Cars A To Z: R

Rolls-Royce is really just a subsidiary of BMW. Of course, that has only been the case for the last two decades; the Rolls-Royce name has existed for almost 120 years.

Upper-class Charles Rolls (son of Lord and Lady Llangattock) met workhorse engineer Frederick Royce (who had made a name for himself building cranes) in May of 1904. The latter was already building cars while the former was already selling them. Rolls was impressed with Royce’s cars and agreed to sell every one he could produce as long as the car was sold under both names. The rest is history.

The first car sold as a Rolls-Royce was the Rolls-Royce 10, as in 10 horsepower, which was unveiled in Paris in December of 1904. The cars quickly acquired a reputation as “the best car in the world” although, sadly, Charles Rolls would not see much of the company success as he died in a plane crash in 1910. He was the first Briton to die in a powered airplane accident.

Rolls-Royce began manufacturing airplane engines in World War I and began developing jet engines during World War II. Much of the company legacy stems from aircraft engines.

Many people are far more qualified than I to discuss the development of Rolls-Royce automobiles and to write a 500-1,000 word history of the company. I think I first became really aware of Rolls-Royce after seeing this:



This entry from Automobiles Of The World by Albert Lewis and Walter Musciano first made Rolls-Royce something real for me as opposed to some nebulous concept. For one thing, this was the only car in the book that had a page all to itself. I purchased this book while in high school in the late 1970s to help me with my senior year History paper, The Development Of The Automobile And Its Effect on 20th-Century American Society.

Rolls-Royce has had American connections for much of its history. The expensive Camargue pictured above had a General Motors Turbo-Hydramatic automatic transmission. Rolls-Royce built the “spiritual” predecessor of that transmission, the original Hydra-Matic, under license from GM from 1952 to 1967 and, obviously, used the TH transmission in its cars.

What many of you may not know is that Rolls-Royce opened a factory in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1921. The company wanted to avoid customs duties levied on the cars, by this time many of their automobiles were sold in the US, as well as to provide additional manufacturing capacity. This factory built almost 3,000 cars during its ten “official” years in existence. The Great Depression was a significant factor in the cessation of production at the Springfield factory although supposedly cars were still built from the existing stock of parts after 1931.

In 1934, Brewster & Company, which had been part of Rolls-Royce of America since 1925, began building cars with Rolls-Royce type bodies on Ford chassis. The parent company in England protested so Rolls-Royce of America became the Springfield Manufacturing Company, but continued to import Rolls-Royce cars from England until it went into bankruptcy in 1935.

In 1931, Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley, which at the time was a small builder of primarily sports and race cars. (Bentley was a victim of the Great Depression.) Rolls-Royce stopped production of the new Bentley 8 Litre, which was threatening sales of their current Phantom, disposed of remaining Bentley assets and just used the Bentley name and its reputation.

After a long series of events including receivership, nationalization by the British government to save the aircraft engine business, re-privatization and merger with Vickers Limited in 1980, Rolls-Royce ended up as a division of BMW in 2003. That is an interesting story unto itself.

As I understand it, Vickers decided to sell Rolls-Royce in 1997. They reached an agreement to sell the company to BMW in 1998. However, somehow, Volkswagen persuaded Vickers to sell it Rolls-Royce by offering about 90 million more pounds than BMW. The latter was already building engines for Rolls-Royce AND had acquired the rights and license to the name and logo (but not the mascot) as part of a deal with the aircraft engine division of Rolls-Royce.

BMW threatened to exercise its right to stop building engines for Rolls-Royce and eventually came to an agreement with Volkswagen that enabled it to continue to use the Rolls-Royce name to build cars although, technically, the history and legacy of the original Rolls-Royce company now belong to Volkswagen, including the right to build cars under the Bentley name.



From The Beaulieu Encyclopedia Of The Automobile a picture of a Rolls-Royce ad. I apologize if I didn’t write enough about specific Rolls-Royce models to suit the tastes of many readers.

As a company, Rolls-Royce seems to be doing well in spite of world conditions. In 2021, the company recorded the highest sales figure in its history at 5,586 cars, up 49% from 2020. Even 2020’s figure was good by historical Rolls-Royce standards. Here is a picture of one of the modern Rolls-Royce models that is part of the recent success, a Dawn convertible:



Even if I could easily afford to buy one, I don’t think I would purchase a modern “Roller.” However, as I have often written I am not a big fan of hypotheticals because I think very few of us know how we would behave in an “out of context” situation, a scenario very far removed from our current lives.






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Not Much On Tap

I don’t have much to offer today. The last few months have been stressful; perhaps that explains my bouts of lack of inspiration.

(Probably) on this day in 1902, the first Cadillac was given its first test drive by Alanson Brush, the engineer who had contributed so much to its development. Brush later founded his own car company that manufactured about 15,000 cars from 1907 to 1911. I used the parenthetical because some sources claim the date was October 20, others October 16 or earlier. Too many people today, even very intelligent people, don’t understand that for the vast majority of human history, and even into the 20th century, record-keeping was nowhere near as “precise” as it is today.

Cadillac displayed its earliest vehicles at the New York Auto Show in January, 1903 and, supposedly, the cars generated so much interest that the company had 2,000 orders by the end of the event. Cadillac did build about 2,500 cars during “model year” 1903, which ranked second in US sales behind Oldsmobile’s 4,000. Obviously from RM Sotheby’s, a picture of a 1903 Cadillac Model A Runabout:


See the source image


Once again, I will offer the opinion that Cadillac should develop and sell an ultra-luxury car, even if it’s an electric or hybrid. There are no American cars on a par with Bentley, Rolls-Royce, etc., but the fact that the US is the largest market for such cars tells me that there’s a place for an American-made entry.

Speaking of Rolls-Royce, on this day in 1935 the company introduced the Phantom III, its first car powered by a V-12 engine. The Phantom III was like Duesenbergs of the same time period in that the car came from Rolls-Royce with just a chassis and drivetrain and the bodywork was completed by the coachbuilder of the buyer’s or dealer’s choice.

The V-12 had a displacement of 447 cubic inches, but even with its size and state of the art (for the time) twin ignition system, because the Phantom III could weigh more than 7,000 pounds fully assembled (the chassis and drivetrain weighed over 4,000 pounds), the car could probably not exceed 90 MPH. The Phantom III was only built until 1939, although the last chassis was fitted with a body and delivered to its owner in 1947. Something called World War II got in the way. A picture of a 1938 Phantom III from Blackhawk Collection:


See the source image


I continue to hope against hope that the recently passed bill allowing for low volume reproduction of classic cars will lead the way for cars that look like this to be seen once again on the road. I probably shouldn’t hold my breath or I’ll suffocate.







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Fractious Friday

A follow up to this post: American Jews are under assault from both sides of the political “spectrum.” The neoNazi faction of the extreme right loathes Jews as they loathe anyone who is not exactly like they are. The moronically clueless SJWs of the extreme left also dislike Jews. Why? My theory is that the relative success of Jews is a stick in the eye of their belief that only government can help those they feel are disadvantaged. Almost all of whatever success Jews have achieved in the US has not been the result of government programs. The clueless SJWs also perceive Jews to be part of the oppressor class. Ironic, isn’t it?


In 1900, nearly 18 percent of males born in the United States died before their first birthday; today, cumulative mortality does not reach 18 percent until age 62. That’s a fact. It is my very strong opinion that only two developments explain that radical improvement: modern sanitation and modern medicine. In this country, most people are not really living healthy lives.

Politicians need to play on people’s fears and exaggerate, or even invent out of whole cloth, problems so politicians will seem to be needed. If things, in general, are getting better then why do we need more government programs? That might seem like an odd thing to write in light of the last year, but the last year is an exception.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Think for yourself!


This CNBC article reports that Rolls-Royce hit a new sales record in the first quarter of 2021. They delivered 1,380 cars in the first three months of the year, a 62% increase from the same period last year.

The Cullinan SUV (yes, Rolls-Royce makes an SUV) and the new Ghost are especially popular. From a picture of a 2020 Rolls-Royce Ghost:


See the source image


I tried to capture a picture of the Ghost from Rolls-Royce’s website, but was unable to do so. Of course, Rolls-Royce is really “just” a division of BMW and has been since 2003. The cars are still built in the UK, though.

The base MSRP for the Ghost is $332,000. I like this copy from the company website: “All-wheel drive establishes newfound versatility and on-road dynamism without compromising the Magic Carpet ride.” (Of course, now I hear the song “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf in my head.)

In this part of Arizona, seeing a Rolls-Royce is not that uncommon. Of course, the luxury make sales complex about 10 miles from our house sells and services Rolls-Royce. Maybe I’ll take some pictures of the Ghost and the Dawn, the two-door Rolls-Royce, the next time I’m down there.

Do any of you have a desire to own a Rolls-Royce? I would have been afraid to own one in the mid-Atlantic, but not here. Yes, I hope I am not jinxing myself or my wonderful wife. Move or no move, it is still hell to live inside my head.








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