Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce founded Rolls-Royce in 1906. Two years earlier, Royce made his first car, the two-cylinder Royce 10. Meanwhile, Rolls was the owner of motorcar dealerships in Britain. The duo set up shop in a factory on the outskirts of Derby and unveiled their first car the same year the company was formed. That car was the six-cylinder Silver Ghost. The brand's commitment to excellence was apparent from the outset, and the Silver Ghost was soon being praised as one of the finest cars in the world at the time.
By the 1920s, demand for Rolls-Royce cars had become so great that the company acquired another factory in Springfield, Mass. During the same time period, the company launched the Phantom I, which was powered by a pushrod-operated overhead valve engine. In 1931, Rolls-Royce acquired the Bentley brand.
About 10 years later, the company opened its well-known Crewe factory. However, like much of Britain's industry, Rolls-Royce turned their production to building artilleries during World War II. The company produced the powerful Merlin V-12 engine that went on to power fighter planes like the Hawker Hurricane and the Supermarine Spitfire.
The first postwar model to emerge from the company was the Silver Wraith. In 1950, Rolls released the Phantom IV, a stately cruiser powered by an eight-cylinder engine. With only 18 ever produced, the Phantom IV holds the distinction of being one of the most exclusive automobiles ever built.
During the 1950s, Rolls-Royce also introduced the massive Silver Cloud I and Silver Cloud II. In the 1960s, the company introduced the Silver Cloud III and the Silver Shadow.
Rolls-Royce ran into financial problems in the early 1970s. Forced to file for bankruptcy, Rolls-Royce was nationalized and taken over by the British government. The government helped keep the company afloat until 1980 when it was acquired by Vickers PLC, which promptly launched the Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit. The Silver Spirit heralded a new generation of Rolls-Royce models.
In the 1990s, Rolls-Royce was briefly taken over by Volkswagen before being acquired by BMW and its $100 million state-of-the-art factory in Goodwood, England.
Rolls-Royce has enjoyed a longstanding relationship with American luxury car buyers. The demand for Rolls-Royce vehicles was great in the early years among the wealthy and powerful East Coast elite; therefore, the company founded Rolls-Royce of America Inc. in 1921.
While Rolls-Royces were too expensive to catch on with the American car buyers, the vehicles have maintained their esteemed profile in the states for practically a hundred years. Still the car of choice amongst the rich and powerful, Rolls-Royce is currently owned by BMW whose longstanding relationship with American drivers has helped further endear the brand in the states.Rolls-Royce Models
The Rolls-Royce Phantom is a saloon car that was introduced in 2003 as the first model to emerge after BMW assumed control of the company. At nearly 20 feet in length, the Phantom maintains a sense of old-world charm and spurns the ultra-high tech extras you can find in many contemporary luxury and ultra-luxury cars.
The Phantom Drophead Coupe is a two-seater convertible variation on the Phantom that was unveiled in 2007. Like its larger and statelier older sibling, the Drophead Coupe is also powered by a massive V-12 engine. However, the interior takes a slightly more modern turn while maintaining some traditions with yachting-inspired wood veneer.
The Phantom Coupe was unveiled a year after the Drophead. Also powered by a V-12, the Coupe is a two-door, non-convertible younger sibling to the Phantom and the Drophead Coupe.
The most recent car added to the current Rolls-Royce vehicle lineup is the Ghost. Named in honor of the celebrated Silver Ghost, the Ghost is smaller than any of the Phantom models and is far more realistic for everyday drivers in terms of practicality, if not pricing.
It is unlikely that Rolls-Royce will ever be as commonly seen as other luxury brands like BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or Volvo. However, part of the mystique of the Rolls-Royce stems from the fact that it is something of a rare and exotic vehicle, particularly in the U.S.