Mention the name Rolls Royce and probably the first thing you think of is the quintessentially British luxury cars, the brand that says “look at me, I’ve made it”, beloved by rappers, pop stars, entrepreneurs and royalty.
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But the cars are only small part of a much bigger business that helped change the world as we know it, so what else do Rolls Royce do, other than make rather posh cars.
The Rolls Royce that you see to today is quite a different business to how it started in 1906 with the collaboration of Henry Royce, a car builder and engineer and Charles Rolls, the owner of one of the first quality car dealerships.
Whilst Rolls Royce started out making luxury cars, it soon entered the aero engine market during world war 1 because of the quality of their engineering, starting with a contract to make 50 radial engines under license from Renault.
Ironically Charles Rolls who was an early aviator was killed in an air accident in 1910, just four years after the companies’ formation and gained the unenvied title of being the first Briton to be killed in a powered aeroplane accident.
During the first world war, Henry Royce designed the companies first aero engine called the Eagle, based in part on an enlarged version of a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost car engine.
After the war Rolls Royce Eagle engines powered the first non-stop transatlantic flight by Alcock and Brown in 1919 and the first flight from England to Australia, which is a testament to their reliability even in those early days.
In the 1930’s the aero engine side of the business produced one of the most memorable engines ever to be made, the 27 litre Merlin V12. This was the last engine to be designed by remaining founder Henry Royce before his death in 1933.
The Merlin V12 went on to power some of the most iconic and effective fighters and bombers used by the allies in world war 2 including the Supermarine Spitfire, Hawker Hurricane, the Avro Lancaster and the North American P-51 Mustang, the engine of which was built in the US under license by Packard.
In all over 200,000 Merlin’s were produced and because of the engine’s performance and durability, they are credited with being one of the factors in providing victory for the Allies.
Before the end of the war, Rolls-Royce took the first Jet engine developed by Frank Whittle to produce the Rolls-Royce RB.23 Welland, Britons first production jet engine which was fitted to the Gloster Meteor in 1943.
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CGI video and factory & engine footage credit Roll-Royce Holdings PLC