Manchester electrical engineer Henry Royce built a batch of three Decauville inspired 10hp twin-cylinder cars under his own name in 1904.  Lord Llangattock's surprising son, the Hon. C. S. Rolls was looking for a light car of quality to sell alongside the Continental imports in his West London motor agency.  The two combined to create a motoring legend Rolls-Royce.

After producing sound two, three and four cylinder models of 10, 15 and 20 hp, not quite so good sixes of 30 hp and a dreadful V8 (the "Legalimit"), in 1906 Rolls-Royce launched the immortal 40/50 hp six, known from 1907 as the "Silver Ghost".  Even though its design was sound rather than original, it was built with Royce's consummate devotion to the highest engineering ideals.

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The Ghost survived until 1925 (joined in 1922 by a 20 hp) and was supplanted by the ohv New Phantom, a transitional design which gave way to the more comprehensively revised Phantom II in 1929.  That year the 20 hp grew up into the 20/25, succeeded in 1936 by the 25/30 (which developed into the Wraith in 1938).  The Phantom III of 1936-39 was a magnificent V12 of 7,341cc, often marred by clumsy coachwork, and whose engine, with hydraulic tappets, was prohibitively costly to overhaul.

Post WWII Rolls-Royce moved from Derby (where they had been based since 1908) to Crewe, and restarted production in 1947 with the Silver Wraith.  This was followed in 1949 by the Silver Dawn, the first Rolls-Royce to have standardized steel coachwork.  The six cylinder engine line continued until 1959, followed by a 6,231cc V8, used both on the Silver Cloud and Phantom V models (the Phantom IV had been a 16-off 5,675cc straight-eight).  Integral construction and all-round independent suspension came with the 1965 Silver Shadow, direct ancestor of the magnificent Corniche and Camargue models.


In 1980 Rolls-Royce Motors was acquired by Vickers.  In 1998 Vickers decided to sell Rolls-Royce Motors.  The leading contender seemed to be BMW, who already supplied engines and other components for Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars.  However their final offer of £340m was outbid by Volkswagen, who offered £430m.

However Rolls-Royce plc, the aero-engine maker, decided it would license certain essential trademarks (the Rolls-Royce name and logo) not to VW, but to BMW, with whom it had recently had joint business ventures.  VW had bought rights to the "Spirit of Ecstasy" mascot and the shape of the radiator grille, but it lacked rights to the Rolls-Royce name in order to build the cars.  Likewise, BMW lacked rights to the grille and mascot.  BMW bought an option on the trademarks, licensing the name and "RR" logo for £40m, a deal that many commentators thought was a bargain for possibly the most valuable property in the deal.  VW claimed that it had only really wanted Bentley anyway, and in sales terms this was the stronger brand, with Bentley models out selling the equivalent Rolls Royce by around two to one.


BMW and VW arrived at a solution.  From 1998 to 2002 BMW would continue to supply engines for the cars and would allow use of the names, but this would cease on January 1, 2003.  On that date, only BMW would be able to name cars "Rolls-Royce", and VW's former Rolls-Royce/Bentley division would build only cars called "Bentley". 

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