The history of one of the most famous car brands in history starts with Englishman Henry Royce in 1894. That year Royce started an electrical and mechanical business. By 1904 he owned a small factory in Manchester where he built his first car, a two-cylinder model named Royce 10.
Royce met with Charles Rolls in 1904, right after the former built his very first automobile. Rolls owned one of the first car dealerships in Britain, C.S.Rolls & Co. based in Fulham. The car salesman was impressed with the Royce 10, so he agreed to buy all the cars Henry Royce could produce. Initially, that meant four models: a 10 hp two-cylinder model, a 15 hp three-cylinder one, a 20 hp four-cylinder and a 30 hp six-cylinder car. They would all be sold under the name Rolls-Royce.
Rolls-Royce Limited was formed on 15 March 1906 and production started to grow. Therefore, a new factory was needed. It was finished in 1908 on the edge of Derby.
After the First World War Rolls-Royce expanded to America, building a new factory in Springfield, Massachusetts. In its ten years of existence, from 1921 to 1931, 1,701 Springfield Ghosts were built there.
In 1931, after the start of the Great Depression, Rolls-Royce bought Bentley, a small sports car producer which was seen as a potential rival. The new owners designed a new lineup of cars for Bentley, one that put forward an image of civilized sportiness. After the Second World War, up until 2002, when the two brands' fortunes would part, Bentley cars were nothing more than rebadged Rolls-Royces with different grills, minor differences in the interior and tweaked engines.
Rolls-Royce's reputation as the ultimate luxury brand was cemented in the 50s and 60s when a longstanding relationship with the British royal family was established.
The 1970s was a challenging decade for Rolls-Royce but, following re-launch as two separate companies. By 1980, British defense company Vickers had bought Rolls-Royce Motors Limited, producing Rolls-Royce alongside Bentley motor cars. The new Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Limited was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1985.
The 1990s marked a new era for Rolls-Royce, as BMW bought the brand. At the same time, Volkswagen acquired Bentley, so, starting from 2003, the two brands' fortunes were separated, and they started producing completely different models.