09 May 2019, Goodwood: On 4 May 1904, Charles Rolls and Henry Royce met for the first time at The Midland Hotel, Manchester. One-hundred-and-fifteen years later, the marque they agreed to form that day continues to set global standards for innovation and excellence and uphold their legacy as the originators of ‘the best car in the world’.
Rolls and Royce would doubtless be astonished at the cars produced under their names in 2019. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars retains its links to those pioneering days in its approach, instincts and values. Today’s cars would be immediately – and pleasingly – recognisable to their founding fathers.
A return to coachbuilding
The lines and styling of the first Rolls-Royce cars are clearly influenced by the horse-drawn carriages they replaced. This is no coincidence, since they were handcrafted by the same master coachbuilders, who effortlessly transferred their skills and artistry from the outgoing tradition to the new technology. Coachbuilding at Rolls-Royce ended in the 1960s, but in 2017, the craft made a triumphant return in the form of ‘Sweptail’ – a fully bespoke, coachbuilt commission for a customer seeking ‘the ultimate grand tourer’.
The Architecture of Luxury
In its first two years, Rolls-Royce produced a mere 10 cars: in 2018, it delivered 4,107 – the highest annual total in its history – to customers in over 50 countries.
To satisfy today’s global demand, the company has developed a common platform that underpins all new models. Known as The Architecture of Luxury, it comprises an aluminium spaceframe scaled to fit by using different-sized floor pans and cross members: new production processes ensure stiffness and integrity, as well as delivering the company’s signature Magic Carpet Ride.
Black Badge is Rolls-Royce’s response to clients who ask for motor cars that reflect a different take on life, success and luxury. Black Badge models are the ‘alter egos’ of standard models: darker, edgier, with more power and torque and enhanced driving dynamics.
Since its launch, Black Badge has captivated today’s young owners who understand no other luxury house has the vision and flexibility to meet their demands in design and engineering.
In conceiving Black Badge versions of Wraith, Ghost and Dawn, the marque’s Bespoke designers and engineers expertly met the needs of their extraordinary customers to create vehicles that perfectly amplify the values of these great Rolls-Royces.
In 1917, British diplomat Hugh Lloyd-Thomas was dining in a Cairo club with his wife, Aileen, when a man in flowing robes swept in and demanded: “Whose Rolls-Royce is this outside?” When Aileen said it was hers, the man announced that he was commandeering it “in the name of His Majesty’s armed forces” and drove away. He was T. E. Lawrence, also known as Lawrence of Arabia.
A century after Lawrence’s exploits, Rolls-Royce once again produced a car capable of conquering the most hostile environments on Earth – the Cullinan super-luxury SUV.
A sensation on its launch in 2018, the Cullinan proved its credentials with a 12,000-mile odyssey through the Scottish Highlands, Austrian Alps, American West, and the arid wastes of the Middle East where it effortlessly confirmed Lawrence’s assertion that ‘a Rolls in the desert is above rubies.’
“We are deeply conscious of our heritage: it is a tremendous privilege to be continuing and building on work that began 115 years ago,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive, Rolls‑Royce Motor Cars. “But we also understand that our founders were visionaries, always looking to do things in new and different ways. It’s that spirit of excellence and innovation that Rolls-Royce Motor Cars embodies and celebrates today.”