May 4th – On This Day….
Rolls-Royce is celebrating the 116th anniversary of the first meeting between its founders, Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on 4th May 1904 – an encounter after which the motor car, and the world of luxury, would never be the same again. It is with a fitting sense of historical symmetry that the day also marks the resumption of production at the marque’s Goodwood manufacturing plant, which had been temporarily suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The marque has always risen to every challenge with ingenuity, commitment and solidarity, and so while coronavirus is possibly the biggest test Rolls-Royce has ever faced, it’s certainly not the first.
When they first set up the company, Rolls and Royce shared a vision to make the future of motoring extraordinary. Henry Royce, an engineer, had a desire for perfection and an innate work ethic that later became the pillar of Rolls-Royce’s philosophy: “Take the best that exists and make it better.” Charles Rolls, an aristocrat, was an accomplished motorist, experienced in selling imported foreign motor cars. His business partner, Claude Johnson, stepped into the role of Managing Director of Rolls and Royce’s venture and expanded the fledgling company’s reputation.
The company they founded has faced extraordinary challenges and difficulties throughout its 116 year history. Though still in its infancy, Rolls-Royce endured in 1918 when Spanish Flu swept across the world. A decade later, it again stood firm when the Great Depression laid waste to the global economy, and weathered the financial crash of 2008, just 80 years after that. Over the years that followed, Rolls Royce withstood the shocks of economic and political crises both at home and overseas, embodying constancy in an uncertain world.
For the current generation of the Rolls-Royce family, working from home has been a new experience. For Sir Henry Royce, however, it was entirely normal. Indeed, some of his most influential designs were produced in the private studio he maintained at his home – Elmstead – at West Wittering, just eight miles from the present-day manufacturing plant and global head office.
Royce clearly found inspiration and creative energy in the peace, quiet and solitude that working away from the bustle of the office and factory provided. Famously, while one day out walking on the nearby beach, he sketched the initial design for the R-series aero engine in the sand with his walking stick. A later development of that design, the Merlin, would earn everlasting acclaim as the engine which powered the legendary Supermarine Spitfire.
CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös revealed that: “We are living through historic times. In marking this amazing anniversary, we are taking a moment to reflect on what 116 years have taught us. As a company, we can draw strength from the knowledge that although Rolls-Royce has faced uncertainty many times over the years, it has emerged more resilient and confident, with its fundamental principles unaltered. Our present challenges may be unprecedented, but as we look to the future, I am confident there is no company in the world better prepared to overcome them.”
For more information, go to www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com.