VotW – History of the Rolls-Royce

Our Video of the Week (VotW) is a history of Rolls-Royce. In many ways, the Rolls-Royce is one of the more hidden British cars. It isn’t that they are that rare or invisible, but they have such a personality all their own that sometimes we forget about them in the midst of the MGs, Triumphs, Austin Healeys, and even Jaguars. However, if you were to ask the random man-on-the-street who is not an English car buff to name a British car, chances are that Rolls-Royce would be the first name off the lips.

The history of the marque, its names, and its branding with Bentley, can be more than a bit confusing. But Rolls-Royce as most of us know it, formally named Rolls-Royce Limited in 1973, began in 1906 with the business partnership of Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Frederick Henry Royce. Up until the Second World War, the cars were primarily manufactured in Derby in Derbyshire.  During WWII the company produced aircraft engines at a factory in Crewe, Cheshire. After the war automotive production was moved from Derby to that Crewe factory. For a brief span, from 1921 to 1931, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts were also produced in Springfield, Massachusetts. These cars were known as the “Springfield Ghosts”.

Like many British auto manufacturers, the company was nationalized in the early 1970s. In 1973 the motor car business was spun off as a separate entity, Rolls-Royce Motors. The main business of aircraft and marine engines remained in public ownership until 1987.  Vickers acquired the company in 1980 and sold it to Volkswagen in 1998.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited is now a wholly owned subsidiary of BMW established in 1998 after BMW was licensed the rights to the Rolls-Royce brand name and logo from Rolls-Royce PLC (the aircraft motor company) and acquired the rights to the Spirit of Ecstasy and Rolls-Royce grill shape trademarks from Volkswagen. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited operates from purpose-built administrative and production facilities opened in 2003 across from the historic Goodwood Circuit in Goodwood, West Sussex, England, United Kingdom. Rolls-Royce Motors Cars Limited is the exclusive manufacturer of Rolls-Royce branded motor cars since 2003. Bentley, however, remains with VW.

A very confusing recent history but a glorious brand make Rolls-Royce a fascinating marque. Please give the video a watch and let us know what you think.

Michael Carnell
Editor at Just British

Michael Carnell is the editor and founder of the Just British Online Motoring Magazine. As a lifelong British car enthusiast, he has owned or driven British cars of all ages from Austins and MGs to Jaguars and Triumphs. He currently owns a 1966 Vanden Plas Princess 1100 and a 1977 MGB. But there is always room for more - no matter what his wife says.