01 December, 2017

Britain's Greatest Manufacturer Spotlight - Rolls-Royce

The next in our series is the iconic marque of Rolls-Royce whose ultra-sleek designs have made them one of the most desirable brands in motoring. Their story started in 1904 from the collective vision of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce.

The Founders - Rolls

At the age of 9, he was already selling newspapers and working as a telegram boy. At the age of 14, he began an apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway Works before working for Electric Light and Power Company. It was here where Royce realised his ambition to make the best car. in 1903, he created his first Royce which was a 10hp Motor Car.

The Founders - Royce

Charles Rolls was the opposite, he came from an affluent background and studied Engineering. He was known for tinkering with engines and unofficially broke the land speed record in Dublin, in 1903, where he was clocked travelling at 83 mph.  

The Coming Together of Rolls and Royce

Rolls had set up a car dealership in the UK with Claude Johnson to sell imported Peugeot and Minervas. Harry Edmunds, who was a shareholder in Royce's company and friend of Rolls, brought them two together to create a partnership which would change motoring forever.

Completely captivated by the Royce motor, Charles sought to sell as many as Royce's as could be built under the marque of Rolls-Royce.

Claude Johnson, regarded as the hyphen in Rolls-Royce, was the new MD and spearheaded the marketing of the company coming up with slogans such as "Not one of the best, but the best car in the World".

Rolls-Royce - Record Breakers

in 1907, the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost broke records when it travelled from London to Glasgow 27-times (14,371 miles). This car has illustrated the collective vision of Rolls and Royce. The 1920's also saw an expansion into aviation after WW1 with a factory opening in Massachusetts.

The Phantom 1 and Bentley Acquisition

After the Silver Ghost was phased out in 1925, the Phantom 1 was released.

In the 1930's, Rolls-Royce had acquired Bentley after they were put up for sale. Rolls also released the Phantom 2 and Phantom 3. The Phantom 2 had an improved chassis whereas, the Phantom 3 became the first Rolls Royce to use a V12 engine. 

Rolls-Royce's Ascension to Royalty

The 1950's saw the Royal ascension of Rolls Royce as Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth owned one of the 18 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV. This ultra-rare care was created for Royal Families and heads of state.

Roaring Rolls-Royce and the 60's

The 60's saw Rolls-Royce appeal to the famous with notable owners such as John Lennon turning his Phantom V into a piece of Pop Memorabilia which tours the world still to this day with its intricate and eccentric design. 

The De-merger of Rolls-Royce

In the 1970's, Rolls Royce ran into difficulties with the spiralling costs of the RB211 Engine and was nationalised in 1971. The car division was separated from the aero side of the business and became Rolls Royce Motors Limited. However, Rolls-Royce retained rights to the double-R trademark which would prove to be significant. 

Rolls-Royce went through an infamous ownership change in 1998. Here's where it started.

Vicker's Era

Vickers bought Rolls Royce Motors in 1980 and would later sell them in 1998 to VW in one of the most famous deals at the time as it's reported the deal was struck on a Golf course in Bavaria. 

BMW, VW, Vickers, Bentley and Rolls-Royce

When Vickers decided to sell Rolls-Royce in 1998, VW had outbid BMW for Rolls-Royce but BMW was a significant supplier which made them the preferred bidder by Rolls-Royce.

"There could be a few surprises coming from Crewe". - Bernd Pischetsrieder - Chairman of BMW

The shareholders of Vickers preferred VW. BMW sought to terminate their supplier contract with a 12-month notice before agreeing to a deal with VW which would see VW take the Bentley brand along with their Crewe plant and BMW would take Rolls-Royce but BMW would need to lease the trademark of Rolls-Royce who retained them after the de-merger. 

"I would have preferred to keep both brands, but the way how it developed today I am very satisfied," - Piech, VW Chairman

Separate Ways

Rolls-Royce would still produce cars at the Crewe plant until 2003. After that, they moved production to Goodwood in West Sussex.

The Legacy of Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce continues to push boundaries which were enshrined in their brand from the beginnings over 100 years ago. With ventures in electric vehicles, Rolls-Royce will endeavour to continue pushing boundaries and raising standards.

Does Rolls-Royce have a story like no other? Or is there another contender? Next in our series is TVR.

Britain's greatest car manufacturer Rolls-Royce
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Rolls-Royce
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Rolls-Royce
Britain's greatest car manufacturer Rolls-Royce