The legendary history of Rolls-Royce began over a simple lunch in 1904. Charles Rolls was already the owner of one of the world’s first car dealerships, and when he heard about Henry Royce’s designs for a revolutionary new car, the deal was sealed.
The Rolls-Royce started out as only a 2-cylinder car, and has since released models with up to 6-cylinders, but more importantly, the Rolls-Royce ushered in a new era of car manufacturing and has produced cars that outlast other luxury brands, withstand intense driving challenges, and offer owners a new sense of what “luxury” really means.
Charles Rolls was a Cambridge graduate who had studied mechanical engineering, and later discovered a passion for racing. Rolls funded this passion by buying and selling foreign cars. He met with Sir Henry Royce in May of 1904 in an effort to create an English brand that could compete with the foreign cars of that day.
Sir Henry Royce was an inventor and business owner whose company produced creations like the bayonet lamp socket, electrical motors and cranes, among many other things. Royce had a vision to build the best and most reliable engine the world had ever seen.
And thus, the partnership began.
The First Rolls-Royce
The Silver Ghost was the first Rolls-Royce to grace the world with its presence. This car hit the market in 1907 and was made with such quality craftsmanship and durability that it completed the famous drive between London and Glasgow 27 times, non-stop. This drive totaled 14,371 miles, and the Ghost handled it with a smooth, complication-free drive, dubbing it the “best car in the world”.
Sir Henry Royce and Charles Rolls had immediate success with the Silver Ghost, and to this day, it is remembered as one of the greatest cars of all time.
More Than a Car
In 1914, the world was entering into the First World War, and in an effort to respond to the needs of Britain, Sir Henry Royce designed the first Rolls-Royce aero engine, affectionately known as “The Eagle”.
The Eagle powered around half of all the planes used by allied forces in the war, and was also responsible for the first transatlantic flight and the first flight directly from England to Australia.
Since the first aero-engine was designed by Royce himself, the Rolls-Royce name has become not only the biggest name in luxury vehicle manufacturing, but also a large contributor to civil aerospace, defense aerospace, marine and energy manufacturing.
Rolls-Royce is the world’s second largest civil and defense aerospace engineering company, conducting business in the UK, Germany, Scandinavia, North America and the Far East.
Beyond The War
In the 1920’s, Rolls-Royce picked up where they left off before the war, and started car production in the United States with a brand new factory in Springfield, Mass. The newest Rolls to come off the line was a 20HP “baby” Rolls-Royce, produced in 1922.
The “baby” had huge success with the middle class and was manufactured with a straight six-cylinder and had 3,127cc’s and could reach 62mph.
Rolls-Royce continued the manufacturing of aerospace engines by designing the “R” engine, which won the 1929 Intercontinental Schneider Trophy for the seaplane contest. This engine set the air speed world record that year, was later transformed into the Merlin engine, which powered allied aircrafts through the Second World War.
The end of the 20’s saw the introduction of the Phantom I, a replacement for the last line of Silver Ghost’s made in 1927. The new Phantom was produced in both the UK and the Springfield factory. The Phantom I housed a pushrod driven overhead valve, a straight 6 engine, and 7.7 liter power underneath the hood.
A total of 3512 Phantom I’s were built, split between the UK and the US.
The 30’s saw the introduction of both the Phantom II and the Phantom III. The Phantom II housed the same engine as the Phantom I, but came with a 4-speed manual transmission, semi-elliptical springs and servo-assisted brakes. Manufactured from 1929-1936, the Phantom II was released with 3 optional designs: the standard, the Continental, and a special left-handed model (125 manufactured).
The Phantom was produced consecutively through 1991 and reached such fame and success that it was owned by the likes of John Lennon and Princess Elizabeth. Rolls-Royce took a break from this iconic car between 1991 and 2003, and officially, the Phantom was forever laid to rest in 1991.
However, under BMW ownership, the Phantom name was resurrected in 2003. The aluminum chassis and rear hinged doors are reminiscent of the Phantom VI. BMW is assembling all of these new Phantoms in the Goodwood facility (engines and bodies are separately made in Germany), and they have set a limit of 10,000 Phantoms for production over the next few years.
Protecting the Classics
If you own a Rolls-Royce, you understand luxury. You also understand how simple it would be to damage or destroy such valuable property. Classic Auto is in the business of preserving pieces of history like classic Silver Ghost and Phantom Rolls-Royce Cars. Vandalism, storm damage, and regular wear and tear can happen to cars owned by even the most fastidious car enthusiasts. Why run the risk of accumulating damage you cannot repair?
Classic Auto Insurance offers low rates and quality protecting to cover your luxury vehicles, and we customize plans to fit your exact needs, whether you own a fleet of racing vehicles, or a single classic car you affectionately call “baby”. We also offer roadside assistance and agreed valuation to help you get the most out of your luxury car insurance policy.
Call us today for more information, or access a free, instant classic car insurance quote online. When you’re on the road, we’re in the passenger seat with collector car insurance!
About the Author
Drew Yagodnik is Vice President of Classic Automobile Insurance Agency, Inc. Classic Automobile Insurance Agency has been protecting collector, classic and exotics since 1992.