would be installed in allied aircraft such as the Spitfire or the Hurricane. In 1922, the brand launched the Rolls-Royce 20 HP, known as “Baby Rolls”, aimed at owner-drivers and became very popular among the growing middle class made up of doctors and lawyers businessmen. It mounted a 6-cylinder engine, 3127 cc and reached 100 km / h. Later in 1925, the Silver Ghost is replaced by the Phantom I.

1930-1939: the decade of records

Seeking expansion, in 1931, Rolls-Royce bought Bentley, which had failed to overcome the great depression of 1929. From then until 2002, the Bentley and Rolls-Royce models were almost identical, differentiated only by minute details. In addition, in 1939, he took over the body company Mulliner Park Ward Limited.

Henry Royce died in 1933, but he would still have time to see how his engine broke the land speed record reaching 438 km / h. Later, in 1937 a vehicle equipped with two R Rolls-Royce engines would reach 502 km / h, setting a new record. Also, by sea, the Rolls-Royce engines would mark the best figures since Sir Henry Seagrove broke the world navigation record reaching 191.5 km / h aboard Miss England II, powered by two R engines.

During this decade, the Phantom II and Phantom III would also arrive. The latter would be the first Rolls-Royce car to mount a 7.340cc V12 block. The limousine body could reach 148 km / h and go from 0 to 100 km / h in 16.8 seconds.

1940-1949 Rolls-Royce at war

With the outbreak of World War II, the British Government needed the English factories to produce war material. Thus, Rolls-Royce was responsible for constructing aircraft engines, which would make it a worldwide competitor in air propulsion. The Gloster Meteor powered by Rolls-Royce Derwent V engines set the new world record by air at 975 km / h. After the war ended, the British firm resumed the production of vehicles with models such as the Silver Wraith, which had an independent body and would continue its production until 1959, or the Silver Dawn; the first Rolls-Royce sold with a standard steel body.

1950-1969 Luxury as an identity

In 1950, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh broke a long tradition of the British royal house by receiving the first Phantom IV as a gift for the Princess’ 25th birthday, thus replacing Daimler as the monarchy’s preferred supplier. Of which only 18 units were made, the Phantom IV was designed exclusively for royalty and heads of state. Spain has three of those 18 units, including the only convertible version.

In 1955 the Silver Cloud was launched. Capable of reaching a top speed of 170 km / h, the Phantom V replaces the Phantom IV by the end of the decade. It had a V8 engine and independent chassis; much more copies of it were sold than its predecessor.

In the 1960s, the British firm attracted a new breed of clientele, including the brightest stars in film or music. In 1965 the brand gave the title to a movie, “The Yellow Rolls-Royce”, where a Phantom II shared the limelight with Omar Sharif, Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison. That same year, John Lennon was presented with a Phantom V, which the singer repainted with a psychedelic design. Meanwhile, Rolls Royce introduced the Silver Shadow I in 1965, the brand’s first car to offer a monocoque chassis. It had a limited speed of 190 km / h and reached 220 Nm at 4,500 pm.

1970-1997 Bankruptcy

In 1971 Rolls Royce was declared insolvent and presented the suspension of payments after having reached the economic situation of bankruptcy. Due to its strategic importance, the brand is nationalized by the Government. In 1973 the decision was made to divide the business, with the birth of Rolls-Royce Motors dedicated to automobiles, and Rolls Royce Plc in charge of the aircraft and marine engines business. 

In 1980, during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure, it was privatized, and Rolls-Royce Motors was acquired by the British company Vickers, which continued with the production of Rolls Royce and Bentley cars. In 1985 it began to be listed on the stock market.

As far as models are concerned, in the 70s, the Camargue designed by Pininfarina came to light. It is the brand’s first vehicle designed with metric dimensions and incorporates advances such as two-speed air conditioning. In the 80s, new models were launched, such as the Silver Spirit with a more modern body and later the Silver Spur.

1998-BMW new owner

In 1998 BMW, which already supplied engines and other components for Rolls-Royce and Bentley, took control of the legendary British brand. However, the Volkswagen group had also bid, and more robust, to acquire the brand, had acquired the rights to the figure “Spirit of Ecstasy” and the design of the radiator. Still, Rolls-Royce Plc had sold BMW the patents and licenses of the brand name and logo. Finally, Volkswagen and BMW reached an agreement whereby only BMW could use the Rolls-Royce brand and Volkswagen the Bentley brand. After 72 years together, Bentley and Rolls-Royce parted ways.

The first model produced, with the brand already in the hands of the Germans, will be the Silver Seraph. It was the first completely new Rolls-Royce since the Silver Shadow was launched more than 30 years ago. It had a 5.4-litre BMW V12 engine.

If Rolls-Royce was on the verge of disappearing at the beginning of the nineties after the plummeting fall in its income, with a decrease in sales of more than 50%, today it is shining again. 

It has recovered the maximum splendour of bygone eras. Four variants of the Phantom, two variants of the Ghost and the latest to enter the family is the sleek Wraith coupe today. 

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