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A Brief History Of Rolls Royce

Mar 1, 2008
Rolls Royce is a name synonymous with style and elegance; the cars made by this company are renowned for their luxurious nature as well as the quality of their design and manufacture.

Dating back over one hundred years the car company has made models for the rich and famous and today, to own a Rolls Royce can be seen as marker of success, wealth and opulence. The company started from modest beginnings and has etched a niche in the luxury car market and created one of the recognisable and well known brands globally.

Rolls Royce traces its history back to 1884 when Frederick Henry Royce started a mechanical and electric engineering business. Based in Manchester the first car, simply labelled 'The Royce' rolled of the production line in 1904. During this year he was introduced to a man that would help him start one of the most prestigious car manufacturers the world has ever seen; that man was Charles Stewart Rolls. A deal was broken between the two men that Royce would manufacture cars while Rolls would sell them.

The manufacturing plant moved to Derby in 1908 and Rolls Royce as a company was officially born. The first model produced by the company was the Silver Ghost and only six thousand of the models were built in Derby (a further seventeen hundred were built in Springfield, Massachusetts to cope with American demand).

The company then made a move to purchase rival Bentley in 1931 as Bentley had been struggling through the great depression. Up until fairly recently, 2002 to be precise, Bentley and Rolls Royce cars were almost identical in many respects, minor aesthetic differences were evident however.

Two years later the company changed the colour of its radiator badges from red to black. For a long time this was considered a mark of respect to the recently passed Royce but this however is a misconception; the reason for the change was that black clashed less with the colour of the coachwork. The coachwork was built externally for many years but Rolls Royce changed this in 1959 with the release of the Phantom mark IV.

Apart from making cars, Rolls Royce has a history of supplying vast numbers of aeronautical engines for the British military. At times, especially during the twenties, the aeronautical industry formed most of the business for the company. Royce, going back to his mechanical background enjoyed engine design; the last engine he was able to design was the Merlin, an engine that powered many of Britain's World War Two planes.

The planes that used this fantastic engine were diverse and carried out many different roles for the allied war effort. The hero of British bombing, the Avro Lancaster used four of them to get into the air while Wellingtons and Mosquitoes also employed the Rolls Royce Merlin. Most famously was the use of the Merlin in the fighters of the day, two heroes of the Battle of Britain, the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire were both powered by a Rolls Royce engine while the American P-51 Mustang, arguably the best fighter of its day also used the Merlin engine.

As well as many military uses the engines built by Rolls Royce have powered some of the most recognisable engineering efforts of the twentieth century. Powering the cross channel hovercraft to this day as well as the legendary Concorde, the contribution made by Rolls Royce engines to the modern world is hard to dispute.

The aircraft company endured financial difficulties during the seventies leading to the company being nationalised for almost twenty years. The car company however avoided nationalisation and remains a separate entity to this day. Still a marker of wealth and status the cars Rolls Royce produce are considered the ultimate in motor design. Used by royalty and the super rich to this day the company continues to go from strength to strength.
About the Author
Motoring expert Thomas Pretty traces the development of Rolls Royce as a car and aeronautical company. To find out more please visit http://www.bentley-and-rolls-royce.co.uk/rolls-royce-range.html
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