1906 - present
A Passion For The Automobile
The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls was the third son of a wealthy family who owned an extensive estate, a town house and an ocean-going yacht. Young Rolls did not enjoy the life of leisure his birthright gave him.
Science was his main interest, so at Cambridge University he took a degree in Mechanics and Applied Science. While there, he startled everybody by driving the first car ever seen in the City of Cambridge.
His interest in horseless carriages began during a trip to France where he bought a 3 3/4 h.p. Peugeot, and learned to drive it expertly. When he returned to England he became increasingly interested in driving and longed to try for a World Speed Record
He actually succeeded three times (1902 and twice in 1903), although his record speeds of 63, 83 and 85 mph were not officially listed. His passion for cars was so strong that he made up his mind to devote his life to this new industry.
By 1904 he had a flourishing company which specialised in selling the best overseas cars available. But as Rolls himself said: "I
would prefer to be selling English instead of foreign goods. In addition, I can distinctly notice a growing desire on the part of my clients to purchase English made ones . . . yet I cannot come across any English car that I really like".
The Partnership Of Rolls and Royce Is Formed
While Rolls was prospering in London, an electrical engineer, Frederick Henry Royce, had just finished making a small 10 h.p. car in Manchester. Royce was a perfectionist, insisting on the highest standards of workmanship. His cleverly developed ignition system, which allowed him to start the car without any trouble, reflected all his skill as an electrical engineer.
A director of Royce's firm, Henry Edmunds, was a great friend of Charles Rolls and he knew Rolls was looking for a good English car to sell to his affluent clients. Edmunds thought Royce's car was the answer. So he sent photographs and specifications of it to Rolls in London, who became interested immediately. Rolls wanted to meet Royce and to see the car for himself.
On the trip from London to Manchester for this historic meeting, Rolls told Edmunds that it was his ambition to have a motor car connected with his name. Rolls and Royce met over lunch - the painstaking perfectionist and the knowledgeable businessman seeking motoring perfection.
Far Ahead in Performance and Quality
Later Rolls tried the car out. It was so far ahead in performance and quality of any other car on the market, that Rolls undertook to sell all the cars Royce could manufacture. So started the famous working partnership that gave the world its finest car. The new partners did not rest on their laurels.
The Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost offered unparalled levels of style and quality...
It may have cost 10 times more than a Model-T, but who could argue?
Rolls, the motoring expert knew the type of car he wanted and the car his clients needed, something comfortable, reliable and elegant. He passed on his detailed ideas and suggestions to Royce, who carried them out. Royce worked under a tremendous strain, but he was able to produce better· and faster cars.
In 1906 Rolls tried out one of their new 20 h.p. vehicles in the Tourist Trophy Race on the Isle of Man. With Rolls at the wheel, the car did 70 mph on some stretches and reached home half an hour before the second car.
The partners were delighted with their latest creation and Rolls in particular enjoyed his driving venture.
The same spirit of adventure that made him drive the first car in Cambridge, hold the World Speed Record and win a Tourist Trophy Race, also made him dabble in flying.
In this new field he came up with another first. In 1910 he made the first double crossing of the English Channel in a non stop flight. But adventure often spells tragedy and a few weeks after this flight, 33, year-old Rolls met his death at Bournemouth, the first Englishman to be killed in an air crash.
Not long after, Royce's health failed under the strain of the hectic pace at which he had been driving himself. For the next 20 years he lived and worked in semi-retirement. The partnership was over, but Rolls-Royce had become a household name...
Also see: Rolls-Royce Car Reviews