The iconic legend
Rolls-Royce had crafted the image of “best” from its inception.
Charles Stewart Rolls was a car sales entrepreneur with discerning clients, and Frederick Henry Royce was an electrical engineer who began building cars.
Mr. Rolls had a feel for the quality that customers wanted, and the perfectionist Mr. Royce had a knack for engineering solutions to mitigate automotive difficulties of the day, including poor roads and subpar metallurgy.
At a time when owning any automobile was a luxury, the early Rolls-Royces set benchmarks for reliability and durability under challenging conditions. Near-fanatical attention to machining internal engine parts, for example, ensured smoothness, quietness and reliable operation.
Rolls-Royce focused not on sheer power, but rather on the flexibility that its high-torque engines provided. In the decades before automatic transmissions, the ability to do most driving in top gear was highly prized, especially by chauffeurs.
Endurance, for car and country
The attribute of endurance is what mainstream carmakers today use as a selling point. But it was Rolls-Royce that set the early standard.
A Rolls-Royce named the Silver Ghost, powered by a huge inline six-cylinder engine, set 15,000 miles worth of durability records throughout England and Scotland in 1906.
That feat of durability launched the production Silver Ghost to a run of 7,800 cars over the next 18 years. The company built 1,700 of those in its Springfield, Massachusetts factory, which also built its successor model, the Phantom, until 1931.
Early design signatures
The Rolls-Royce radiator grille quickly became the symbol of “the best car in the world.”
As the marque progressed through the Phantom, Phantom II, and Phantom III, its distinctive look and its place in the automotive hierarchy was solidified.
Back then, Rolls-Royce built a finished chassis, and customers selected the body from the world’s best coachbuilders, among them Gurney Nutting, Hooper, and two that would eventually be acquired and then merged by Rolls-Royce, H.J. Mulliner and Park Ward.
Today, those pre-war Rolls-Royce models are popular for classic motoring events, and the cars are well up to the task. Premier Financial Services has leased many Rolls-Royces from the prewar era.
Rolls-Royce goes to war
Rolls-Royce made its mark in WWII with the design and manufacture of the huge V-12 Merlin and Griffon aero engines that powered, among others, Britain’s Lancaster bomber and Supermarine Spitfire fighter.
So remember that when you peer out the window of an airliner and see the Rolls-Royce brand mark on a jet engine, it’s the product of a company that separated from its automotive cousin long ago but still shares the trademark.
Satisfying the most demanding clientele
After the war, Rolls began building entire cars, including the bodies, while still making chassis available to coachbuilders.
The ultimate postwar bespoke Rolls was the Phantom IV, with only 18 made for heads of state, including British royalty, the Aga Khan III, the Shah of Iran, and Spain’s Generalissimo Francisco Franco.
The Silver Wraith (from the Dudley Moore movie “Arthur”) and Silver Dawn production models carried over pre-war engineering and design. The marque was slow to adopt such amenities as air conditioning, power windows and power steering. The 1956 Silver Cloud gradually eased Rolls into modernity, although the old six carried over until the marque’s aluminum V8 was ready in 1959.
Rolls had acquired Bentley in 1931, and by the 1950s Bentleys were offshoots of Rolls models. Coachbuilt models maintained exclusivity, although the Silver Cloud, even being a relatively higher-volume car, was still quite exclusive in a world of mass-produced Cadillacs.
Speaking of Cadillacs, by the 1960s, the Silver Cloud was simply outdated compared to mainstream luxury sedans. No offense intended, Cadillac.
Rolls rectified that situation with the 1965 Silver Shadow. Aside from the grille and headlight detailing, the Shadow looked nothing like any Rolls before it. It was the first Rolls with unibody construction and independent rear suspension. Good ideas were incorporated, such as hydraulic ride-leveling suspension licensed from Citroen and the Turbo Hydramatic transmission from General Motors.
The Silver Shadow was the marque’s most prolific model, with some 30,000 built over 15 years. The coupe and convertible were called Corniche, and the open car, a favorite among Hollywood elite, was built until 1995. The Silver Spirit was somewhat less successful, although the Bentley Turbo versions did much to return that marque to a separate, more sporting path.
A very strange divorce
The 1998 Silver Seraph, powered by a BMW V-12 and built for just four years, arrived in the middle of one of the automotive world’s strangest divorces.
Volkswagen outbid BMW to buy Rolls-Royce but then lost out on the trademarks, which BMW picked up for a relative song. When the legal dust settled, both great British marques continued, quite successfully.
BMW began the Rolls renaissance with the 2003 Phantom, which took design inspiration from the Silver Cloud and got a V12 from BMW. Going through a Series II update, the Phantom spawned coupe and convertible offshoots. In 2017, Rolls introduced the all-new Phantom VIII.
In the meantime, the marque for 2010 had introduced the “smaller” Ghost, also sharing BMW-based mechanicals, including a V12 engine. Like its Phantom big brother, the Ghost is available in an extended wheelbase version, and it also has a coupe offshoot, the Wraith. Rolls-Royce also created an SUV, the Cullinan, in 2020.
Leasing your Rolls-Royce with Premier Financial Services
Whether you want to experience the grandeur of a 1930s Rolls-Royce Phantom or one of the current models, your first call should be to Premier Financial Services for a Rolls-Royce Lease.
Premier has written hundreds of Rolls-Royce leases and has worked with franchised and independent Rolls-Royce dealers across the country. Our portfolio has included hundreds of great vintage and unique models, ranging from the 1942 Silver Ghost to 2020 Cullinan.