Rolls & Royce
With a shared ambition to make the future of motoring extraordinary, the Honourable Charles Rolls and Sir Henry Royce joined forces in 1904. Despite being from very different backgrounds, the founders of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars formed an unlikely partnership – one forged from a shared passion for engineering and a desire to create the Best Car in the World.
Born in 1877 in London’s affluent Berkeley Square, Charles Stewart Rolls was the third son of Lord and Lady Llangattock. By the time he finished his studies in mechanical engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge, Rolls was an accomplished motorist. In 1903, he broke the world land speed record in Dublin driving a 30hp Mors at nearly 83mph. To fund his sporting activities, Rolls set up one of the first car dealerships in Britain with his friend Claude Johnson: CS Rolls & Co. Together they imported and sold Peugeot motor cars from France and Minerva motor cars from Belgium.
In contrast to Rolls’ privileged upbringing, Henry Royce was working by the age of nine. Born in 1863 in Peterborough, England, Royce sold newspapers and worked as a telegram boy before undertaking an apprenticeship at Great Northern Railway Works, taking the opportunity to educate himself in French, algebra and electrical engineering – which allowed him to land a job with the Electric Light and Power Company. With a passion and talent for engineering, he started a business with his friend, Ernest Claremont – making electrical components such as doorbells and dynamo and patenting improvements to the bayonet light bulb that are still in use today.
It wasn’t until he bought a second-hand two-cylinder French Decauville that Royce became interested in building motor cars. He had an instinctive desire for perfection and an innate work ethic that later became a pillar of Rolls-Royce philosophy: “Take the best that exists and make it better.” Having found faults, Royce designed and built his first petrol engine in 1903, and in 1904 drove his first Royce 10hp motor car into town.
Rolls and Royce first met on 4 May 1904 in Manchester. Within minutes of seeing Royce’s twin-cylinder 10hp, Rolls knew he had found what he was looking for. After taking the motor car for a drive, Rolls agreed on the spot to sell as many motor cars as Royce could build, under the name Rolls-Royce.
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