Rolls-Royce is one of the world's premier ultra-luxury automobile makers, with a rich and storied history that only fairly recently saw its current owner - BMW - take the helm.
The brand we know today as Rolls-Royce began life in 1904 under the name of Rolls-Royce Limited, the fruit of a partnership between dealership proprietor Charles Rolls and engineer Sir Henry Royce.
In its earliest days, the Rolls-Royce focused on smaller,...
often two- or three-cylinder cars, but by 1907 the brand launched the powerful, sophisticated Silver Ghost to great acclaim and never looked back. Smooth, comfortable and well-crafted, the Silver Ghost was hailed as the "best car in the world" by the press and would serve as a template for all subsequent Rolls-Royce models.
However, Rolls-Royce was forced to put its civilian automotive operations to the side with the outbreak of World War 1. During the course of the war, the company not only created armored vehicles but also began designing and manufacturing engines for fighter planes. The latter endeavor proved particularly successful for Rolls-Royce; it continued producing aircraft engines after the war and, by the late 1920s, this became its primary business.
In 1931, Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley, a brand with a similar focus on premium automobiles. For decades afterwards, the two produced essentially identical vehicles with largely cosmetic differences.
As the years went go by, Rolls-Royce's reputation for excellence continued to grow thanks to elegant, coddling machines like the Silver Wraith of the 40s, the Phantom IV of the 50s and the Silver Shadow of the 60s.
But by 1971, the enormous cost of developing a new jet engine sent the brand into bankruptcy, and its automotive division (including Bentley) and aeronautical arm were subsequently split up and nationalized.
That automotive unit would later be acquired in part by Volkswagen in 1998, but due to a split of assets, BMW ended up with Rolls-Royce, vehicles and VW held onto Bentley.
Today, under BMW's watch, Rolls-Royce produces a range of sedans and coupes, including the Phantom sedan, the Phatom Drophead coupe and convertible, the "entry-level" Ghost and the Wraith coupe. Whatever the model, Rolls-Royce is about customization and luxury, allowing buyers to personalize their car on a level unheard of in standard passenger cars - ranging from countless leathers and wood finishes, to unique paint colors and combinations.
No matter the options specified, Rolls-Royces are the epitome of opulence, refinement and class, purchased by the most discerning of buyers and synonymous with sumptuousness.