The premier luxury car making company Rolls-Royce was born as a result of collaboration between Frederick Henry Royce and Charles Stewart Rolls in the year 1906. According to the deal, the production of the car was to be handled by Henry Royce and the marketing was to be done by C.S.Rolls. The company was named Rolls-Royce after the two founders. The car today is fondly spoken of as the Rolls, Roller, or the Double R though in Derby people still refer to it as the Royce.
Derby, the headquarters of the company was the place from where the first Rolls-Royce rolled out. It was built with an engine power of 10 horse power, and went up to 20 hp. But the first bestselling Rolls-Royce was the famous Silver Ghost. The car sported a 6 cylinder engine that ran on 40 horse power, which later was increased to 50hp. For almost 20 years, this model was the flagship model for the Rolls-Royce company.
Other than cars, Rolls Royce was, and is, involved in production of equipment required by the military and aircraft engines. In fact, the highly successful British armored cars in both the world wars were run on chassis produced by Rolls-Royce.
In 1931, Rolls-Royce bought rival luxury car manufacturer Bentley. Thereafter, both the Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars were similar in make except for minor variations. The
Bentley cars were manufactured from Crewe, an earlier Royce garage.
The company was nationalized in 1971 since it was facing severe financial difficulties. Later, in 1983, the automobile unit of Rolls Royce was denationalized by the British government. The following years saw the company in many hands. In 1980 the company was bought by Vickers and was later sold to Volkswagen for a huge 430 million pounds.
According to the contract, the name and the logo of Rolls Royce was licensed to BMW, a long time business dealer of the company, while the mascot Spirit of ecstasy and the shape of the radiator grille were given to the VW group. BMW paid another 40 million pounds to VW to acquire the rights of the mascot and the radiator grille. A clause in the deal allowed VW to produce cars under the name of Rolls-Royce only till year 2002 after which all the rights were automatically transferred to the BMW. The rights to the production of Bentley cars, however, remained with the VW group.
The years 1945-1990 saw a string of luxury cars being rolled out by the company. These included the legends Silver Wraith, Phantom and Corniche. Phantom limo, in particular, was the prized possession of many. Another hit was the Silver Shadow, the first car with a monocoque chassis and had a 6.23l V8 engine. The car shared close resemblance with the Bentley T series line of cars.
The 2003 Phantom is the first car produced by the BMW company. It has a 6.75l V12 engine and is priced at 250,000 pounds. The company may have changed hands but Rolls-Royce will continue to hold several generations spellbound with its styling and state-of-the art technology.