For well over a century now Rolls-Royce has built high-quality cars with an iconic and elite status. Old Rolls-Royce models are still highly sought after and the logo alone is known the world over. Keep reading to find out 10 things you didn’t know about one of the the most desirable automobile companies, in the world.
1. First Car
Rolls-Royce Limited was founded in 1904 by Charles Rolls and Henry Royce. Royce had built such a great car that Rolls decided to sell and market the car under the name 'Rolls-Royce'. The first car created by both men was the Rolls-Royce 10 HP. In addition to cars, Rolls-Royce also built jet engines. Their first example, the Rolls-Royce Eagle, was made in 1915. It was the first engine to make a non-stop trans-Atlantic crossing by aeroplane. It wasn’t a jet engine however; jet engines came about soon after WWII.
2. The iconic hood ornament — the Spirit of Ecstasy — is the result of an illicit affair. Also, it's worth $40 million...
It’s modeled after a woman named Eleanor Thornton; she had a decade-long open-secret affair with a man at the forefront of early car culture. Her lover was both wealthy and wanted a nice hood ornament, so he commissioned a sculptor to put Eleanor on the front of the car. In some of the earlier models she has her finger to her lips as a nod to their secret love. Fast forward many years, When BMW bought Rolls-Royce in 2002, Volkswagen owned the rights to the ornament. BMW paid $40 million so that they could make Rolls-Royces with the winged lady on the front. You can get it on yours in gold or illuminated crystal. Plus, you can lower the Spirit of Ecstasy down into the grill if you’re afraid of thieves.
3. Charles Stewart Rolls, one half of the eponymous carmaker, was the first man to fly across the English Channel and back.
He was an avid aviator, and flew his Wright Flyer over the Channel and back in 95 minutes. In 1906, he won the world’s most famous motorcycle race using a car. Today, the Isle of Man TT is a bucket list item for any motorcycle enthusiast, but in 1906, there was a category for cars. Charles Rolls entered two cars, and won. Unfortunately however, a not so positive record of his was that he was also the first Brit to die in a plane crash. The tail of that Wright Flyer fell off and he fell to his death on July 12th, 1910.
4. The first Rolls-Royce model ran a ridiculous 14,371 miles almost non-stop, back in 1907.
They drove it back and forth between Glasgow and London 27 times, a number that was pretty much unfathomable back then and established the brand as a player in the motoring world.
5. They didn’t build their own bodies until after WWII.
Like many early manufacturers, RR would build the best chassis they could, put the best engine they could in the chassis, and let specialized coachbuilders handle the body. This led to some interesting designs, like the famous one made for an Indian Maharaja.
6. The “R” airplane engine was the fastest thing on earth.
It powered a Supermarine S6B to over 400 mph back in 1931, and won the ultra competitive Schneider Trophy air race. Not only that, it the fastest thing ON water too. Sir Henry Segrave set the water speed record in this boat, hit a log in the process, and died shortly after they told him he set the record. On water, under water, it was also the fastest thing on land. In the early 1930s, a supercharged R was dropped into “Blue Bird," and the car topped 300 mph. Hennessee and Koenigsegg have some catching up to do.
Sir Henry Royce made the initial engineering sketches of that engine while on a beach. He was walking with his top engineers. What, your boss doesn’t take you for long walks on the beach? Anyhow, when they figured out how to make it not blow up, it helped beat the Nazis. The Merlin engine was designed to give the same performance, but last longer. It succeeded, and became the heart and soul of the legendary Spitfire fighter plane.
7. Rolls-Royce was suping up Mustangs decades before the Americans.
On little more than a hunch, they dropped the Merlin engine into a P-51 Mustang, transforming it from a very good low-altitude plane, to one of the best warplanes ever built.
8. Rolls-Royce makes nuclear reactors. Wonder if they come with a champagne chest too.
Under an agreement dating back to the 1950s, Rolls-Royce makes its own nuclear reactors for British submarines with some U.S. tech help, in exchange for RR helping the U.S. make subs a little quieter.
9. They still make some of the world’s best jet engines.
Rolls-Royce jets power everything from Gulfstreams and 777s to British Harriers, and they powered the iconic Concorde past Mach 1. Did you really expect the best passenger jet of all time to have something other than a Rolls-Royce engine?
10. Henry Royce invented the adjustable shock absorber while on his deathbed.
He felt the first Rolls-Royce-produced Bentley was too fast, and needed a better way to control the suspension. He drew up some plans, handed them to his nurse, and died the next day. Now, adjustable shocks are on pretty much every serious race car, and loads of street cars.