Five vital moments in Rolls-Royce’s history

the Royce 10 hp

A primer to the people, events, and creations that marked Rolls-Royce’s remarkable 120-year legacy

1904 was a sepia-tinged moment in time where televisions and penicillin had not yet come into existence. Amid this advent of profound technological and cultural transformation, however, the Rolls-Royce story, one of automobile’s most enduring legacies, was being written.

The year saw the meeting between Henry Royce and The Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls, a pivotal encounter that led to the incorporation and birth of the marque. Rolls-Royce quickly became synonymous with being the pinnacle of automotive luxury and performance, guided by the founders’ mission to “create the best car in the world”.

In commemorating 120 years since that landmark meeting, Rolls-Royce continues to uphold the legacy of its founders with its pursuit of engineering perfection and unmatched opulence. Here are five key moments in the company’s history that marked its unceasing evolution.

Rolls-Royce Henry Royce
Sir Henry Royce was an English engineer known for designing car and aeroplane engines that are reliabile and robust. Photo by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Opposites Attract

The contrast between its founders’ backgrounds and personalities proved to be a spark that would forever change the luxury motoring landscape. Henry Royce was a detail-oriented engineer seeking to balance his company’s challenges with quality engineering. His work epitomised the ethos of, in his own words, taking “the best that exists and making it better”. Charles Stewart Rolls, on the other hand, was the complete antithesis of Royce—wealthy, urbane, well-connected and highly educated. Both men connected through a mutual friend, Henry Edmunds, on 4 May 1904, and soon bonded over their passion for engineering and machinery. And it was the combination of Royce’s engineering smarts and Rolls’ aristocratic background that led both men on the path of automotive greatness.

Rolls-Royce Charles Stewart Rolls
British motoring and aviation pioneer, the Hon. Charles Stewart Rolls co-founded Rolls-Royce in 1906, two years after meeting Fredrick Henry Royce. . Photo by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

The Silver Ghost

In the annals of automotive legend, the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost stands as a cornerstone creation—a blueprint of sorts for the company’s commitment to craftsmanship and unrivalled performance. Introduced in 1906, this opulent chariot housing a revolutionary six-cylinder engine set new standards and garnered acclaim for its unprecedented refinement, cementing the position of Rolls-Royce in the luxury automobile domain. Renowned for its smooth,  whisper-quiet operation and impeccable reliability, the Silver Ghost earned the epithet of being “The Best Car in the World” at its time, with its ability to traverse rugged terrains with aplomb.

rolls-royce spirit of ecstasy
The Spirit of Ecstasy, a hallmark of distinction. Photo by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

The crowning elegance

Few automotive emblems evoke the same aura of grace and prestige as the Spirit of Ecstasy does. Adorning the prow of Rolls-Royce motorcars, this exquisite figurine was crafted by renowned sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes, and unveiled in 1911. Poised atop the cars’ radiator grilles, the Spirit of Ecstasy remains an enduring hallmark of distinction to this day, embellishing Rolls-Royce’s prestigious automobiles and captivating discerning enthusiasts with its timeless allure.

The union of Rolls-Royce and BMW

The acquisition of Rolls-Royce by the BMW Group in 1998 marked a pivotal moment in the marque’s books. Recognising the esteemed legacy that Rolls-Royce embodies, the BMW Group embarked on a journey to preserve the former’s storied tradition while infusing it with contemporary manufacturing techniques and engineering expertise. With an equally keen eye for craftsmanship and a dedication to uncompromising quality, the German automobile conglomerate embraced the mantle of custodian and ushered Rolls-Royce into a new era of automotive splendour.

rolls-royce coachbuild
Master artisans at the Rolls-Royce Coachbuild facility. Photo by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Crafting dreams: The Rolls-Royce Coachbuild Experience

Rolls-Royce’s relentless pursuit for perfection led to the launch of its bespoke Coachbuild programme in 2020. A dream come true for discerning clients wishing to collaborate with the marque’s master artisans to create a truly unique car, Coachbuild provides customers an opportunity to imbue their individuality and tastes into the Rolls-Royce they love. From selecting exquisite materials sourced globally to incorporating customised enhancements on the car’s interior and exterior, the Coachbuild programme epitomises the pinnacle of luxury personalisation—further proof that Rolls-Royce’s drive to create the world’s best cars remains unabated.