Heritage

Before Rolls met Royce: How a bespoke automotive partnership was born

The Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, West Sussex, England, stands today as a testament to how a meeting in a hotel can initiate lasting change for an entire industry.

Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

The history of Rolls-Royce isn't just about cars. It's also about the men, Charles Stuart Rolls and Frederick Henry Royce, their families, and their ambition.

Charles Rolls is a distinctive character in history for a number of reasons. On his mother's side, Charles's mother Giorgiana was a member of Parliament born the daughter of Sir Charles Maclean, 9th Baronet of Morvern. The 9th Baronet's upbringing saw him attend Eton College and the Royal Military College at Sandhurst - a favorite route for royals, even today.

C S Rolls sitting at his desk, c 1902. Charles Rolls sits at his desk in 1902, two years before he met Henry Royce. Photo by SSPL via Getty Images

His father, Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 8th Baronet was also a military man who was at a series of pivotal battles over the colonies of the Dutch West Indies including: the capture of Tobago, the attack on Martinique, the capture of St. Thomas and St. John, and the capture of Guadeloupe. The roots of the family tree extend far into Scottish landowning and titled history.

On his father's side, Charles came from a long line of gentlemen. His father, John Rolls, 1st Baron Llangattock, was a wealthy Welsh landowner, and his grandfather, John Etherington Welch Rolls, was an art collector, high sheriff, and justice of the peace who founded the Monmouthshire Show. His father before him was also a wealthy landowner and justice of the peace.

They were known as "The Rolls of Mommouthshire" for hundreds of years, in the way upper crust families gain referred-to reputations to be introduced as at society fetes.

Charles Rolls was also educated at Eton, earning himself the nickname "dirty Rolls" due to his fondness for tinkering with engines. Upon graduation he gained entry to Trinity College in Cambridge, where Prince Charles would study some 70 years later.

Charles Rolls Peugeot car English motor car manufacturer Charles Stewart Rolls (1877 - 1910) in his first motor car, a 3.75 hp Peugeot motor car imported from France, with a man walking in front with a red flag as the law of the time required. Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Aged 18, he traveled to Paris to purchase his first car, a Peugeot phaeton-style auto and became a founding member of the Automobile Club of Great Britain after first joining a similar organization in France.

The Rolls family estate is The Hendre, a Grade II-listed full-scale Victorian country house in Monmouthshire, Wales on land owned by the family since the mid-1600s. It was there that in late 1900, the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V (grandson of Queen Victoria and grandfather to Queen Elizabeth II) and Queen Mary) were taken on what was likely their first motorcar excursion by Charles.

Charles Rolls George V driving car 1900: From left, Sir Charles Cust, equerry; Lord Llangattock; his son the Hon C S Rolls (at the wheel); King George V, (1865 - 1936), then Duke of York. They are leaving the Hendre, Lord Llangattock's seat in Monmouthshire, for a drive in the 12 hp Panhard. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Rolls continued to keep up with innovation in the automotive world, trying much of it out for himself. On February 26, 1903, Rolls sat behind the wheel of a specially-constructed 110-horsepower Mors car driving it quick enough to break the World Speed Record at Welbeck by going over 82 mph. The record, however, was not officially recognized. Just one year later, an American named Henry Ford would best it, clocking a speed of 84.73 mph in his Ford 999 Racer.

That same year, Rolls met Royce.

Frederick Henry Royce, who went by Henry, wasn't born into the type of blue blooded family tree that Rolls was. He was one of five children, the son of a man who ran a flour mill to failure. When he was just nine year old, his father died and Henry had to go to work selling newspapers to help support them, leaving school after just one year of formal education.

Henry Royce Henry Royce came from a less affluent background than Rolls. One might even suggest their economic circumstances were nearly opposite each other.Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

At the age of 15, when Rolls was just two years old, Royce started an apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway company. Three years later he was forced to move on, working various jobs and eventually saving £20, which he used to enter into a partnership with a friend to form a company that created domestic electric fittings. By 1894 the company was making cranes and dynamos, however by the end of the Second Boer War in 1902, demand for those components had greatly diminished.

Royce began to be increasingly interested in electric motors. He purchased a De Dion to tinker with, but found that it didn't meet his standards or needs. He took what he had learned and designed, then built a car of his own in the corner of his shop in 1904.

That was the same year that Rolls met Royce at the Midland Hotel in Manchester, England. It was a meeting that left Rolls declaring, "I have met the greatest engineer in the world".

Midland HOtel Manchestser Members of a police search team abseil down the front of the Midland Hotel in Manchester during a security sweep, where delegates attending the Labour Party Autumn Conference will be staying on September 21, 2006, in Manchester, England. Photo by Getty Images

Just six years later, Rolls perished while flying his Wright Flyer aircraft.

The short-lived but influential partnership helped shape the bespoke automobile industry even as it stands today.

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The Santa Fe Hybrid offers plenty to like.

Hyundai

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid is all-new for 2021, and features an impressive list of standard features, great safety scores, and family-friendly space. If you're looking for a new SUV, it's hard to imagine a better fit for an urban family, or any other family, for that matter. Beyond a few small complaints, the Santa Fe Hybrid offers plenty to like.

Here are three things to like about the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid The Santa Fe Hybrid brings great passenger space and an upscale interior.Hyundai

It offers plenty of passenger and cargo space

The Santa Fe offers roomy seating for up to five adults with more than reasonable head and legroom in both rows. Second-row passengers have room to move, and don't end up jockeying for position with taller front-seat passengers. When the SUV is packed with people and needs to haul gear, it's more than capable of doing that, too, as it offers 36.4 cubic feet of space behind the second row and up to 72.1 cubic feet with the second-row seats folded down. Making the space more accessible, power-folding second-row seats and a hands-free power liftgate are standard.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid All trims come decked out with safety equipment.Hyundai

It delivers excellent fuel economy

The Santa Fe Hybrid returns impressive fuel economy numbers, especially in town, making it an excellent urban family runabout. The EPA estimates that the SUV can deliver 33 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 32 mpg combined. The Santa Fe Hybrid Blue returns 36 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 34 mpg combined. That's several miles per gallon better than the standard Santa Fe and better than some sedans.

2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Hybrid Fuel economy is better than many smaller cars.Hyundai

It earned great safety scores

The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe earned a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). That score is due in part to the Santa Fe's Good marks in crash tests, but the SUV's long list of standard safety kit helps, too. All models come with forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian, cyclist, and junction turning detection, lane keeping assist, driver attention warnings, lane following assist, and a rear occupant alert system. Optional features include blind spot collision-avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, a parking distance warning system, and a highway driving assist system.

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Family driving

Can your family live with a convertible?

Convertibles are fun, but can your family handle the size and driving experience?

BMW

Testing convertibles is always great fun, but they sometimes show up when the weather isn't ideal. Here in Maine, our drop-top driving season is fleeting, which can make for a tricky time driving with the top down. This year, however, a 2021 BMW 430i Convertible showed up in early August and I had an entire week of sun to soak up in the open air. I have two children, however, and own a three-row SUV to haul them, their friends, and all the accompanying gear. Squeezing into a convertible is possible and even fun at times, but it got me thinking: Could a convertible be a car we could live with on a daily basis? The answer for me is no, but there's more to the story, and I'm certainly not ruling out a drop-top purchase for my family at some point in the future.

Of course, none of this came as a surprise to me. Last year, I tested the BMW M850i Convertible, and while it was a blast, there was nothing about it that screamed "family car." This BMW is no different, but my younger daughter's shift to a booster seat from a full-size harness car seat made the back-seat fit for both of my kids much easier. Now, it's a little easier to see how the 430i Convertible could be a perfect weekend or summer car for a family that is already set with roomy daily drivers.

Here's how owning a convertible might play out for your family.


2021 BMW 430i Convertible The BMW 430i Convertible is premium, inside and out.BMW

Open-Top Fun – At a Cost

This BMW's price tag lands in the mid-$50,000 range with a few desirable options, which is about right for a premium brand convertible. There are much cheaper options to be had, however, in the Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. Both cars come in a convertible format and can be found for around half the price of the BMW. There are performance and luxury penalties when moving to the less expensive options, but for most people the draw of a convertible is the open-top experience itself. You don't absolutely need screaming performance or a top-notch interior to get the full convertible experience.

Good in Small Doses

My kids are over the moon about riding in a convertible for a while, and then spend the rest of the time complaining about noise, bugs, and wind. Rolling the side windows up helps, and models with a retractable rear windscreen are even better, but the reality is that some kids are not the best at dealing with outside-the-norm car experiences. More often than not, we'd end up driving for half an hour or so with the top down, a few more minutes with the windows up, and then the rest of the time with the top closed. That's no fun in a small car that feels even smaller with the top up.


2021 BMW 430i Convertible If your kids are like mine, the open-top experience comes with some tradeoffs.BMW

Weather Woes

I get that most of you don't live in Maine like I do, and that your spring, summer, and fall months extend longer throughout the year. You're able to enjoy the open-top driving experience more often than those of us in New England, but there will still be times that driving a convertible is less than enjoyable. If you live in Florida, for instance, how often are you going to want to drive with the top down when it's 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity under the bright sun? Even with the wind in your hair, that will get old. Keep this in mind if you're shopping for a convertible.

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