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Rolls-Royce - The Early Years

Charles Rolls was born in 1877 and was the third son of Lord Llangattock.  He was raised on the family estate in Monmouthshire, later going to school at Eton.  He was an expert balloonist and aviator.  He set up a business selling motor cars from a showroom in Mayfair, London; took up motor racing and won the 1000 mile reliability trial in 1900.

Henry Royce was born in 1863 near Peterborough and was the son of a miller.  His father died when he was nine and he was brought up by his mother and aunt.  He later started an apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway, but did not complete it, instead carrying out a number of electrical and engineering jobs.  This led to his starting his own business making electrical equipment in Manchester with a partner Ernest Claremont.  In 1902 he purchased a car but was not entirely satisfied with it so he took it apart and reassembled it.  He then constructed a car of his own which was generally considered to be better than any other available at the time.

Charles Rolls met Henry Royce in 1904 in Manchester.  Rolls was impressed with the car made by Royce and an agreement was reached that Rolls would sell all of the cars that Royce could manufacture.  These cars were the start of the Rolls-Royce range.  They were rapidly recognised as being of a high quality with excellent craftsmanship.

In 1906 Rolls won the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy at an average speed of nearly 40 mph over a distance of 161 miles.

Rolls-Royce was established in 1906.

The 40/50hp model was shown in 1906 at the Olympia, London.  This used a new engine.  In 1907 the Silver Ghost version of this car took part in a 2,000 mile marathon endurance test.  This was quickly followed by a 15,000 mile endurance event.  The Silver Ghost is probably the most well known Rolls-Royce car.

Production of Rolls-Royce cars was moved from Manchester to Derby in 1908 when the Manchester site became too small for the number of cars being produced.

In 1910 Rolls was killed in an aeroplane accident at Bournemouth, when his biplane broke up in the air.

During the First World War Rolls-Royce supplied the British forces with a number of armoured vehicles.  The cars proved highly reliable in the many countries where they were used in spite of having to operate in extremely hot and dusty climates.  Special vehicles included a range of pick up trucks, battery tender vehicles, fully armoured tanks and ambulances.

Rolls-Royce produced the 20hp ‘Twenty’ after the First World War.  This car initially had a gear lever and handbrake in the centre of the seating area.  It was smaller than earlier cars and was designed to be suitable for a wider market.  The Twenty was later replaced by the 20/25.

Luxury cars were still in demand and the Phantom I was introduced in 1925, based on the Silver Ghost, to meet this demand.  The Phantom II was produced in 1929 with a more up to date chassis design.  The Phantom III, with a V12 engine, was introduced in 1935.

In 1931 Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley and production of their cars was moved to the Derby factory.

Sir Henry Royce died in 1933 after a long period of ill health.

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