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History

The Beginning

Rolls-Royce Limited was created over a famous lunch in May 1904. Henry Royce, a successful engineer, struck a deal with Charles Rolls, owner of one of the first car dealerships. The rest is history. The ensuing series of two, three, four and six cylinder cars broke the mould for engineering and craftsmanship. The Silver Ghost, launched in 1907, was a car of legendary smoothness that completed a 14,371 mile virtually non-stop run, creating 'the best car in the world' legend.

The Founders

Charles Rolls

Charles Rolls studied mechanical engineering at Cambridge. The first undergraduate to own a car, he soon began racing. To fund his passion he set up a dealership, selling mostly foreign cars. His search for a supplier of reliable English cars led to his introduction to Henry Royce.

The first aviator to complete a double-crossing of the English Channel, he was killed in a crash at an air show in July 1910.

Sir Henry Royce

Known for his attention to detail and pursuit of perfection, Henry Royce registered his first patent (the bayonet lamp socket) in 1887. His company produced dynamos, electrical motors and cranes.

Dissatisfied with his Decauville, Royce decided to improve on it and turned his attention to building the best cars in the world. By 1903 he had designed and built his first engine. His first prototypes took to the road in 1904.

The Silver Ghost

The Silver Ghost

Introduced in 1907, the 40/50 HP or Silver Ghost remained in production until 1925. Originally powered by a 7,036cc six-cylinder engine, this was increased to 7,428cc in 1909.

Best-known body styles included the Barker Tourer and the Barker enclosed cabriolet. First built in Royce's Cooke Street factory in Manchester, following its success the company moved to a custom-built factory in Nightingale Road, Derby.

  • 1920s

    • 1920s

      After the war Rolls-Royce resumed car production and opened its first US factory in 1921. The 'R' engine was developed for Britain's entry in the 1929 Intercontinental Schneider Trophy seaplane contest. Royce reputedly sketched its design in the sand at West Wittering with his walking stick. As well as winning the trophy, the engine also set a new world air speed record. This engine developed into the legendary Merlin, which later powered allied aircraft such as the Spitfire and Hurricane.

    • 1920s

      The aptly named Rolls-Royce 20 HP, also known as the 'baby' Rolls-Royce, was launched in 1922. Aimed toward owner-drivers it became popular with the burgeoning professional middle classes of doctors, solicitors and businessmen. Its engine was a straight six-cylinder with a capacity of 3,127 cc and had a maximum speed of 62 mph.

    • 1920s

      In 1925 the Silver Ghost was replaced by the "New Phantom", which was later known as Phantom I. The last batch of Silver Ghosts was built in 1927 as armoured car chassis for the Russian Trade Delegation "ARCOS". The Phantom was built both in the UK and in a new factory in Springfield, Massachusetts.

  • 1930s

    • 1930s

      The 1930s was the era of broken land, air and sea records. Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record in Bluebird at 272.46 mph in 1933. In 1937 George Eyston smashed this with 312.2 mph in Thunderbolt, powered by two Rolls-Royce 'R' engines. Sir Henry Seagrove broke the world sea record at 119 mph in Miss England II, powered by 'R' engines. Moments later he was killed after colliding with a submerged tree stump.

    • 1930s

      The Phantom II had a much-improved chassis, which made it the ideal choice for those who thought nothing of finishing work on a Friday and heading down to the South of France for the weekend. Better-known body styles were the Barker close-coupled touring saloon; Park Ward Continental coupe and Barker torpedo tourer. The Park Ward Continental would do 92.3 mph and 0-60 in 19.4 seconds.

    • 1930s

      The Phantom III was Rolls-Royce's first V12 engined car - a 60 degree unit of 7,340cc. Better known body styles are: Park Ward limousine and sedanca de ville; Hooper sedanca de ville. Performance for Park Ward limousine: 91.84mph and 0-60 in 16.8 seconds.

  • 1940s

    • 1940s

      World War II shifted focus to aero engines at the Derby Works and a new factory in Crewe, commissioned by the Air Ministry, which became the home of Rolls-Royce in 1946. The war changed the perception of Rolls-Royce from a "brilliant sprat in the ocean of technology" into a world contender in aero propulsion. This was demonstrated with the Gloster Meteor which, powered by Rolls-Royce Derwent V engines, established a new world air speed record of 606 mph.

    • 1940s

      All the Silver Wraiths had coach-built bodies. They continued in production until 1959 using the 4887cc engine to cope with increasingly heavy bodies such as H.J. Mulliner sedanca de ville and Hooper touring limousine.

    • 1940s

      The Silver Dawn was the first Rolls-Royce to be sold with a standard steel body and all were exported. A few were fitted with coach-built bodies and these are very collectable. The six-cylinder in-line engine of 4,257cc was enlarged to 4.5-litre in 1951 and then to 4.9-litres in 1954.

  • 1950s

    • 1950s

      In the second half of the 20th century, Rolls-Royce began their long association with the Royal Family, replacing Daimler as the preferred supplier of motor cars to the monarchy.

    • 1950s

      In 1950, HRH Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh broke a long-standing royal tradition and took delivery of the first Phantom IV. Designed exclusively for Royalty and Heads of State, the Phantom IV is one of the rarest Rolls-Royce motor cars in the world, with only 18 ever being produced.

    • 1950s

      1955 saw the introduction of the Silver Cloud. Capable of a top speed of 106 mph, it featured the same 4,887cc engine as the Dawn and a completely new and handsome standard steel body, which was designed by J.P. Blatchley.

      The end of the decade saw Phantom V replace the Phantom IV. Powered by a V8 engine and featuring a coach-built body, it sold significantly greater numbers than its predecessor.

  • 1960s

    • 1960s

      The swinging sixties saw Rolls-Royce appeal to a new breed of owner. With many actors, pop stars and celebrities of the day choosing the marque. Not for the first time, a Rolls-Royce became a star of the silver screen itself.

    • 1960s

      In 1965, a yellow Barker-bodied Phantom II shared the limelight alongside Omar Sharif, Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison in The Yellow Rolls-Royce. In the same year John Lennon took delivery of a Phantom V. It left the factory with a plain white finish, which Lennon had repainted in matt black. Becoming bored with this new finish he had it repainted with a psychedelic design, and this Rolls-Royce is now one of the most valuable pieces of pop memorabilia.

    • 1960s

      Introduced in 1965, the Silver Shadow I was the first Rolls-Royce to feature a monocoque chassis. It had a top speed limited to 118 mph and was capable of producing 220BHP at 4,500 rpm.

  • 1970s

    • 1970s

      The 1970s proved to be a challenging decade for Rolls-Royce. Despite going into receivership and relaunching as two separate companies, Rolls-Royce Limited for the aero division which became Rolls-Royce plc in 1985, and Rolls-Royce Motors Limited for the Motor Car division, many notable models were introduced.

    • 1970s

      The stylish two-door coach-built Corniche was based on the Silver Shadow, but built by hand by Mulliner Park Ward. The Corniche was available as either a hardtop or a convertible. During its lifetime a total of 1,306 were manufactured.

    • 1970s

      The Camargue was coach-built on a Silver Shadow platform by Mulliner Park Ward with styling by Pininfarina. The first Rolls-Royce designed to metric dimensions, it offers advanced features including automatic split-level air conditioning. The Silver Shadow II improved on the original, with exterior changes, particularly the wrap-around black bumpers and an air dam below the front, and improved handling characteristics.

  • 1980s

    • 1980s

      British defence company Vickers bought Rolls-Royce Motors Limited in 1980 and continued producing Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars. Renamed Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited in 1985, it was floated on the stock exchange.A Rolls-Royce powered car broke the land-speed record again in 1983. Thrust 2, driven by Richard Noble, was powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon 302 jet engine, achieving 633.468 mph.

    • 1980s

      The Silver Spirit took the Silver Shadow floor pan as its starting point, but clothed it in a body that was both more modern and more elegant.

    • 1980s

      The Silver Spur added four inches to the Spirit wheelbase. 25 Silver Spur Centenary models were built in 1985, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the motor car in Great Britain. The Silver Spur was also built in limousine form, stretched by up to 42 inches.

  • 1990s

    • 1990s

      The 1990s saw the end of production at Crewe and the start of a new chapter in the history of Rolls-Royce when the BMW Group purchased the rights to produce Rolls-Royce motor cars.

      The last Rolls-Royce model built at Crewe, the Silver Seraph was effectively the first all-new Rolls-Royce since the launch of the Silver Shadow more than 30 years earlier. Developed with help from BMW, it was powered by a 5.4-litre BMW V12 engine.

    • 1990s

      The Corniche shared many styling cues with the Silver Seraph, but used the familiar V8. Thanks to its greater torque, the V8 was felt better suited to the wafting Corniche.

  • The Present

    • The Present

      The Rolls-Royce headquarters and assembly plant lies in the Sussex Downs at Goodwood,UK. Shaped by the vision of world-renowned architect, Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, the facility inspires everyone who works there and sits sympathetically within the natural beauty of its setting.

    • The Present

      The first new Rolls-Royce of the 21st century began with a challenge to build the best car in the world. The result: Phantom. It was followed by Phantom Extended Wheelbase, the less formal Drophead Coupé and the sleek and seductive Phantom Coupé. Spurred on by the inspiring words of their founder, in 2012 Rolls-Royce set themselves the challenge of making the best cars in the world, even better. The result: Phantom Series II.

    • The Present

      The launch of Ghost and Ghost Extended Wheelbase marked the next stage in the evolution of the marque. This gave Rolls-Royce two pinnacle product ranges, each of which have a personality of their own, yet share the same powerful presence you expect from Rolls-Royce. To develop and build the most technologically advanced Rolls-Royce motor cars ever also required a significant investment in the workforce and the assembly plant at Goodwood.