March 15, 1906: Rolls-Royce is founded in Manchester, England. Henry Royce opened an electrical and mechanical shop in 1884 and produced his first car, a two-cylinder Royce 10, in 1904. He met Charles Rolls, owner of an early car dealership (C.S.Rolls & Co.), in Manchester on May 4, 1904. Rolls preferred three to four cylinder cars, but was impressed by Royce’s model. On December 23, 1904 they made an agreement with Rolls willing to broker all the cars Royce could provide. Royce had four models: a 10 hp two-cylinder model for £395 ($61,000 today), a 15 hp three cylinder model for £500 ($76,000 today), a 20 hp four-cylinder model for £650 ($91,000 today), and a 30 hp six-cylinder model for £890 ($122,000 today). All models would be badged as Rolls-Royce and sold exclusively by Rolls.
Rolls-Royce Limited was formed on this day. It was already known that a new method for production was needed. The two men looked for a place to build a new plant and Derby’s offer of cheap electricity led them to that region. They purchased 12.7 acres on the southern edge of town and Royce designed the new factory. In order to raise more capital, they held an IPO on December 6, 1906 for £100,000. Rolls-Royce bought out C.S.Rolls & Co. in 1907 (and the non-motor interests continue to operate separately even to this day). Production at the new plant began in early 1908 with a formal opening in July.
In March 1908, Claude Johnson, sometimes called the hyphen in Rolls-Royce, convinced Royce and others on the board to concentrate on the new 30 hp six-cylinder model. They did and the earlier models were discontinued. The Phantom model came out in 1925, referred to as the Silver Ghost. This car helped establish the company’s reputation and 6,000 were built. In 1931, Rolls-Royce acquired the smaller rival car company, Bentley, whose finances were not able to withstand the Great Depression. Between the mid-1940s until 2002, the two cars were often identical except for the radiator grille and some minor details.
Rolls-Royce was nationalized in 1971 as Rolls-Royce Limited and de-merged in 1973 as Rolls-Royce Motors Limited. The company was privatized in 1987 as Rolls-Royce plc. Henry Royce was made a baronet of Seaton in the County of Rutland in 1930 for his services to British Aviation. He died on April 22, 1933 at the age of 70. Charles Rolls was the third son of the 1st Baron Llangattock. He was born in London but held strong ties to the family home, The Hendre, located near Monmouth, Wales. He bought his first car, a Peugeot Phaeton in 1896 at the age of 18. His love of speed was also evidenced in his aviation work. He made over 170 balloon ascents and was a founder of the Royal Aero Club. After he was bought out by Royce, he turned to aviation. On July 12, 1910 he was killed in air crash – the first Briton to die in an aeronautical accident. He was 32.
At a certain age, sitting in the front is not as appealing. Chauffeur included. – Rolls-Royce slogan
For power, style and presence, a Rolls-Royce phantom has only one serious rival. The person who owns it. – Rolls-Royce slogan
Both art and craftsmanship, when they reach their highest expression, enrich the age to which they belong. Rolls-Royce. The best car in the world. – Rolls-Royce 1951 slogan
At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls-Royce comes from the electric clock. – Rolls-Royce 1959 slogan
Also on this day: Voting Booths – In 1892, Myers Voting Booths were introduced in New York.
Ides of March – In 44 BC, Julius Caesar was assassinated.
The Ashes – In 1877, the first Test Cricket Match between England and Australia began.
Dot Com – In 1985, the first Internet domain name was registered.
Too Special Effects – In 1931, the SS Viking exploded.