A century of perfection
The turn of the 20th century marked the beginning of an extraordinary partnership between two of the most innovative minds of the moment. Henry Royce, a successful engineer and Charles Rolls, owner of one of the UK’s first motor car dealerships, agreed to sell motor cars under the name Rolls-Royce.
At that moment, a new company was born: Rolls-Royce.
The Best Motor Car in the World
In 1907, the Silver Ghost was declared ‘The Best Car in the World’ after its record breaking success. Travelling from London to Glasgow 27 times – covering 14,371 consecutive miles – the iconic motor car broke the world record for a non-stop motor run while demonstrating unrivalled reliability and comfort.
Despite earning the marque this legendary title, Silver Ghost was phased out in 1925 and replaced by New Phantom. Later known as Phantom I, this model was built in both the UK and USA.
The 1920s also marked the start of Rolls-Royce’s contribution to aviation engineering. After the First World War and the opening of the first Rolls-Royce factory in Massachusetts, USA, the ‘R’ engine set a new world air speed record.
Developed for Britain’s entry into the 1929 Intercontinental Schneider Trophy seaplane contest, it evolved into the Merlin engine, which later powered both the Spitfire and Hurricane.
In the 1930s, Rolls-Royce broke world records on land and sea. And automation saw the arrival of Phantom III – the first ever Rolls-Royce to be built with a V12 engine.
Travelling at 272.46 mph, Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the world land speed record in 1933 with Bluebird. But George Eyston smashed this time four years later by reaching 312.2 mph in Thunderbolt – a motor car powered by two Rolls-Royce ‘R’ engines. And Sir Henry Segrave broke the world sea record at 119 mph in Miss England II. Also engineered with ‘R’ engines, Sir Henry was killed moments later after colliding with a submerged tree stump.
Rolls-Royce improved the chassis of Phantom II, making it the first choice for the growing middle class who would cruise down to the south of France for the weekend. The same decade saw the launch of the first ever V12-engined Rolls-Royce – Phantom III.
The 1940s saw new developments in craftsmanship and design. Until 1959, each Silver Wraith had an individual, coach-built body.
Being constructed on a separate chassis meant that Silver Wraith bodies were heavy, so a 4,887cc engine was installed to cope with the weight.
When Silver Dawn came on the scene, it was the first Rolls-Royce sold with a standard steel body. Much lighter than the coach-built body of Silver Wraith, it was a pioneering effort from Rolls-Royce. While all steel-bodied models were exported, a few coach-built models still survive today and are highly collectible.
The 1950s marked the start of a long-standing relationship between Rolls-Royce and the royal family.
Replacing Daimler as the preferred motor car supplier to the British monarchy, Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth took delivery of the first Phantom IV in 1950. Designed exclusively for royalty and heads of state, Phantom IV is one of the rarest Rolls-Royce motor cars in the world, with only 18 ever built.
The introduction of Silver Cloud came in 1955. Designed by JP Blatchley and capable of a top speed of 106 mph, it featured the same 4,887cc engine as Silver Dawn but with a completely new and handsome steel body.
By the end of the 1950s, Phantom V had arrived. Powered by a V8 engine and featuring a coach-built body, it was a huge success.
By the time the Swinging Sixties began, Rolls-Royce had begun to appeal to a new breed of owner. Actors, rock stars and celebrities chose the marque as a symbol of their success.
Rolls-Royce also graced cinema screens. Sharing the limelight with Omar Sharif, Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison, a Barker-bodied Phantom II featured in the 1965 film, The Yellow Rolls-Royce.
In the same year, John Lennon bought a Phantom V. Leaving the factory with a plain white finish, Lennon had it repainted in matt black before opting for an outlandish, colourful design instead. Now, it’s one of the most valuable items of pop memorabilia ever.
The 1970s was a challenging decade for Rolls-Royce but, following re-launch as two separate companies, the decade saw the arrival of two exciting new motor cars.
Under Rolls-Royce Motors Limited, the stylish two-door Corniche was created. Based on Silver Shadow, it was hand-built by Mulliner Park Ward. Available as either a hardtop or a convertible, just 1,306 of them were built.
The Camargue, also by Mulliner Park Ward, was coach-built on a Silver Shadow platform with styling by iconic Italian coachbuilder, Pininfarina. The first Rolls-Royce designed to metric dimensions, it offered advanced features such as automatic split-level air conditioning.
Silver Shadow II was further enhanced with wrap-around black bumpers, an air dam below the front part of the motor car, and improved handling.
By 1980, British defence company Vickers had bought Rolls-Royce Motors Limited, producing Rolls-Royce alongside Bentley motor cars. The new Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1985.
Another record-breaking performance proved that Rolls-Royce was still leading the way in engineering. In 1983, Thrust 2 broke the land-speed record at 633.468 mph, powered by a Rolls-Royce Avon 302 jet engine.
Also taking pioneering steps in automation was Silver Spirit – Silver Spur with four inches added to its wheelbase. The limousine version increased its length by 42 inches.
The 1990s marked a new chapter in the marque’s history when the BMW Group bought the rights to produce Rolls-Royce motor cars. With the change came a brand new manufacturing facility: the Home of Rolls-Royce at Goodwood. It was here that an exciting new chapter would begin.
On the day it acquired the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars brand, BMW Group said it intended to build a plant in England. From a shortlist of possible sites, Goodwood in West Sussex in the south east of England emerged as the natural choice.
Tucked away in the heart of the South Downs National Park in an area of outstanding natural beauty, Goodwood is a quintessentially English setting. Perfectly in tune with our brand values and customer expectations. Despite it being an entirely new location for Rolls-Royce manufacturing, Goodwood has a strong historical connection to the brand. Sir Henry Royce, one of the company’s founders, lived less than 10 miles away in the charming village of West Wittering from 1917 until his death in 1933.
Starting with a blank sheet of paper, the project was approached in light of one of Sir Henry Royce’s famous quotes: “Strive for perfection in everything you do.” Not only did the facility have to be an extension of the brand, we also wanted to have minimal impact on the environment. So we brought in renowned British architect Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, whose portfolio includes the Eden Project in Cornwall, the International Terminal at London’s Waterloo Station and the National Space Centre in Leicester.
Built over four and a half years, the award-winning manufacturing facility opened its doors on 1 January 2003. Designed on a 20 x 20 metre grid with steel columns supporting roof lights, the main building is set two metres below the surrounding ground level, to blend into the landscape.
The floor-to-ceiling windows run the length of the Assembly Hall, providing essential natural light for our craftspeople and – for visitors who come to Goodwood – a front-row view of the entire production line. We like to call it ‘the glass mile’.
But, much like the design of a Rolls-Royce motor car, there’s more to our Goodwood home than first meets the eye. The eight-acre curved living roof – the largest in the UK – is home to hardy sedum plants. The green coverage improves the building’s insulation and reduces rainwater runoff, while also acting as an effective camouflage.
After being fully operational for nine years, we extended the Assembly Hall in 2012. By adding an extra 2,500 square metres, we were able to add new space to the Surface Finishing Centre and also to our Bespoke service, which has more than doubled in size since 2003.
As well as blending into its rural surroundings, Goodwood is designed to have the smallest possible impact on the environment. The exterior is clad with a mix of limestone and cedar wood, both from sustainable sources. And the timber louvre panels, activated by a weather station on the roof, control how much light enters the building and reduce our demand for electricity.
The large central lake attracts numerous wild birds, and also guards against flooding by storing excess water. Across the 42-acre site, we’ve established over 400,000 plants and trees of more than 120 species. We also compost all our green waste.
Our production processes are designed to minimise waste too. Over 60% of our waste – cardboard, paper, plastic, tyres and polystyrene – is recycled. The leather offcuts are re-used in the fashion and footwear industries. And we donate the surplus wood veneers to a local charity that makes furniture and other fundraising products from them.
By striving for perfection from the outset, with the building’s design and its environmental intentions, we have reduced our energy footprint by 29% per motor car in just five years. Welcome to the Home of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, where greatness goes beyond aesthetics.
Source: The history of Rolls-Royce
Rory is let loose inside the Rolls-Royce factory in West Sussex, England, and discovers how the Wraith, Phantom and Ghost Series II are built. Subscribe for more great content: http://bit.ly/1f3dxSq
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