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Rolls Royce Limited

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Trading name

Ceased operations

Derby, United Kingdom

Rolls-Royce Limited

Former type
1906 private limited company1907 public listed company which entered voluntary liquidation in 19711971 fresh new government-owned corporation known as:Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited then; 1977 re-named Rolls-Royce Limited then; 1986 re-named Rolls-Royce plc

Aerospace and motor vehicle design and manufacturing

business (not 1906 company) bought by the British government in 1971 (too big to fail).British taxpayer-owned until:Motors sold to Vickers in 1980;Aerospace sold to public as Rolls-Royce plc in 1987

partnership of Rolls and Royce

15 March 1906, Manchester, United Kingdom

Rolls-Royce Limited owned a British luxury-car and aero engine manufacturing business founded in 1904 by Charles Stewart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce. Rolls-Royce Limited was incorporated on 15 March 1906 as a vehicle for their ownership of their Rolls-Royce business. Their business quickly developed a reputation for superior engineering quality, "best car in the world", building on F H Royce's existing standing. Rolls-Royce became a leading manufacturer of piston aero-engines after it was brought into building them by the First World War.


From 1940, Rolls-Royce participated in the development of the jet engine and built for itself, and retains, a pre-eminent position in aero engine development and manufacture for use in defence and civil aircraft.

In the late 1960s, Rolls-Royce Limited became hopelessly crippled by its mismanagement of development of its advanced RB211 jet engine and the consequent cost over-runs. In 1971 their financial collapse was dealt with by sale, at a price which took some years to negotiate, of the entire business to a new government-owned company, Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited. Insolvent Rolls-Royce Limited was put into liquidation. Everything that could be sold off was sold off but more than 45 years later there are still assets remaining to be sold.

Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited continued to trade and realise the surplus assets bought from the former company. BAC was sold almost immediately, the profitable but now financially insignificant car division transferred in 1973 to a new subsidiary, Rolls-Royce Motors Holdings Limited, was sold to Vickers in 1980.

In 1977 Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited, given the necessary consent, was re-named Rolls-Royce Limited. It remained nationalised until 1987 when, re-named Rolls-Royce plc, the government sold its shares to the public. Today it owns and operates Rolls-Royce's principal business though it is no longer listed on the stock exchange. Instead it has been a subsidiary of a listed holding company currently Rolls-Royce Holdings plc since 2003.

A marketing survey in 1987 showed there was only one brand name more widely known than Rolls-Royce. It was Coca-Cola.

Motor Cars

In 1884 Henry Royce started an electrical and mechanical business. He made his first car, a two-cylinder Royce 10, in his Manchester factory in 1904. Henry Royce was introduced to Charles Rolls at the Midland Hotel, Manchester on 4 May of that year. Rolls was proprietor of an early motor car dealership, C.S.Rolls & Co. in Fulham.

In spite of his preference for three- or four-cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the Royce 10, and in a subsequent agreement on 23 December 1904 agreed to take all the cars Royce could make. There would be four models:

  • a 10 hp (7.5 kW), two-cylinder model selling at £395 (£40,000 in 2014),
  • a 15 hp (11 kW) three-cylinder at £500 (£50,000 in 2014),
  • a 20 hp (15 kW) four-cylinder at £650 (£60,000 in 2014),
  • a 30 hp (22 kW) six-cylinder model priced at £890 (£90,000 in 2014),
  • All would be badged as Rolls-Royces, and be sold exclusively by Rolls. The first Rolls-Royce car, the Rolls-Royce 10 hp, was unveiled at the Paris Salon in December 1904.

    Rolls-Royce 40/50

    During 1906 Royce had been developing an improved six-cylinder model with more power than the Rolls-Royce 30 hp. Initially designated the 40/50 hp, this was Rolls-Royce's first all-new model. In March 1908 Claude Johnson, Commercial Managing Director and sometimes described as the hyphen in Rolls-Royce, succeeded in persuading Royce and the other directors that Rolls-Royce should concentrate exclusively on the new model, and all the earlier models were duly discontinued.

    The new 40/50 was responsible for Rolls-Royce's early reputation with over 6,000 built. Its chassis was used as a basis for the first British armoured car used in both world wars

    Rolls-Royce Eagle aero-engine

    Aero-engine manufacture began in 1914 because the government requested it. Rolls-Royce's Eagle, the first example was made in 1915, was the first engine to make a non-stop trans-Atlantic crossing by aeroplane when in June 1919 two Eagles powered the converted Vickers Vimy bomber on the Transatlantic flight of Alcock and Brown.

    Rolls-Royce Twenty

    After the First World War, Rolls-Royce successfully avoided attempts to encourage British car manufacturers to merge. Faced with falling sales of the 40/50 (later known as Silver Ghost) Rolls-Royce introduced the smaller, cheaper Twenty in 1922, effectively ending the one-model policy followed since 1908.

    Rolls-Royce Phantom

    After the introduction of the Phantom in 1925 the old 40/50 model was referred to as the Silver Ghost.


    In 1931 Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley the small sports/racing car maker and potential rival after the latter's finances failed to weather the onset of the Great Depression. Rolls-Royce stopped production of the new big Bentley 8 Litre, which was threatening sales of their current Phantom, disposed of remaining Bentley assets and made use of just the Bentley name and its repute. After some years of development Rolls-Royce produced a new quite different ultra-civilised medium-size range of Bentleys advertising them as "the silent sports car". They were very much in the Rolls-Royce mould. From soon after World War II until 2002 standard Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars were often very nearly identical apart from the radiator grille and minor details.

    In 1933, the colour of the Rolls-Royce radiator monogram was changed from red to black because the red sometimes clashed with the coachwork colour selected by clients, and not as a mark of respect for the passing of Royce as is commonly stated.


    The British government built a shadow factory in Crewe in 1938 for Rolls-Royce where they could build their Merlin and Griffon aero engines. In 1946 car production was moved there for space to construct bodies and to leave space for aero engines at Derby. The site was bought from the government in 1973. It is now Bentley Crewe

    Second World War

    Production focussed on aero engines but a variant of the Merlin engine, known as the Meteor, was developed for the Cromwell tank. The Meteor's development completed in 1943 the same team at the Belper foundry restarted work on an eight-cylinder car engine widening its uses and it became the pattern for the British Army's B range of petrol engines for post war combat vehicles in particular in Alvis's FV600 range, Daimler's Ferret, Humber's Hornet and Pig and Austin's Champ.

    Motor bodies

    After the war, in 1946, Rolls-Royce and Bentley car production moved to Crewe where they began to assemble complete Bentley cars with body pressings made by Pressed Steel Company. Previously they had built only the chassis, leaving the bodies to specialist coach-builders. In 1939 Rolls-Royce brought one of the specialist coachbuilders completely in-house by buying the remaining capital of Park Ward Limited which since 1936 in conjunction with Rolls-Royce had been building short production runs of all-metal saloon bodies on Bentley chassis.

    In 1959 Rolls-Royce bought coachbuilder H J Mulliner and the two businesses were put together as H J Mulliner Park Ward.

    Diesel engines Shrewsbury

    Luxury cars did not fit with the new mood of postwar austerity. After starting design and development of what became their C series diesel engine range in 1948 Rolls-Royce began to produce diesel engines in 1951. By 1955 it provided diesel engines for automotive, railway, industrial, earth-moving and marine use.

    Sentinel (Shrewsbury) Limited was bought in 1956. Sentinel made machine tools and industrial locomotives. Rolls-Royce took over Sentinel's Shrewsbury factory for diesel engine production and all its diesel work was transferred there.

    West Riding manufacturer of diesel shunting locomotives, Thomas Hill (Rotherham) Limited, was added to the group in 1963.

    In 1973 when Shrewsbury activities were put under the umbrella of new owner, Rolls-Royce Motors, the range of diesel engines included:

  • C range: 4, 6 and 8 cylinder engines with power output from 100 to 450 bhp. Used in generating sets, compressors etc, construction equipment, railway and other industrial purposes and marine propulsion.
  • Eagle: a modified version of the C range 6-cylinder engine named Eagle is used in heavy vehicles, their output 200 to 300 bhp.
  • D range: V engines with outputs from 400 to 750 bhp for generating sets, marine and railway applications.
  • Aero engines

    In 1907 Charles Rolls, whose interests had turned increasingly to flying, tried unsuccessfully to persuade Royce and the other directors to design an aero engine. When World War I broke out in August 1914 Rolls-Royce (and many others) were taken by surprise. As a manufacturer of luxury cars, Rolls-Royce was immediately vulnerable, and Claude Johnson thought the bank would withdraw its overdraft facility on which Rolls-Royce depended at that time. Nevertheless, believing that war was likely to be short-lived the directors initially decided not to seek government work making aero engines. However, this position was quickly reversed and Rolls-Royce was persuaded by the War Office to manufacture fifty air-cooled V8 engines under licence from Renault. Meanwhile, the Royal Aircraft Factory asked Rolls-Royce to design a new 200 hp (150 kW) engine. Despite initial reluctance they agreed, and during 1915 developed Rolls-Royce's first aero engine, the twelve-cylinder Eagle. This was quickly followed by the smaller six-cylinder Hawk, the 190 hp (140 kW) Falcon and, just before the end of the war, the larger 675 hp (503 kW) Condor.

    Throughout World War I, Rolls-Royce struggled to build aero engines in the quantities required by the War Office. However, with the exception of Brazil Straker in Bristol Rolls-Royce resisted pressure to license production to other manufacturers, fearing that the engines' much admired quality and reliability would risk being compromised. Instead the Derby factory was extended to enable Rolls-Royce to increase its own production rates. By the late 1920s, aero engines made up most of Rolls-Royce's business.

    Henry Royce's last design was the Merlin aero engine, which was first flown in prototype form in 1935, although he had died in 1933. This was developed from the R engine, which had powered a record-breaking Supermarine S.6B seaplane to almost 400 mph (640 km/h) in the 1931 Schneider Trophy. The Merlin was a powerful supercharged V12 engine and was fitted into many World War II aircraft: the British Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire, de Havilland Mosquito (twin-engine), Avro Lancaster (four-engine) (a development of the Avro Manchester with its unreliable Rolls-Royce Vulture engines), Vickers Wellington (twin-engine); it also transformed the American North American P-51 Mustang into a competitor for the best fighter of its time, its engine a Merlin engine built by Packard under licence. Over 160,000 Merlin engines were produced, including over 30,000 by the Ford Motor Company at Trafford Park, Manchester. During the war most Rolls-Royce flight testing of engines was carried out from Hucknall Aerodrome. The Merlin crossed over into military land-vehicle use as the Meteor powering the Centurion tank among others. Many Meteor engines used engine blocks and parts that failed requirements for high performance engines, but were suitable for use in the derated 480 kW (640 hp) Meteor.

    Rolls-Royce came into jet turbines through an exchange of assets with Rover and in the post-World War II period Rolls-Royce made significant advances in gas turbine engine design and manufacture. The Dart and Tyne turboprop engines were particularly important, enabling airlines to cut times for shorter journeys whilst jet airliners were introduced on longer services. The Dart engine was used in Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 Argosy, Avro 748, Fokker F27 Friendship, Handley Page Herald and Vickers Viscount aircraft, whilst the more powerful Tyne powered the Breguet Atlantique, Transall C-160 and Vickers Vanguard, and the SR.N4 hovercraft. Many of these turboprops are still in service.

    Amongst the jet engines of this period was the RB163 Spey, which powers the Hawker Siddeley Trident, BAC One-Eleven, Grumman Gulfstream II and Fokker F28 Fellowship.

    During the late 1950s and 1960s there was a significant rationalisation of all aspects of British aerospace and this included aero-engine manufacturers. In 1966 Rolls-Royce acquired Bristol Siddeley (which had resulted from the merger of Armstrong Siddeley and Bristol Aero Engines in 1959) and incorporated it as the Bristol Siddeley division. Bristol Siddeley, with its principal factory at Filton, near Bristol, had a strong base in military engines, including the Olympus, Viper, Pegasus (vectored thrust) and Orpheus. They were also manufacturing the Olympus 593 Mk610 to be used in Concorde in collaboration with SNECMA. They also had a turbofan project with SNECMA.

    Leavesden Aerodrome, Watford was originally owned by the Ministry of Defence and used during World War II for the manufacture of Mosquito and Halifax aircraft. For a number of years, Rolls-Royce used the site for the manufacture of helicopter engines until the site closed in June 1993. The former Rolls-Royce factory at Watford is now known as the Leavesden Film Studios and has produced world-famous films such as James Bond, Star Wars and Harry Potter.

    RB211 — the 1971 receivership and nationalisation

    The amalgamations and disappearances of the 1950s and 1960s left a small number of major airframe manufacturers based in only a few countries. The competition for the very large contracts to supply their engines grew intense. Expensive research and development became vital. Real profits came from the maintenance contracts which might peak a whole human generation later. By the 1980s it was said that each generation of aero engines cost around 10 times that of its parent.

    At this time Rolls-Royce employed 80,000 people and it was Britain's 14th largest company in terms of manpower. It was generally known that problems had recently arisen requiring government support of the RB211 programme as one outcome of intense financial competition with Pratt & Whitney and General Electric for the original RB211 contract.

    In the new year of 1971 financial problems caused largely by development of this new RB211 turbofan engine designed and developed for Lockheed Aircraft Corporation's new L-1011 TriStar led, after several government-provided cash subsidies, to the recognition Rolls-Royce had no resources left and it voluntarily entered receivership 4 February 1971.

    There were said to have been acrimonious telephone conversations between President and Prime Minister but these were subsequently denied. Responding to questions as to how the situation could have arisen the chief executive advised that in their calculations they were guided by the success of their estimates in the launching of their Spey engine.

    Had the government simply nationalised Rolls-Royce it would have been unable to avoid the obligations to Lockheed.

    The situation was handled in the usual manner with the assets being sold for cash, in this case to the government, leaving the massive liabilities to be dealt with by Rolls-Royce Limited using the funds realised by the sale. However the government would not fix a purchase price for the assets until the situation became clearer because without a continuing business many of them might be worthless. In the meantime the government would use the assets to continue the activities of the aero-engine, marine and industrial gas turbine and small engine divisions that were important to national defence, the collective programmes with other countries and to many air forces and civil airlines. A new company (1971) was incorporated that May to purchase substantially the whole of the undertakings and assets of the four divisions of Rolls-Royce connected with gas turbine engines. The original company, Rolls-Royce Limited, was placed in liquidation on 4 October 1971.

    Asking their own government for support Lockheed warned that a switch to either Pratt & Whitney or General Electric engines would delay production by an extra six months and might force Lockheed into bankruptcy.

    The receiver negotiated with Lockheed which consented to waive damages allowing the plant to be shut down. The continuing support of the trade creditors was also achieved by the receiver in spite of threats to demand immediate payments in full and to withdraw supplies. The first asset sold was British Aircraft Corporation bought equally by Vickers and GEC. The receiver floated Rolls-Royce Motors in 1973.

    New board

    The new owner, Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited, had among its board members Lord Cole (a former chairman of Unilever), Sir Arnold Weinstock (managing director of GEC), Hugh Conway (managing director Rolls-Royce Gas Turbines), Dr Stanley Hooker (Rolls-Royce Bristol), Sir William Cook (an adviser to the Minister of Defence), Sir St. John Elstub (managing director of Imperial Metal Industries), and Sir Charles Elworthy (former Chief of Defence Staff).

    Lockheed and Rolls-Royce take-off

    The new aircraft with its three RB211 engines left USA for the first time and arrived in Paris on 1 June 1971. At Palmdale California the L-1011 received its US Federal Aviation Administration's certificate of airworthiness on 14 April 1972, nine months late. On the day the chairman of Lockeed said ". . . we know that in airline service it (RB211) will prove itself to be one of the leading power plants in aviation history".

    The first airliner was delivered to Eastern Air Lines on 5 April 1972 but it had been beaten in the race to production by McDonnell Douglas's DC-10.

    1973 Rolls-Royce Motors

    Rolls-Royce Motors Limited was incorporated on 25 April 1971, two and a half months after Rolls-Royce fell into receivership. Under the ownership of the receiver it began to trade in April 1971 manufacturing motor cars, diesel and petrol engines, coachwork and other items previously made by Rolls-Royce's motor car and diesel divisions and Mulliner Park Ward. It continued to take precision engineering work on sub-contracts. In June 1971 it acquired all the business and assets used by the motor car and diesel divisions of Rolls-Royce and Mulliner Park Ward. Rolls-Royce Motors' permitted uses of the various Rolls-Royce trade marks was very precisely defined

    At the end of 1972 Rolls-Royce Motors employees in the United Kingdom were 5,855 in the car division and 2,311 in the Diesel division, a total of 8,166 people.

    In May 1973 it was sold to Rolls-Royce Motors Holdings Limited in preparation for its public flotation.

    Car Division

    At that time the Car Division as well as making cars and special coachwork carried out investment foundry work and the machining of aero-engine components and produced piston engines for light aircraft together with other petrol and multi-fuel engines. Both divisions carried out development work for H M Government.

    The car division's headquarters were in Pym's Lane and Minshull New Road, Crewe, bespoke coachbuilding remained in Hythe Road and High Road Willesden London. The Crewe former shadow factory premises were bought from the Government at this time.

    Diesel Division

    The Diesel Division made several types of diesel engine at its premises in Whitchurch Road, Shrewsbury as well as combustion equipment for aero turbine engines.

    Rolls-Royce Motors Products
  • Motor Cars
  • Diesel engines
  • Aero turbine engine components and aircraft piston engines mainly for Rolls-Royce 1971
  • Other engines and products:
  • B range of 6 and 8-cylinder petrol enginesK range of multi-fuel enginesvarious transmissions for fighting and other vehiclesdiesel shunting locomotives (Thomas Hill (Rotherham)

    Flotation of Rolls-Royce Motors Holdings

    In the event the flotation met with a disappointing public response and more than 80 percent of the issue was left in the hands of the underwriters.

    Vickers Limited merger

    On 6 August 1980 the shareholders agreement to the merger of Rolls-Royce Motors Holdings and Vickers Limited became unconditional.


    The Rolls-Royce diesel business was acquired from Vickers in 1984 by Perkins. Perkins further developed the Eagle Diesels into the Perkins TX series of engines.

    1977 Rolls-Royce drops (1971) from its name

    The name of Rolls-Royce (1971) Limited was changed to Rolls-Royce Limited on 31 December 1977 the end of the company's financial year. The original Rolls-Royce Limited incorporated in 1906 and still in liquidation had been re-named Rolls-Royce Realisations Limited and had consented in March 1977 to the (1971) company being named Rolls-Royce Limited

    Limited was replace by plc (public limited company) In the summer of 1986 as Rolls-Royce Limited changed status following the plans for its sale and listing on sharemarkets.

    1987 privatisation

    In April 1987 the government offered for sale all Rolls-Royce plc shares. The heavily advertised issue was a remarkable success.

    Rolls-Royce's was an exceptionally long term business. Before a civil aero engine went into service its development could take 4 to 6 years, military engines often longer. Production might then extend a further 50 years including the manufacture of spare parts required long after complete engine production ends.


    According to the prospectus published for the 1987 issue of shares to members of the public Rolls-Royce was by then one of only three enterprises outside USSR and China able to design develop and produce large gas turbine engines. At that time its engines were installed in the aircraft of more than 270 civil carriers and were used by 110 armed services and 700 operators of executive and corporate aircraft.

    In addition its turbines powered the naval vessels of 25 different nations. Over 175 industrial customers operated Rolls-Royce gas turbines for power generation, gas and oil pumping and other industrial purposes. Its single most important customer was the United Kingdom's government. In the preceding five years about 70 percent of production went outside the United Kingdom.


    Rolls-Royce's competitors were GE and Pratt & Whitney (UTC). Aero engines were then only a part of GE and UTC activities as major industrial groups.

    Others included SNECMA, Turbomeca, MTU, Fiat Aviazione in Europe and USA's Avco, Garrett and General Motors' Allison. In spite of it being an exceptionally competitive field a number of the smaller manufacturers were already in collaboration with GE or with other smaller manufacturers as was Rolls-Royce.

    Divisions and products

    At that time Rolls-Royce was organised into five business groups:

    1. ICEG Civil Aero — demand governed by airline activity and profitability
  • major engines in 1987:
  • RB211-524, 535 series;IAE V2500 for Airbus A320, a consortium of Rolls-Royce 30%, Pratt & Whitney 30%, JAEC 23%, MTU 11% and Fiat 6%Tay, a development of the Spey superfan
  • engines out of production but generating a significant demand for spares
  • Avon (1951), Conway (1960), Dart (1953), Olympus 593 (1976), RB211-22B (1972), Spey (1964), Tyne (1960)2. MEG Military Aero — demand had been stable recently and so of major importance to Rolls-Royce
  • major engines in 1987:
  • RB199Pegasus (with vectored thrust for VTOL combat aircraft)AdourSpeyViper
  • helicopter engines
  • GnomeGemRTM322EJ200
  • missile engines
  • Odin3. I&M Industrial and Marine — aero derived gas turbine engines4. Repair and Overhaul5. Nuclear — submarine steam-raising equipment


    chassis-only, no Rolls-Royce built Rolls-Royce body until Silver Dawn
  • 1904–06 10 hp
  • 1905–05 15 hp
  • 1905–08 20 hp
  • 1905–06 30 hp
  • 1905–06 V-8
  • 1906–25 40/50 Silver Ghost
  • 1922–29 Twenty
  • 1925–29 40/50 Phantom
  • 1929–36 20/25
  • 1929–35 Phantom II
  • 1936–38 25/30
  • 1936–39 Phantom III
  • 1938–39 Wraith
  • 1946–59 Silver Wraith
  • 1949–55 Silver Dawn with first factory bodies using panels pressed by Pressed Steel Company, Cowley
  • 1950–56 Phantom IV
  • 1955–65 Silver Cloud factory bodies using panels pressed by Pressed Steel Co.
  • 1959–68 Phantom V
  • 1965–80 Silver Shadow monocoque integral body chassis wholly built by Rolls-Royce
  • 1968–92 Phantom VI
  • 1971– Rolls-Royce Corniche
  • Bentley Models (from 1933) – chassis only

  • 1933–37 Bentley 3½ L
  • 1936–39 Bentley 4¼ L
  • 1939–41 Bentley Mark V
  • Aircraft

  • Rolls-Royce Thrust Measuring Rig
  • Rolls-Royce Mustang Mk.X
  • References

    Rolls-Royce Limited Wikipedia

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