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Over 100 years of revolutionary cars

When one considers luxury motor cars there is one distinctive name which is synonymous with style, class and prestige; Rolls-Royce. With a history spanning over 100 years Rolls-Royce have, since their inception, pushed the boundaries of the possible in engineering and design.

Henry Royce: Early beginnings

Born in 1863, Henry Royce started working at the tender age of nine. His Aunt recognised his keen talent for the technical and paid for an apprenticeship with Great Northern Railway Works. This tutelage of one the most eminent engineers of his time inspired Henry to expand his understanding of physics and mathematics and so he spent his evenings studying.

His entrepreneurial ambition saw him establish a business with a fellow engineer, Ernest Claremont, building doorbells and dynamos. It wasn’t until he bought a second-hand two-cylinder French Decauville motor car that his interest in building motor cars was born.

He saw ways in which he could improve the efficiency of the engine. This desire to improve is one of the founding principles of Rolls-Royce, “Take the best that exists and make it better.” He built a 10hp engine in 1903 and the following year drove the motor car he installed it into.

Charles Rolls: The first time his name went down in history

Charles Rolls had an altogether more privileged start in life. Born in 1877, he grew up in London’s affluent Berkeley Square. Rolls studied mechanical engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge. It was here that he purchased his first motor car and became known as a car enthusiast, always tinkering with engines.

Upon leaving University he had already made a name for himself by entering and winning numerous car races. In 1903, at the same time as Royce was building his first engine, Rolls broke the world land speed record in a 30hp Mors in Dublin at nearly 83mph.

He established a car dealership to support his expensive hobby, selling Peugeot and Minerva motor cars imported from Europe.

When Rolls met Royce

A shareholder in Royce’s company and a friend of Rolls boasted to him about his new 10hp motor car. Rolls, wanting to sell British cars rather than foreign imports, agreed to meet Henry Royce. and, On 4 May 1904, history was made, meeting in Manchester Rolls took Royce’s motor car for a drive and agreed on the spot to sell as many motor cars as Royce could build, under the name Rolls-Royce.

Three short years later marked the making of the marque. Silver Ghost was unveiled, and after entering the 1913 Alpine Trial, achieved a gruelling 14,371-mile drive through rugged mountain terrain. Silver Ghost faultlessly completed the course, causing critics to name the Silver Ghost “The Best Car in the World”.  

Not content with perfection, the business partners phased out the Silver Ghost, replacing it with New Phantom, later named Phantom I; factories both sides of the Atlantic were producing to meet the increasing demand.

The first V12 engine

As advances in aviation led to further improvements in the development of the engines, automation allowed the development of the first V12 engine, used in Phantom III. Over this period, with Bluebird in 1933 and Thunderbolt in 1937 using two Rolls-Royce ‘R’ engines, consecutive land speed records were made.

Improvements in the construction of the chassis, led to Phantom II and then III growing in popularity as the motor car of choice for visiting the South of France.

The 1940’s brought further developments, the Silver Wraith, another addition to the collection was constructed of an individual coach-built body. The use of a separate chassis meant the bodies were heavy and so a 4,887cc engine was installed to cope with the weight.  Silver Dawn arose next, its lighter, standard steel body made it much lighter. 

A new era arose for Rolls-Royce in 1950, Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth took delivery of the first Phantom IV, marking the beginning of a long and iconic relationship with royalty and Heads of State all over the world. 

With the arrival of the Swinging Sixties and the ascendancy of a new kind of celebrity royalty, Phantom V proved a massive hit. Featured on the silver screen with such greats as Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison, ‘The Yellow Rolls-Royce’ movie showed audiences a new kind of glamour.

Rolls-Royce's Business Development

In the 1970s, the splitting of aerospace and car manufacturing led to the formation of two separate companies. In 1980, Vickers, who also owned Bentley, bought Rolls-Royce Motors Limited. This paved the way for the flotation of the company on the London Stock Exchange in 1985.

A short time after, BMW Group bought the rights to produce Rolls-Royce cars, building a brand-new manufacturing facility. Goodwood was built 10 miles from Sir Henry Royce’s home in West Sussex and opened in 2003.

Designed by renowned British architect, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, the buildings are created to blend into the English countryside and to have as little impact upon the environment as possible. The living roof is home to an array of plant life improving insulation and reducing rain run-off. It is here that Rolls-Royce has re-imagined the future.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars 2017

Rolls-Royce is a piece of British heritage and Rolls-Royce cars stay classic and true no matter the era. However, Rolls-Royce is always ahead of technology and one of their latest and most significant advancements has been a new multi-adaptable aluminium spaceframe chassis. By designing this all-adaptable spaceframe, Rolls-Royce has ‘laid the keel’ to guarantee the future of a business which has kept afloat through successive recessions for 113 years.

Although the Phantom has an aluminium body, Rolls-Royce have not yet made used aluminium frames. Of course, this results in a much lighter car which means more fuel-efficiency. All Rolls-Royce cars will be built with these frames from 2018.

Designed to accommodate all future incarnations of Phantom, Dawn, Wraith and Ghost, this chassis maximises comfort by ensuring the smoothest ‘magic carpet ride’ ever. The highly anticipated Cullinan SUV is due to be unveiled in 2018 and therefore will incorporate the new frame.

Discover Rolls-Royce models available to buy in 2017.

New Rolls-Royce Cars

The future of Rolls-Royce

In the Vision NEXT 100, Rolls-Royce have dared to dream of a future which both celebrates their incredible legacy and heralds a new dawn of luxury travel that was previously unimaginable.

Taking from the very best of all that makes Rolls-Royce the iconic marque that it is today, their visionary concept car looks simultaneously futuristic and yet gloriously classical in its conception.

The original figurehead mascot, The Spirit of Ecstasy, is modelled on Eleanor Thornton, the famous English actress. It is she who has stood wings aloft atop the Pantheon grille for 100 years. It should come then as no surprise that the 'voice of Eleanor' is the embodiment of the digital personal assistant built into the fabric of the Rolls-Royce of tomorrow. Able to bring the car round in readiness for your departure, prepare you for your next engagement and convey you effortlessly to your destination, Eleanor is both the PA and the chauffeur.

Upon arrival, the glass roof lifts on a hinge like a clamshell, the door lowering to reveal a step. This radical and dramatic function allows the passenger to disembark gracefully from a standing position, as from a stately carriage. Finally, a red light is projected from the underside creating a red carpet upon which the occupant may step in full confidence.