Rolls-Royce began with a casual meeting 116 years ago

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Today, following the break from production forced upon it by the pandemic, Rolls-Royce restarted car production at Goodwood—exactly 116 years to the day after Charles Rolls and Henry Royce met at the Midland Hotel in Manchester to talk business for the first time. Henry Royce was an engineer who went further than most to create excellent engines. Charles Rolls was an aristocrat and keen motorist also experienced in selling imported cars. The two met on 4 May, 1904, after which Rolls declared of Royce: “I have met the greatest engineer in the world.” Rolls-Royce was founded as a private company in 1906, though just four years later, Rolls would die in an airplane crash.

With Rolls’ business partner Claude Johnson stepping into the role of Managing Director of the new Rolls-Royce company, Sir Henry Royce kept coming up with new designs at his home in West Wittering, just ten miles down the road from the current Goodwood plant.

Today, the company says that, while COVID-19 “is possibly the biggest test Rolls-Royce has ever faced, it’s certainly not the first.” In this field, the first was 1918’s global pandemic, the Spanish Flu; and history has thrown quite a few events at the automaker since, including its entering of voluntary liquidation in 1971. What’s for sure is that, though the Spanish Flu was not gone from Europe by 1919, Rolls-Royce’s 1917 modification of its first engine—the 300-hp Eagle VIII—was strong enough in a pair to power the first successful transatlantic flight that year. Starting from St. John’s, Newfoundland and heading for County Galway in Ireland, British adventurers Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown flew into the unknown.

As you would expect, a hundred years later, Rolls-Royce came up with a 50-unit special edition called Wraith Eagle VIII to celebrate their achievement:

Starting today, Rolls-Royce employees can once again be just as busy at Goodwood as the inhabitants of the six traditional beehives they have on site. With those happy bees producing what Rolls-Royce calls “the world’s most exclusive honey” and expected to break volume records this year, your ultra-luxury automobile shouldn’t be far off its original delivery schedule either.

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