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 Recreation Module fits into the Cullinan's boot.

Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

If you're driving in your Rolls-Royce Cullinan and hear Rare Earth come on the radio, it's generally not a bad thing. If you happen to change the lyrics to their best-known hit to "I just want to recreate", Rolls-Royce has a solution for you.

The new Recreation Module brings bespoke storage solutions for adventure enthusiasts to the bespoke SUV in proper Rolls-Royce fashion. This isn't just underfloor storage or bins. This is an entire solution designed around an owner's hobbies.

The 48-liter motorized drawer cassette fits invisibly into the luggage compartment of the Cullinan. Via the touch of a button, the Module slides open to reveal equipment, accessories, and paraphernalia that has been personally selected by the motor car's commissioning client. This is no junk drawer setup. Each item is ensconced in its own individual, tailored container.

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Recreation Module The Recreation Module allows for bespoke storage.Photo courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Rolls-Royce Cullinan Recreation Module

Rolls-Royce designers are able to trim out the Module to match or contrast with the car's interior and exterior.

Cullinan owners who wish their model had come with the Recreation Module aren't out of luck. They can have the Module retrofitted to their vehicle - the electric connections are already existing.

Rolls-Royce clients that demand even more can have multiple Modules configured. Say, for example, the owner is simultaneously a shooting, skiing, and photography fanatic but they don't do all those at once. Before setting off to a hunt, heading out to ski, or setting out on an excursion, the owner can install the proper Module in the cargo area while leaving the others behind.

You may remember a similar storage solution from 2019. That year, Rolls-Royce commissioned photographer Mark Riccioni to create a series of innovative and subversive images featuring Black Badge Cullinan, under the cover of darkness, in Los Angeles. To support the project, the marque developed a personalised Urban Photography Recreation Module, incorporating specialist equipment including a DJI Mavic Mini drone, 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro, 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro, Sennheiser PXC550 MkII noise-cancelling headphones, Persol PO3225-S sunglasses and outerwear from streetwear brand Supreme.

Cullinans outfitted with the Module do not have their cargo capacity lessened. The length and boot capacity remain the same as vehicles without the component.

Commissioners can have their Cullinan outfitted with both the Module and the Viewing Suite – two rear-facing sociably arranged either side of a retractable cocktail table. It too deploys via the touch of a button.

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The WarnerMediaRIDE App provides thousands of hours of streaming content to Toyota and Lexus vehicle owners.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

If there's one thing parents want, it's a way to keep kids from fighting in the car. Not only that, it has to work. Toyota and AT&T have teamed up to deliver just such a solution to Toyota and Lexus vehicle owners.

When connected to AT&T in-car Wi-Fi, the WarnerMedia RIDE App allows Toyota and Lexus owners to connect up to five compatible devices to browse, stream and share content from the open road. Passengers can view a rotating selection of live and on-demand content, including thousands of hours of hit TV shows and movies from top channels and services such as Cartoon Network, CNN, HBO Max, and TruTV, spanning animation, news and sports programming and more.

Owners of select 2020 model year and newer Toyota and Lexus vehicles are eligible for a complimentary Wi-Fi data plan trial for up to 90 days. Owners can activate their trial within the Toyota and Lexus owners app.

2021 Toyota Highlander Select Toyota vehicles will get the tech. Expect the Toyota Sienna to be one of them. Photo courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. Inc.

"By working with AT&T to provide access to WarnerMedia RIDE, we are reimagining the in-vehicle entertainment experience and ensuring that passengers have access to their favorite content wherever the road may take them," said Steve Basra, group vice president, Toyota Motor North America, Connected Technologies. "We're also excited to offer additional enhancements within our customer app and to provide one resource for our customers to access their in-vehicle features."

"Customers are hungry for access to new experiences with integrated, everywhere connectivity. Our relationship with Toyota is helping us deliver more for our customers – whether they're on a long road trip or short commute," said Joe Mosele, vice president, Mobility & Internet of Things, AT&T Business. "Since the launch of WarnerMedia RIDE, passengers are enjoying their favorite animated friends with 'Looney Tunes', 'Tom & Jerry', and 'The Jetsons' as some of our most watched content."

The WarnerMedia RIDE is available now in the App Store and Google Play for all U.S. unlimited data plan subscribers. WarnerMedia RIDE is included at no additional cost for existing and new unlimited subscribers. The Toyota and Lexus Owner App download is available for iPhone or Android smartphones.

Toyota isn't the only company getting into the streaming game. Stellantis recently announced that select customers will be able to stream Amazon Prime TV programming in their new Jeep Wagoneers.

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