Have you ever dreamed of owning an expensive car?
If you had £1,000,000 pounds what would you spend it on?
If you are a motor enthusiast, then you should know all about the world's most exclusive cars. Rolls Royce cars are the most famous British cars in the world. Everything about them is sumptuous and luxurious.
What about the company itself though? How much do you know about it and its products? Is it only a car manufacturer?
From the timeline below, it is clear that this famous brand is much much more. Here we are going to learn a lot more about its history.
Company History Timeline
If we look at this historical timeline we can see clearly how the company's origins in 1884 were indeed in cars. It soon becomes apparent that by the 1930's it started to branch into engine production for aircraft and acquisitions of other motoring companies. This side to the business produced many famous innovations, including development of the Spitfire aircraft and indeed was very important in the eventual development of jet engines, including the engines that powered Concorde. By the 1970's the company branched out again with a specific part for cars and another continuing in engines, engineering and aeronautic developments.
Next we will see this process in more detail.
Rolls-Royce grew from the electrical and mechanical business established by Henry Royce in 1884. He built his first motor car in 1904 and in May of that year met Charles Rolls, whose company sold quality cars in London. They reached an agreement that Royce Limited would manufacture a range of cars to be exclusively sold by CS Rolls & Co - the first cars marketed under the name Rolls-Royce.
Success with these cars led to the creation of the Rolls-Royce company in March 1906 and the launch of the Silver Ghost which, within a year, was described as 'the best car in the world'.
At the start of the First World War, Royce designed his first aero engine. The Eagle provided half of the total horsepower used in the air by the allies. It powered the first direct transatlantic flight as well as the first flight from England to Australia - both in the Vickers Vimy aircraft.
The late 1920s saw Rolls-Royce develop the 'R' engine. It established a new world air speed record of over 400mph in 1931. It later established new world records on both land and water. More importantly, it gave Rolls-Royce the technological base to develop the Merlin, which Royce began to work on before he died in 1933.
The Merlin powered the Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire in the Battle of Britain. Demand for the Merlin during the Second World War transformed Rolls-Royce from a relatively small company into a major contender in aero propulsion.
At the same time, Rolls-Royce began developing the aero gas turbine, pioneered by Sir Frank Whittle. The Welland engine entered service in the Gloster Meteor fighter in 1944 and Rolls-Royce had the confidence immediately after the war to commit itself to the gas turbine. It was a technological innovation for the time.
Rolls-Royce entered the civil aviation market with the Dart in the Vickers Viscount. It soon became the cornerstone of the universal acceptance of the gas turbine by the airline industry. The Avon-powered Comet became the first turbojet to enter transatlantic service and in 1960, the Conway engine in the Boeing 707 became the first turbofan to enter airline service.
The other major manufacturers in Britain between the wars were Armstrong Siddeley, Blackburn, Bristol, de Havilland and Napier. The leader among these was Bristol which, in 1959, merged with the motor car and aero-engine maker Armstrong Siddeley. Three other smaller engine companies were absorbed into Bristol Siddeley and Rolls-Royce in 1961. Finally, the capability of the British aero-engine industry was consolidated when Rolls-Royce and Bristol Siddeley merged in 1966.
With the emergence of the widebody airliners in the late 1960s, Rolls-Royce launched the RB211 for the Lockheed L-1011 Tri-Star.
Early problems with the RB211 led to the company being taken into state ownership, and the flotation of the motor car business in 1973 as a separate entity. The three-shaft turbofan concept of the RB211 now established itself at the heart of the Rolls-Royce world-class family of engines.
Rolls-Royce returned to the private sector, undergoing a number of mergers and acquisitions to create the only company in Britain capable of delivering power for use in the air, at sea and on land.
In 1990, Rolls-Royce formed an aero engines joint venture with BMW of Germany. Rolls-Royce took full control of the joint venture from January 2000. The legal name of the company is now Rolls-Royce Deutschland Ltd & Co KG.
Allison Engine Company in Indianapolis was acquired. Allison brought with it major new civil engines including the AE3007 for Embraer's new regional jet, and existing, successful defence programmes.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was sold by Vickers to Volkswagen, although BMW held the rights to the name and the marque for use on Rolls-Royce cars, having acquired the rights from Rolls-Royce plc for £40m in 1998. BMW took over responsibility for Rolls-Royce cars at the beginning of 2003.
Rolls-Royce took full control of its oil and gas joint venture, Cooper Rolls, with the acquisition of the rotating compression equipment interests of Cooper Energy Services. It also acquired National Airmotive in California, a major repair and overhaul facility now part of Rolls-Royce Engine Services.
The 1990s ended with the £576m acquisition of Vickers plc which, with primarily the Ulstein and Kamewa products and capabilities joining the Rolls-Royce existing gas turbine activities, transformed Rolls-Royce into the global leader in marine power systems.
From this brief history we can see how the company which started more than 100 years ago with a small joint venture has developed into one of the major players in all forms of engines and transport. It was a part of many of the most important technological developments of the 20th century and remains a flagship company today.
Will we still aspire to buying into this exclusive market in another 100 years?
We will see...