Rearview Mirror: The partnerships and partings of Rolls-Royce

first_imgTrending in Canada Rolls-Royce began in 1904 as a partnership of two men determined to build the best car in the market, creating what’s possibly the world’s best-known luxury brand. Almost a century later, the company would also go through one of the strangest custody battles the industry had ever seen.Charles Rolls and Henry Royce were both fascinated by automobiles. Rolls had a dealership that sold the French-built Panhard, which mostly financed his hobby of car racing, but he thought Britain should have a high-quality car of its own. Royce, an engineer, owned a company that made electric motors.Royce bought a car but wasn’t happy with its quality, and using it as a pattern, he built a much better one. He went on to make two more, one of which went to his company director. The director showed it to a friend who happened to work for Charles Rolls, and who introduced Rolls to Royce. Rolls was impressed with both the car and with Royce, and the two agreed to a partnership. In December 1904, the first Rolls-Royce models were publicly displayed at an auto show in Paris. Covering all bases, the company initially offered two-, three-, four- and six-cylinder engines, along with an unsuccessful V8. Ultimately, for 1906, it pared everything down to a single six-cylinder model, named the 40/50 HP for its 48-horsepower engine. Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Sir Henry Royce, co-founder of Rolls-RoyceRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Left: Charles Rolls, co-founder of Rolls-Royce. Right: Eleanor Thornton, secretary and possible mistress of an auto magazine publisher, was the inspiration for the Spirit of Ecstasy mascot.Left: Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, Right: BMW AG Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The Spirit of Ecstasy mascot is commonly called the “flying lady,” but they are flowing sleeves, not wingsRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2A Spirit of Ecstasy mascot in the production processRolls-Royce Motor Cars Rearview Mirror: Meet the daddy of Lincoln and CaddyThe final piece of Rolls-Royce’s unique identity, the hood ornament, arrived in 1911. John Montagu, an auto magazine publisher who had been a friend of Charles Rolls, commissioned his illustrator Charles Sykes to produce a mascot. Sykes based it on Eleanor Thornton, who was Montagu’s secretary and possibly his mistress. Officially called the Spirit of Ecstasy, it’s commonly known as the “flying lady,” but rather than wings, she’s actually holding up her flowing sleeves.To avoid import duties on American sales, in 1921 Rolls-Royce opened a plant in Springfield, Massachusetts, producing 2,944 cars before it closed in 1931 when luxury-car sales fell following the Depression. Back in Britain that same year, the company bought the struggling automaker Bentley to offer sportier luxury models.In the 1960s, Rolls-Royce poured cash into its aircraft division to produce a new engine for Lockheed and was then hit with huge losses from global exchange rates. The company went bankrupt and was saved by the British government in 1971, which sold it to Vickers, an engineering and manufacturing company, in 1980.Vickers put the car division up for sale in 1998. BMW supplied engines to Vickers, and thought its $550 million bid would take it. Instead, Volkswagen made a surprising bid of $900 million, which Vickers had to accept for its shareholders. But the company’s interwoven structure wasn’t so easily divided.The factory in Crewe, the car itself, and the “flying lady” went to Volkswagen, while the now-independent aircraft division got the Rolls-Royce name and logo, which it licensed to its supplier BMW. Neither Volkswagen nor BMW could build the whole thing. It took 10 months of negotiation, but in the end, Volkswagen got the name for five years to build the cars, providing it bought the engines from BMW. In 2003 they parted ways. Volkswagen kept Bentley, which it still produces in Crewe, while BMW built a new facility in Goodwood to make Rolls-Royce. The autos-and-aircraft separation has been in the news recently, with reports that Rolls-Royce PLC, the aircraft division, has settled a £671 million suit over allegations of corruption and bribery. Rolls-Royce the automaker has gone on high alert, even taking to Twitter to confirm it’s not related. It might have been founded on a partnership, but it’s now all about standing alone. Charles Rolls successfully raced versions of it, and in 1907, one was painted silver, with silver-plated trim, and entered in an endurance run from London to Edinburgh. It became known as the Silver Ghost, and the name was given to all of the subsequent production models. Based on its success in reliability trials — at a time when most cars weren’t all that reliable —Rolls-Royce established itself as a premier luxury automaker. But Rolls didn’t have much time to enjoy his company’s triumph. Fascinated with innovation, he’d already taken hundreds of hot-air balloon rides when he met the Wright Brothers. After they took him up in a plane, he bought one. True to form, he was determined to be the fastest in the air and set several world records. But his plane’s tail snapped at an air show in 1910 and it plunged to the ground, giving Rolls the dubious distinction of being the first Briton killed in a plane crash.Somewhat ironically, the company would open an aircraft engine division, after it was tapped by the British government to produce supplies during the First World War. The subsidiary would also be the catalyst for that eventual custody dispute.Henry Royce continued to run the company, even after declining health forced him to stay home. He sent daily instructions for engineering, with the factory returning the results to his house for approval, almost up until his death in 1933. The company was all about hand-built exclusivity, and wouldn’t make its 100,000th car until 1985.RELATED See More Videos advertisement Trending Videos Buy It! Princess Diana’s humble little 1981 Ford Escort is up for auction An engagement gift from Prince Charles, the car is being sold by a Princess Di “superfan”center_img The Rolls-Royce Boat Tail may be the most expensive new car ever RELATED TAGSRolls-RoyceNewsBMW AGCharles RollsCharles SykesEdinburghEleanor ThorntonEnglandEuropeFranceHenry RoyceHewlett-Packard CompanyJohn MontaguLockheed Martin CorporationLondon (England)Paris (France)Rolls-Royce plcSpringfield (Massachusetts)United KingdomVolkswagen AGWestern Europe We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles using Facebook commenting Visit our FAQ page for more information. Collector Classics: 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom 1 Pall Mall PlayThe Rolls-Royce Boat Tail may be the most expensive new car everPlay3 common new car problems (and how to prevent them) | Maintenance Advice | Driving.caPlayFinal 5 Minivan Contenders | Driving.caPlay2021 Volvo XC90 Recharge | Ministry of Interior Affairs | Driving.caPlayThe 2022 Ford F-150 Lightning is a new take on Canada’s fave truck | Driving.caPlayBuying a used Toyota Tundra? Check these 5 things first | Used Truck Advice | Driving.caPlayCanada’s most efficient trucks in 2021 | Driving.caPlay3 ways to make night driving safer and more comfortable | Advice | Driving.caPlayDriving into the Future: Sustainability and Innovation in tomorrow’s cars | Driving.ca virtual panelPlayThese spy shots get us an early glimpse of some future models | Driving.ca Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2A Silver Ghost at a company dealership in India. The cars were very popular with wealthy Maharajas.Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Rolls-Royce Silver GhostRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2A 1905 Rolls-Royce 30 HP. The company named its early models for their horsepower.Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2A Silver Ghost participates in a recreation of the London to Edinburgh endurance trialRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Rolls-Royce Silver GhostRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud, produced in the mid-1950s to mid-1960sRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.21933 Rolls-Royce Phantom IIRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Rolls-Royce replaced its original Silver Ghost model line with the PhantomRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The Rolls-Royce 20 HP, built in the 1920s.PHOTO: ROLLS-ROYCE MOTOR CARSRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.21932 Rolls-Royce Phantom IIRolls-Royce Motor Cars Created with Raphaël 2.1.2Created with Raphaël 2.1.2The Silver Ghost preparing for an endurance trial. The reliability trials helped to cement Rolls-Royce’s reputation.Rolls-Royce Motor Cars COMMENTSSHARE YOUR THOUGHTS ‹ Previous Next ›last_img read more