FOUNDED BY MOTOR ENTHUSIASTS FOR MOTOR ENTHUSIASTS
Henry Royce and Charles Rolls described the spirit of their brand as: “Speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace…” That holds perhaps even more true now than it ever has. Rolls-Royce has managed to interpret that spirit in a range that has something for everyone. From the rakish Wraith, which Parkers reviewed as: “Glorious to behold, to be in and to drive”; to the peerless and magisterial Cullinan; and of course, the opulent Phantom II (“the ultimate luxury experience on four wheels” – Evo).
You may even be casting your eye ahead to the launch of Rolls-Royce’s first EV, the Spectre. Whichever Rolls-Royce suits your exacting tastes, Harrington has you covered.
A brief history of Rolls-Royce
Rolls-Royce begin in Manchester in 1904, forged out of the partnership of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce. Royce had started an electrical and mechanical business in 1884, building a reputation for manufacturing high quality cranes.
Royce built his first motorcar – the Royce 10 – in his Manchester factory early in 1904. He was introduced to Charles Rolls, who owned an early car dealership, CS Rolls & Co in May of that year. Rolls was impressed with the Royce 10, and by the end of the year the two had agreed to produce a line of cars badged Rolls-Royce, and sold exclusively by Rolls. Together, they quickly developed a renown for superlative engineering and creators of the best cars in the world. The business was incorporated as Rolls-Royce Limited in 1906.
Royce developed an improved model during 1906, which increased power output above the R-R 30hp. He called it the 40/50hp. Their Commercial Managing Director, Claude Johnson, persuaded the partners to concentrate all of their efforts on this new model – the rest of the range was discontinued. Johnson had one of the early models finished entirely in silver and gave it a name: Silver Ghost.
The new model was instrumental in establishing the Rolls-Royce brand, selling more than 6,000 examples.
With the advent of World War I, Rolls-Royce diverted their attentions to the production of aircraft engines. Their first model, the Rolls-Royce Eagle, went into service in 1915. In 1919, Alcock and Brown powered their pioneering non-stop flight across the Atlantic with two Eagle engines.
By 1921, Rolls-Royce automobiles had become so popular that they had a three-year waiting list. To try to address this demand, they opened a factory States-side, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Since 1906, Rolls-Royce’s line-up consisted of just one model – the 40/50. In the aftermath of war, even the budgets of Rolls-Royce’s wealthy customers were tightened, and the 40/50 started to see sales drop off. In response, Rolls-Royce produced the 20/25 – a little smaller and a little more affordable.
The Silver Ghost was replaced by the Phantom in 1926, a model that developed through six iterations, before finally being discontinued in the late 1980s.
Rolls-Royce snapped up potential rival, Bentley, in 1931 as its finances suffered from the Great Depression. The Bentley 8 litre, a direct rival to the Rolls-Royce Phantom, was immediately discontinued, and sold off all of Bentley bar the name.
Two years later they introduced the Bentley 3 ½ litre – the ‘silent sports car’. Driven by Eddie Hall, and supported by Rolls-Royce, the Bentley 3 ½ lite went on to record the fastest average speed in the RAC Tourist Trophy for three consecutive years – 1934, ’35 and ’36.
From the end of WWII right up until 2002, when the BMW era began, Rolls-Royces and Bentleys were nearly identical.
As another world war appeared inevitable, the UK Government built a new factory for Rolls-Royce in Crewe, where they could concentrate on the production of the amazing Merlin and Griffon aero engines. After the war, car production was moved there, and remains the headquarters of Bentley to this day.
Although the Merlin aero engine took up much of Rolls-Royce’s production focus for the war, they also produced a modified version – the Meteor – for use in the Cromwell tank.
When the two brands (Rolls-Royce and Bentley) moved to Crewe after the war, for the first time they took on responsibility for the complete assembly with body pressings provided by Pressed Steel Company. Prior to this, they had relied on external coachbuilders to complete the cars.
In 1936, they had acquired Park Ward coachbuilders, who had primarily worked on Bentley bodies. In 1959, Rolls-Royce acquired coachbuilder HJ Mulliner, and combined the two together in HJ Mulliner Park Ward.
Throughout the 1950s and ‘60s, the aerospace industry in the UK was rationalised, with hitherto household names disappearing as they were amalgamated into a smaller number of big players. This brought with it increasingly hot competition for engine manufacturers as their potential customer pool dwindled.
Rolls-Royce had got involved in the running to develop and produce the RB211 turbofan for use in Lockheed Aircraft’s new TriStar airliner.
The development of this new engine proved so costly that by the end of 1970, Rolls-Royce had to acknowledge that it was no longer a financially viable business. It voluntarily entered receivership in February 1971.
Rolls-Royce Motors Limited was incorporated in April of 1971 under the ownership of the receiver. It continued to produce cars, diesel and petrol engines, aircraft engines and parts and undertook specialist development work for the UK government.
In 1998, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited was created by BMW as a wholly owned subsidiary. BMW had acquired the Rolls-Royce name and logo from Rolls-Royce Holdings, and rights to the Spirit of Ecstasy and grille shape from the VW Group. The first BMW-built Rolls-Royces left the production line in 2003.
Torsten Muller-Otvos joined Rolls-Royce in 2010, pledging to return Rolls-Royce to the standards that had made the brand famous in the first place. That year, sales in China along increased by 600%.
The future of
Rolls-Royce continues to go from strength to strength, managing to remain at the very pinnacle of luxury automobile manufacture. In 2021, it delivered 5,586 cars – a 49% increase over the previous year, comprised of record sales in almost every region, including China, the Americas and Asia-Pacific.
- In 2018, it launched its first SUV, the Cullinan, followed in 2020 with a new Ghost, 2021 with the one-off Boat Tail.
- In 2023, it will launch its first EV, the Spectre.
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The Rolls-Royce Brand
Rolls-Royce’s weren’t originally produced with a radiator mascot. It was first commissioned by a customer – John, 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, and editor of The Car Illustrated magazine from 1902 – who asked sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes to produce a bespoke mascot for his Silver Ghost.
Sykes sculpted a figure (based on model Eleanor Velasco Thornton) in fluttering robes with her forefinger pressed to her lips. Consequently, it gained the name ‘The Whisper’. The modern ornament, the Spirit of Ecstasy (or Eleanor, or Silver Lady, or Flying Lady) was also designed by Sykes. She depicts Eleanor, John, 2d Baron Montagu of Bealieu’s secretary and secret love.
Eleanor came from ‘a lower economical standing’ than John, who had married into the aristocracy in 1889. Rolls-Royce had become concerned at some of the rather inappropriate radiator mascots some of their customers had commissioned, and asked Sykes to produce a standard to be carried on all models. They briefed him to create something that conveyed: “the spirit of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace…” Sykes nailed it.
Eleanor died at sea when sailing on the SS Persia, which was torpedoed by a U-boat near Crete. She had been travelling with Lord Montagu, who survived after several days adrift in a life raft.
Quotes about Rolls-Royce
“Strive for perfection in everything you do.” Henry Royce
“At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock.” David Ogilvy
“If you want to be equal with me, you can get your own Rolls-Royce, your own house and your own million dollars.” Muhammad Ali