1950 Royal Family begins its affinity with Rolls-Royce

The long affinity between the Royal Family and Rolls-Royce begins, as then-Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh take delivery of the first Phantom IV. The model itself is the most exclusive in Rolls-Royce history, with only 18 being produced – and only available to royalty and heads of state.

1906 The 40/50 hp appears at Olympia Motor Show The 40/50 hp appears at Olympia Motor Show

Soon to be known as ‘the Silver Ghost’, the 40/50 hp model is first exhibited at the Olympia Motor Show in London, crowning a period of rapid development for the young company. Appearing on the CS Rolls & Co. stand, the six-cylinder model was represented by both a limousine version, and a rolling chassis – ready for bodywork from a buyer’s favourite coachbuilder. While it would not cement the Rolls-Royce legend and earn its famous soubriquet – and the title of 'best car in the world’ from motoring bible Autocar – until the following year, already the 40/50 hp was a class apart in the eyes of some observers. A contemporary report of the motor show says: ‘In general design and mechanical detail it would be hard to find a chassis at the show so complete as the Rolls-Royce’.

Launch of the Phantom I


The Phantom replaces the Silver Ghost. Later known as the Phantom I as successive generations were born, the car has a straight six-cylinder, 7.7-litre engine and is built both in the UK and in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Launch of the Phantom III


The first V12-engined car produced by Rolls-Royce, the Phantom III is introduced. Considered by some to be among the finest cars ever made – with its advanced suspension and 100mph performance – it was the last of the large pre-War Rolls-Royce cars.

Launch of the Silver Dawn


The first Rolls-Royce to be sold with a standard steel body, the Silver Dawn shares chassis and engine similarities with the Bentley MkVI. Many Silver Dawns are exported.

Rolls-Royce and The Royal Family - The Bahamas


The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh ride in a Rolls-Royce in Nassau, during a tour of the Caribbean members of the Commonwealth.

Birthplace of the first cars

Birthplace of the first cars


Barely in his 20s, Henry Royce starts his electrical business in 1884 at this workshop in Cooke Street, Hulme, Manchester. By 1894 he has transitioned from making electric light fittings and domestic bell sets, to producing more complicated electrical equipment – such as motors and switch gear. While his work during this time focuses on producing industrial cranes, in 1903 Royce buys a Decauville vehicle – and his dissatisfaction with this early car puts him on the road to seeking perfection in his own creations. The following year the first Royce car is completed at Cooke Street.


The Phantom V, which features a longer chassis than the Phantom IV, is introduced. It uses a 6.2-litre V8 engine and is less exclusive than its predecessor, with more than 500 being built. While it is not reserved for royalty, no less than the king of rock and roll – Elvis Presley – becomes an owner.

Phantoms in showbiz


A distinctive yellow Phantom II shares top billing with Omar Sharif, Ingrid Bergman and Rex Harrison in the film The Yellow Rolls-Royce. In the same year John Lennon takes delivery of a Phantom V. Leaving the factory finished in plain white, Lennon has the car painted first black, then the famous psychedelic livery which has made it one of the most distinctive pieces of pop memorabilia of the 20th Century.

Royce’s first creations


After tinkering with improvements to his second-hand Decauville car bought the previous year, Royce makes his first chassis. Not yet a ‘Rolls-Royce’ – the collaboration would begin just weeks later – the cars mark the initial step on a legendary journey. Here, one of those first three cars is pictured (not with Royce on board) outside the original Royce Works building in Cooke Street, Manchester. However, Royce first drove one of these cars to his Knutsford home, some 15 miles away, on April 1 1904, though legend has amended this to March 31 – possibly to avoid association with April Fool’s Day.

Launch of the Silver Seraph


The Silver Seraph, powered by a BMW V12 engine, is produced for two years either side of the new millennium. It is the final Rolls-Royce to be built at Crewe, though Bentley stays on at the site.

Launch of the Corniche


Available as either a convertible or a hard-top, the two-door Corniche is based on the Silver Shadow. It features a hand-made body and the by-now standard 6.75-litre V8 engine.

Birth of the evocative Wraith name


The final ‘small’ Rolls-Royce model, the Wraith – more fully known as the 25/30 hp Wraith – was produced alongside the Phantom III, and was the first model where the ‘kneeling’ Spirit of Ecstasy became really popular. Its evocative name has been reprised several times throughout the history of Rolls-Royce: in the Silver Wraith of the 40s and 50s; a long-wheelbase variant of the Silver Shadow II; and most recently in the announcement of the dynamic Wraith coupé, to be unveiled in March 2013.


Launch of the 15 hp


The first and only three-cylinder car made by Henry Royce, the 15 hp was the second car to bear the legendary Rolls-Royce name. Costing £500 for the chassis alone, the 15 hp was unusual among the other early models – during this period of rapid development before the standardising of the Silver Ghost (40/50 hp) platform in 1906, it was the only car not to feature pairs of cylinders.

Early motorsport success


While the name Rolls-Royce would become synonymous with poise, presence and luxury, in the early years the peerless mechanicals of the cars also made them a force in the motorsport arena. Here founder Charles Rolls corners a Light Twenty model at speed during the 1906 Tourist Trophy on the Isle of Man – taking first place overall.

Opening of the Derby factory

July 9, 1908

Rolls-Royce moves into its first dedicated car factory at Nightingale Road, Derby, with production focusing on the 40/50 model – soon to be immortalised as the Silver Ghost. The custom-built plant is opened by Lord Montague of Beaulieu.

ilver Ghost breaks record


The original Silver Ghost completes a 14,371-mile journey virtually non-stop, shattering the era’s expectations for reliability, and leading the Rolls-Royce to be dubbed ‘the best car in the world’. The success of this car leads all similar models – produced from 1906, and officially called the 40/50 hp – to be dubbed ‘Silver Ghost’, a name which sticks until production ends in 1925.

Birth of the Spirit of Ecstasy


The first version of the Spirit of Ecstasy appears. Designed by sculptor Charles Sykes – and rumoured to be modelled on Eleanor Thornton, the mistress of Lord Montagu – the ornament becomes a legendary symbol of Rolls-Royce.

Launch of the Silver Shadow I


TThe first Rolls-Royce to feature a monocoque chassis, the Silver Shadow I makes its debut. With a body designed by John Blatchley, the car could reach 118mph.he first Rolls-Royce to feature a monocoque chassis, the Silver Shadow I makes its debut. With a body designed by John Blatchley, the car could reach 118mph.

Launch of the Carmargue


Based on the Silver Shadow, the Carmargue was a large five-seater – despite only being a two-door style. Its more angular looks were designed by Italian styling house Pininfarina, and featured an unusual four-degree forward tilt to the famous radiator.

Rolls-Royce opens US factory


Rolls-Royce opens a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts, to cope with demand from the burgeoning US market. The factory – the only site Rolls-Royce cars have been produced outside of England – closed in 1931 as the Great Depression shook the world economy.

Launch of the Corniche


Available as either a convertible or a hard-top, the two-door Corniche is based on the Silver Shadow. It features a hand-made body and the by-now standard 6.75-litre V8 engine.

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