When you think of Rolls-Royce, what comes to mind? Slick, high-end luxury vehicles? Huge price-tags? Global aesthetic appeal? While all these are true, there is much more to this iconic luxury brand.
Started by Henry Royce, an engineer, and Charles Rolls, the owner of one of the first car dealerships in the UK, Rolls-Royce has been around since 1904.
So much has happened in the company's 118 years long and fascinating history. In this post, we will share ten facts you probably didn't know about Rolls-Royce.
1. Rolls Royce Didn't Come Up With The Spirit of Ecstasy
The Spirit of Ecstasy, which adorns the bonnet of every Rolls Royce car, has become an iconic symbol of luxury and elegance. Despite being one of the most globally recognizable elements of a Rolls Royce car, the luxury car brand doesn't get the credits to its origin.
Instead, a British Conservative politician & motoring pioneer, Lord Montagu, commissioned the very first of these bonnet ornaments.
In 1909, he hired Charles Sykes, an English sculptor, to make a mascot for his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. Sykes produced a statue of a young woman in fluttering robes, holding a finger to her lip. He named it "The Whisper."
Soon after, other Rolls-Royce owners started commissioning their own designs in all kinds of shapes and sizes that didn't align with the company's ethos.
The Rolls-Royce general managing director, Claude Johnson, wasn't happy about this. Only after a year, since Lord Montagu got "The Whisper" installed on his car, Johnson commissioned the same sculptor to make an official bonnet ornament sculpture.
Sykes didn't stray far away from his original concept. This time he created a sculpture in the form of a woman leaning forwards with her arms outstretched behind and above her, billowing cloth running from her arms to her back, resembling wings. It was soon christened the Spirit of Ecstasy and has been a staple feature of all Rolls-Royce cars ever since.
*Claude Johnson was known to describe himself as the hyphen in the Rolls-Royce name.
2. Rolls Royce Once Produced a Model Only for the British Royal Family and Heads of State
As Rolls-Royce gained a deserved reputation for elegance throughout the 1930s and 1940s, it became the preferred choice for the world's elite. This prestige was further solidified in 1950 when Rolls-Royce replaced Daimler, who had held the Royal warrant to provide motor cars to the British royal family since 1900.
This gave rise to the Phantom IV, which had a simple sales policy--only designed for the Royals and other Heads of State. As a result, a mere 18 Phantom IV models were produced, making it among the rarest of the RR models.
But none was as globally renowned as the 1955 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV State Landaulette, which remained in the service of Her Majesty The Queen for 43 years (1959-2002).
3. Every Rolls-Royce Vehicle is Made by Hand
A Rolls-Royce is one of the most spectacular pieces of manufacturing you can own in the world.
This is to be expected as Rolls-Royce has hand-built all its cars since its formation in 1906. Every Rolls-Royce car is handmade by specialist artisans in a two-stage manufacturing process. The first stage is the manufacturing of the "Shell," which involves the production of the steel space frame and all the mechanical, electrical and transmission components. Most of this is done in Germany, and then the parts are transported to the Rolls Royce Goodwood Plant in England.
The second stage is the completion of the body by coachbuilders who have the unique skills and craftsmanship to transform the shell into a fully functional motor car.
For example, the starlight headliner that Rolls-Royce has become famous for takes days because they have to hand-sew hundreds of fiber optic cables into the roof before placing the roof on the car.
And this is just one of the long and painstakingly detailed, and precise process that goes into making every single Rolls-Royce motorcar.
In fact, the only area of assembling a Rolls-Royce that is completely automated is the paint. The carmaker automated the painting process after realizing that machine painting produces a better and more consistent paint job.
4. In 2021 Rolls-Royce Hit a New All-time Record Sales
Clearly, and surprisingly, the pandemic has not affected sales of luxury automobiles. In 2021 Rolls-Royce hit a new record, selling the most cars it has ever sold in its 117-year history. The luxury carmaker sold 5,586 cars globally last year.
According to Rolls-Royce, many of the wealthy individuals buying Rolls-Royce stated that COVID-19 made them realize that life is fleeting and needs to be enjoyed today.
*The waiting time for a brand new Rolls-Royce is about one year, so most of these orders were made in 2020 and delivered in 2021.
While the best sellers were the Cullinan SUV and the latest Ghost sedan, many people have their eye on Rolls-Royce Spectre. This is the company's first pure-electric model, and the launch is expected sometime in 2023.
In the meantime, the prototype is currently undergoing a grueling trial, Rolls-Royce style--a 1.5-million-mile testing regime in various locations around the world to "simulate more than 400 years of use for a Rolls-Royce."
Credit: Rolls Royce Spectre Autocar UK
5. Rolls Royce Cars Last a Lifetime and More
While Rolls-Royce cars have always been known for their class and elegance, did you know they are also one of the most reliable luxury cars? Approximately 65 percent of all Rolls-Royce motor cars ever built are still on the road today!
The founder, Sir Henry Royce, firmly believed that the simpler it is, the more reliable. As a result, Rolls-Royce (RR) designed their cars not to be the "Cutting Edge" of technology but rather have the maximum reliability and be of the finest materials.
The body hardware, suspension and other crash parts are incredibly durable and reliable. The seamless bodies are made from aluminum and will not rust. The bearings, suspension parts, exhaust, and other pieces are made by RR or sourced from reputable suppliers.
Ever wondered why you've never seen a Rolls Royce on the side of the road because of a tire issue? They use a unique run-flat system for their tires, which enables them to run at full highway speed for some distance on a flat tire. This is just one of the extra touches that go into making a Rolls-Royce.
All things considered, a well-maintained RR can last for decades.
6. The Silver Ghost Was Driven For 14,000 Almost Non-Stop
In its first few years of production(1905-1910), the Silver Ghost held the title of the best touring car in the world. A lot of its popularity can be linked back to Claude Johnson, Rolls Royce's first general manager. He's the same guy who commissioned the first official Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture.
To prove the reliability of the Silver Ghost, Johnson submitted the car to a 2,000 miles trail. Afterward, the vehicle was dismantled and checked by a Royal Automobile Club (RAC) engineer who could find nothing to criticize but a slight movement of the rings on one piston.
After the Silver Ghost was reassembled, it participated in a similar trial in Scotland. This time it was driven to and fro between London and Glasgow, stopping only on Sundays until it had completed 15,000 miles.
The car was then taken apart again, and this time there was slight wear found in some of the steering parts. With a top speed of 63mph and average consumption of 17.8 miles per gallon, this exquisite and competent beast had passed the test! Rolls-Royce put the Silver Ghost into full production in 1908 and sold a total of 6,173 over the next eighteen years.
7. One Man Paints All of Rolls-Royce's Pinstripes by Hand
One man has been tasked with painting the pinstripes on all Rolls-Royce cars for the past 17 years. That man is Mark Court, who has been doing this intricate work since the company opened its Goodwood plant in 2003.
Other than drawing the straight coachline stripes, he also caters to various customer requests for a variety of custom designs. These can be anything from flowers, horseheads to the client's initials.
His job as the last step in the manufacturing process comes with a lot of pressure. There's literally zero room for error. The pinstripe paint affixes instantly to the car's paint, so mistakes result in the whole vehicle needing repainting!
Consequently, this intricate work, his only job at the automaker's Goodwood factory, reportedly earns him a six-figure salary.
During various interviews in the past, Mark has stated that his greatest concern is getting a good apprentice who will take up the job after him.
8. Rolls Royce Has a Special Training Program for Chauffeurs
A premium car calls for a premium driving experience. That's why in 2013, the folks at Rolls Royce came up with a specialized crash course for Rolls Royce chauffeurs.
Known as the Rolls Royce White Glove Program, it teaches chauffeurs the history of Rolls Royce, driving etiquettes such as never greeting a guest with sunglasses, keen attention to detail and best automobile handling practices.
This intensive 3-day training ensures they are well equipped to deliver world-class to their affluent and high net worth employers. It even goes so far as to train them how to open or close a door without leaving fingerprints on the car.
9. Rolls-Royce Makes Much More Than Luxury Cars
When most people hear the name Rolls-Royce, the first thing that comes to mind is its quintessentially British luxury cars. Yet cars are only one part of a much larger business. As a matter of fact, the company has been making aero engines since it got its first contract from Renault during World War 1.
As a statement of Rolls Royce's craftsmanship and engineering prowess, a scaled version of the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost car engine was used in the first flight from England to Australia in 1919.
Over the next four decades, Rolls-Royce became a global leader in the aero-engine business. One of its feats during this time was making thousands of engines for the Allied forces in World War 2.
However, in 1971, one of its engine projects backfired, resulting in ballooning losses which forced Rolls-Royce to file for bankruptcy. In 1973 it was split into two separate companies. Rolls-Royce Motors and Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC.
10. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Rolls-Royce PLC Are Two Different Companies
The Rolls-Royce that you see today is quite a different business from how it started in 1904.
When Rolls-Royce filed for bankruptcy in 1971, it put the British government in a very tight spot. At the time, the Tory government of Prime Minister Edward Heath wasn't big on bailing out private companies.
But here it was faced with the potential collapse of one of the flagship British engineering companies, a huge player in defense & civil aviation and employer of 80,000 workers.
Nevertheless, the government didn't offer any financial help, and Rolls-Royce was forced into receivership. The government then nationalized Rolls-Royce and continued its aero engineering business in a newly formed company, Rolls-Royce (1971) Ltd.
However, the Motor Car Division was separated and formed Rolls-Royce Motors Holdings Ltd and in 1998 became a wholly-owned subsidiary of the BMW Group.
On the other hand, Rolls-Royce 1971 Ltd. was privatized in 1987, becoming Rolls-Royce plc which to date designs and manufactures engines for civil aerospace and military aircraft and ships.
To Wrap Up
Whether it is the Rolls-Royce of automotive engineering (owned by BMW today) or the aeronautical engineering industry titan, Rolls-Royce will go down in history as one of the finest engineering brands.
Which was your most surprising fact? Let us know in the comment section.