Is Your Car Really British? Part Two – Rolls Royce

Sun 4th Mar 2018

The British Isles used to be one of the bastions of motor supremacy, some of the biggest car brands, names that go down in history. But no more – we may believe that the famous name brand car we are driving is as British as roast beef and Yorkshire pudding – unfortunately we are probably wrong.

Rolls Royce
When Henry Royce met Charles Rolls in May 1904 it was the ‘big bang’ of one of the most famous motor partnerships ever.

Royce was an engineer who had spent the past 20 years building his two-cylinder Royce 10. Rolls was an early version of, his car dealership, C.S Rolls & Co. operating out of Fulham. When the pair met at the Midland Hotel, Manchester it was agreed that Rolls would take all the cars that Royce could make.

Royce provided four different models, which in today’s money ranged from £40,000 - £90,000 to purchase – so from the very beginning they were top marque vehicles.

With production underway, by 1906 the Rolls Royce company was formed and by 1908, taking advantage of cheap electricity prices, the first factory was built in 1908.

Like many British motor manufacturers, their expertise played a huge part in the Allied war effort of the First World War, its chassis being used for armoured cars.

In 1921 Rolls-Royce opened a new factory in Massachusetts to take advantage of the popularity of the vehicles, which were named the ‘Ghosts’. Ten years later Rolls-Royce acquired  Bentley after the rival manufacturer suffered during the Great Depression.

What followed was forty years of worldwide domination for the quintessential British car manufacturer, however in 1971, the vogue for high-end motors came to a shuddering halt when Rolls Royce Motors Limited fell into receivership. The 1970s proved to be a challenging time for Rolls Royce, but they were split into two separate companies and delivered two new cars, the two-door Corniche and the Camargue, both built by new owners Mulliner Park Ward.

Rolls Royce was acquired British defence company Vickers in 1980 and five years later Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited was floated on the London Stock Exchange. Rolls Royce grew again during the 1990s and by 1998 they were coveted by German manufacturer, BMW, who bought them outright from Vickers, bringing an end to British ownership of the famous brand.