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Few names in the motor world are as evocative as Rolls and Royce, yet it was a series of chance circumstances that brought the two men together. They came from very different social backgrounds. Around the time the rich aristocrat Charles Rolls was born, apparently destined to a life of leisure, Frederick Henry Royce was walking the streets of London delivering telegrams for the Post Office to fund his engineering studies.

Charles Stewart Rolls (1877-1910) was educated at the elite Eton College and graduated in engineering from Cambridge, where he first became involved in the motor world. An experienced driver, he owned the first car seen at the university, and took part in important races, beating speed records in distance trials. His passion for motor cars led him to found a business selling high-quality, mostly imported, cars in London. A keen aviator, Rolls was a lover of aerostatic ballooning and made the first non-stop double crossing of the English Channel in a plane. In July 1910, he was killed when his Wright Flyer crashed during a flying display, becoming the first Briton to die in an air crash.

Frederick Henry Royce (1863-1933) described himself simply as a mechanic. A hard worker, he was known for his perfectionism and his attention to the smallest details. He founded his own electrical engineering and mechanical firm in Manchester in 1864, and filed for his first patent three years later. Fascinated by the mechanics of the motor engine –he once took his own Decauville vehicle to pieces as an exercise– he made a number of prototypes, one of which, the Royce 10 HP two-cylinder model, was sent to London in 1904 for the standard tests. Just at that time, Rolls –who may even have driven the vehicle during its promotion- was looking for a reliable British carmaker to rival Continent manufacturers.

Henry Edmond, who was on the committee of the Automobile Club and also a director of Royce Ltd., heard of Rolls’ quest and persuaded him to go to Manchester to look at Royce's new car. The historic meeting between Rolls and Royce took place over lunch in the Midland Hotel in Manchester on 4 May, 1904. Rolls, impressed by what he saw, agreed to the exclusive sale of as many cars as Royce could manufacture.

From then on the so-called “best cars in the world” would bear their two names and would be made in Derby, where the company was registered on 15 February 1906 as “Rolls-Royce Limited”. Several models were made before the immortal “Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost” appeared in 1907. The rest is history.

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