Rolls Royce is one of the world’s most prestigious car manufacturers. They are more than just a high-quality brand of car for traveling in luxury and style. For everybody from The Queen to the British host of the Apprentice, Lord Sugar, and his American counterpart, President Trump, the Rolls Royce is a potent symbol that you’ve made it.
But the beginnings of the company are humble and surprising. Here is the entire Rolls Royce history.
Birth of the Car
The idea of a self-propelled vehicle had been conceived in the 19th century but it wasn’t until the twentieth century that a car with an engine that could power itself and travel great distances really took off.
The invention and expansion of the railway meant that people were now used to traveling great distances at comparatively fast speeds. However, trains meant going from one set destination to another and sharing the experience with other travelers.
A car meant total freedom and the ability for the driver to go wherever they want, whenever they wanted.
A Beautiful Partnership
A great car requires several components but for a brand to be successful it requires above all else a great engine and a great salesman. And this is exactly what happened when Henry Royce (1863 – 1933), an engineer, and Charles Rolls (1877 – 1910) came together along with their little-known business partner Claude Johnson (1864 – 1926) to form Rolls-Royce in 1904.
Johnson is often described as the hyphen in the Rolls-Royce as he was a major player who kept the company together after the sudden death of Charles Rolls in a flying accident in 1910.
By 1907, just three years after its founding, the company had perfected a car that became known as the best car in the world: the silver ghost.
The Silver Ghost
The Silver Ghost, with its six cylinders, was known as the best car in the world in 1907 because of what it had achieved in terms of endurance.
It had been driven from London to Glasgow 27 times, non-stop, an approximately 411-mile journey, each way. This meant that in total the Silver Ghost had driven 14, 311 miles without stopping.
Today, the brand name silver ghost lives on as a model of Rolls-Royce to honor the original car and it has a reputation for quality that owners rarely need to take a trip to a mechanic. And if they do there are countless Rolls Royce repair shops around the country that will happily and lovingly restore even the oldest of models.
First World War
When the First World War erupted in 1914, everybody in Britain had to play their part and Rolls-Royce was no exception. For the first time, they turned their hand to making engines for airplanes with their engine The Eagle.
The Eagle was an engine of such power and was so reliable that it used up half the total power of all airplane engine power of the allies.
The Eagle was also the engine that was used for the first direct transatlantic crossing and for the first flight from the U.K to Australia.
Between the Wars
Rolls Royce continued to adapt its Phantom for an increasingly middle-class audience. During the 1930s they introduced a V12 engine into the Phantom III building upon the Phantom II which had revamped the chassis.
This made it a more comfortable and speedier ride, perfect for crossing the channel by ferry at the weekends and speeding down to the south of France for a weekend getaway.
By Royal Appointment
By far the biggest endorsement for Rolls-Royce came in the 1950s. Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh, bought a Phantom IV for use in royal engagements to replace her Daimer. There were only 18 ever made.
In 1952, upon the death of her father King George VI, Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II. This meant that Rolls-Royce was now the car manufacturer for the British sovereign.
Rolls Royce History 1970s – Present
Rolls-Royce suffered as many British businesses did during the 1970s. Strikes and economic crisis crippled the country and led to the Winter of Discontent.
Rolls-Royce changed hands several times but survived because it established itself as an integral part of British society. As British as a cup-of-tea, fish and chips or the monarchy itself, those with money to spend soon realized that a Rolls-Royce was a virtual necessity.
The Spirit of Ecstacy
Perhaps the most iconic part of any Rolls-Royce is the figure that stands on the hood of every model. The so-called spirit of ecstasy is most likely based on a real-life person, Eleanor Thornton (1880 – 1915), a model from England.
Rolls and Royce, inspired by the other literary and artistic sets that had grown up around London soon formed their own informal intellectual grouping based around the values they felt encapsulated the future of motor cars. Included in the group was leading moto-journalist John Douglas-Scott-Montagu and a sculpture called Charles Robinson-Skyes.
Based in Piccadilly, they formed the Automobile Group of Great Britain. Rolls and Royce commissioned Skyes to create a sculpture for their cars and he chooses Eleanor, the secretary to Scott-Montagu with whom he was engaged in an affair.
Eleanor was supposed to represent a forward-looking woman who dared the set to challenge the conventions and go forth into the future, hence the figure has wings and appears to be about to take off.
Hard to Steal
The modern-day spirit of ecstasy, a prized possession, has a number of security features included that make it very difficult to steal. If it is struck by an object from any direction then it will descend into a chamber beneath the hood.
This feature can also be activated manually from the driver’s controls if the driver or passenger feels that the car is under threat.
Unlike these relatively simple accessories for those who’ve just bought a new car, owners of a Rolls-Royce can consider upgrading their spirit of ecstasy model to be made out of crystal rather than stainless steel.
A Car for All Time
A Rolls-Royce is a car which can stand the test of time. A timeless classic, a Rolls-Royce will always be considered the pinnacle of the automobile industry the world over. Not just for its loving and dedicated craftsmanship but because of its reputation. Rolls Royce history is legendary.
A Rolls-Royce is forever bound up in what it means to be British and the origins of the car itself. In purchasing a Rolls-Royce you are purchasing a piece of history.
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