Rolls-Royce Company History Timeline


The origins of the business of the company go back to Henry Royce and CS Rolls, the compatibility of whose business interests led to the formation of the original Rolls-Royce Limited in 1906.


Later named the Silver Ghost (produced from 1907–25), the automobile earned a reputation as the “best car in the world” by the British motoring press.

Rolls was particularly interested in the development of powered aircraft, and in 1907 inaugurated production of aircraft engines.


The Derby factory opened on July 9, 1908, amid much pageantry.


He resigned as technical managing director and became a consultant to Rolls-Royce in April 1910.

Charles Rolls was tragically killed in 1910 when his Wright biplane crashed from a height of only 23 feet.


Proof that the new Silver Ghost was to be a success came in 1911 when the Indian government ordered eight new models for use by King George V and his entourage during the Delhi Durbar that year.


Soon thereafter the workaholic Royce fell seriously ill from exhaustion, and he spent much of 1912 convalescing.


In 1914 Rolls-Royce produced its first aircraft engine, the Eagle.


1915: The company begins production of aircraft engines.

The Rolls-Royce Eagle was built in 1915 and it was the first engine to make a nonstop trans-Atlantic crossing by aeroplane.


Two other engines, the Hawk and the Falcon, had been designed by Royce from his home in the south of France and relayed to his production team in Derby for manufacture. It was named the Eagle and was put into wartime service beginning in 1916 at 250 horsepower in size.


In early 1915, Royce led a team of engineers in working out a design. Thus was born the 60 degree V12 engine that became the prototype for all machinery produced by Rolls-Royce after 1918.


By the time the war ended in 1919, Rolls-Royce accounted for more than half of Britain’s total aeroengine production.


Though Rolls-Royce pic is most strongly identified with classic luxury automobiles like the Silver Ghost and the Phantom, aircraft engines have been the company’s chief business since the late 1920s.


In 1922, the 3.5-liter, 20-horsepower model was introduced.


In 1924, for example, Rolls-Royce introduced front wheel brakes to its cars, as well as power assistance through a gearbox driven servo.


In 1925, the "New Phantom" succeeded the Silver Ghost.

A new engine, the Phantom, was introduced in 1925, and among other things served as an important prototype for subsequent models.


Royce was made a baronet in 1930 (there was no issue of his marriage, and the baronetcy became extinct upon his death).


1931: The company acquires Bentley Motor Ltd.

It established a new world air speed record of over 400mph in 1931.


He became ill late in 1932, but continued to work on new engineering projects from his bed.


The Merlin was first used by the Royal Air Force in 1937.


In 1939 it began making entire cars.


He guided the company's conversion from piston turbine engines to the new gas turbine engine designed by Stanley Hooker and Frank Whittle in 1940.

1940: The gas turbine aircraft engine is developed.


In 1941 Rolls-Royce was instructed by the Ministry of Aircraft Production to engage in the manufacture of jet engines of the kind originally developed by the inventor Sir Frank Whittle.


In conjunction with Power Jets Ltd. and the Rover Company, Rolls-Royce perfected its first jet engine, the Welland, in April of 1943.


Rolls-Royce began to make deliveries of the Welland engine in 1944, but the aircraft it was intended for, the Gloster Meteor, arrived too late for use during World War II. The Welland was superseded by the more durable Derwent engine.


Despite its introduction of formidable Messerschmitt jets in the last months of World War II, Germany was forced to surrender in May of 1945.

By 1945, the company employed well over 50,000 people, and car production was moved from Derby to Crewe, so that the Derby facilities could work almost exclusively on developing the gas turbine aero engine, particularly for the civil aviation industry.


In 1947 Rolls-Royce signed a 10-year licensing agreement with Pratt & Whitney, which allowed that company to manufacture Tay and Nene jet engines in the United States.


A newer jet engine called the Conway was developed in the late 1950’s and was specifically intended for use on the forthcoming Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 707 jetliners.


The turboprop provoked such strong interest from commercial aircraft manufacturers that it was introduced in commercial form in 1952 under the model name Dart.


In 1953, Rolls-Royce introduced the Dart propjet engine for the Vickers Viscount.


The Dart turboprop came widely into use in 1955 when Fokker began production of its successful F-27 Friendship.


Rolls-Royce formed a joint venture company with Vickers and Foster Wheeler in early 1956 called Vickers Nuclear Engineering Ltd.


In the late 1960s Rolls-Royce undertook development of a new, powerful jet engine, the RB211.

A new turboprop engine called the Tyne was chosen by Vickers to power its Vanguard when it entered service in 1960.

The Avon-powered Comet became the first turbojet to enter transatlantic service and in 1960, the Conway engine in the Boeing 707 became the first turbofan to enter airline service.


Three other smaller engine companies were absorbed into Bristol Siddeley and Rolls-Royce in 1961.


1966: The rival British aircraft maker Bristol-Siddley Engines is acquired.

When the design was completed in 1966, Rolls-Royce began to negotiate sales agreements with several aircraft manufacturers and airline companies.


Lockheed emerged as the largest customer in March of 1968; it ordered 555 engines.


Rowland, John, The Rolls-Royce Men: The Story of Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, London: Lutterworth Press, 1969.

The first RB.211 was assembled in the summer of 1969.


In November 1970 the British government suddenly announced that it was arranging a loan of £60 million to Rolls-Royce.

Robotham, William Arthur, Silver Ghosts & Silver Dawn, London: Constable, 1970.


Bird, Anthony, and Ian Hallows, The Rolls Royce Motor Car, London: B. T. Batsford Ltd, 1972.

In 1987, Rolls-Royce announced that 75 percent of customers for the new Boeing 757 airliner had chosen the RB211 engines for propulsion. It has since been utilized in Boeing 757s and 747-400s, the latest generation of civil aircraft, and through continued improvements provides 65 percent more thrust than the original engine model introduced in 1972.


The recommendation was accepted in 1973, and Rolls-Royce Motors Ltd. was created as a public company.


Lloyd, R. Ian, Rolls-Royce, The Years Of Endeavour, London: Mac-millan Press, 1978.


The Engines Were Rolls-Royce: An Informal History of That Famous Company by Ronald W. Harker, New York, Macmillan, 1979.


In 1980 Rolls-Royce Motor Holdings Limited was acquired by Vickers Ltd., becoming a subsidiary of the latter.


The Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust was formed in 1981 to promote and preserve the history and engineering excellence of Rolls-Royce.


Frank McFadzean retired in March of 1983 and was replaced by Sir William Duncan.

In 1983 Rolls-Royce Ltd. joined with four other European, American, and Japanese companies in the International Aero Engines consortium to develop the V2500 turbofan engine for short- to medium-range jetliners.


Then in May 1986, after years of preparation, Rolls-Royce was reregistered as a public limited company and 801.5 million shares of stock were offered for sale to the public.

The last Dart engine was built in 1986, ending nearly 40 years of production.


Sales for the company were slightly down, however, on 1987 figures, as were the operating profits, at £333 million.

1987: Rolls-Royce is privatized with a listing on the London Stock Exchange.


By the end of 1988, a more hopeful business climate produced an order book for Rolls-Royce of £4.1 billion, compared with the £2.7 billion a year earlier.

In 1988, the company launched the RB211-524L civil turbofan engine.


1989: The company acquires Northern Engineering Industries, which produces industrial power plants, as part of a diversification effort; the first in the Trent engine series for widebody planes is launched.

Gunston, Bill, Rolls-Royce Aero Engines, Wellingborough, Eng.: Patrick Stephens, 1989.


In 1990 Lord Tombs, chairperson of Rolls-Royce, spoke of the possible consequences of the approaching world recession, and disruption to the global airline industry from the unfolding Persian Gulf conflict, commenting that “the industrial climate in the UK is a very difficult one.


Sales for Rolls-Royce in 1991 fell 4 percent to £3.51, but pretax profits fell more sharply to £51 million, compared with £176 million a year earlier.


Sir Ralph Robins, who capped a lifetime career at Rolls-Royce with his advancement from CEO to chairman in 1992, realized that the company would not simply grow its way out of the industrywide crisis.

1992: The company launches a restructuring effort, cutting 20,000 jobs over four years.


1995: The company acquires Allison Engine Company in the United States in order to establish a United States presence.


Results for 1996 were adversely affected by the company's decision to divest its steam power generation interests; costs related to the sale pushed Rolls-Royce to a pretax loss of £28 million, but Sir Robins noted that ongoing holdings chalked up an operating profit of £242 million on the year.


In 1997, after Vickers announced its intention to sell its Rolls-Royce automobile subsidiary, two German carmakers, Volkswagen AG and BMW AG, submitted rival bids.


Robins was expected to retire in 1998 and be succeeded by CEO John Rose.

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was sold by Vickers to Volkswagen, although BMW hold the rights to the name and the marque for use on Rolls-Royce cars, having acquired the rights from Rolls-Royce plc for £40m in 1998.


In 2000 it took full control of the joint venture; in return, BMW received a 10 percent stake in the parent company.

The power of British aircraft was greatly increased after Rolls-Royce introduced its 2000-horsepower Griffon engine.


The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States played a role in Rolls-Royce's success.


BMW thereupon granted Volkswagen a license to make and sell automobiles under the Rolls-Royce brand until the end of 2002, after which BMW would make cars with the Rolls-Royce name in a new factory.


The company's early 21st century engine designs, led by the Trent 900 and the Trent 1000, launched in 2003, are expected to take the company to the number one spot in the industry.

Rolls-Royce Plc was both the main trading company until 2003.


By 2004, Rolls-Royce appeared set to take the number one spot in the global aircraft engine industry.

2004: The company wins a $1 billion order from All Nippon Airways in Japan and a $450 million order from China Eastern Airlines.


The Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 is the only engine optimised specifically for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It ran for the first time in 2006.


In 2009 work began on a manufacturing and assembly facility at Crosspointe in the United States.


Rolls-Royce hoped to power 50 percent of the 1,200 of these giant planes projected to be built by the middle of the 2010s.

Early in 2010, the short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter deployed our unique LiftSystem® for the first time.


Rolls-Royce Holdings was incorporated in February 2011 as a new holding company for the entire group.

In May 2011, the UK Government awarded us the contract to develop a new propulsion system for the next generation of nuclear-powered submarines.

The Trent 1000 is the first engine to power Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which went into service on 26 October 2011 with All Nippon Airways (ANA).


The Apprentice Academy opened in Rolls-Royce, Derby, on the 2nd November 2012, equipped with workshops containing the very latest machines, tooling and software to help train the high-class engineers of the future.


July 2014 - The first Boeing 787-9 entered service with Air New Zealand, powered by the Trent 1000


Jan 2015 - First Airbus A350-900, revenue flight from Doha to Frankfurt (Qatar) powered by Trent XWB-84


March 2016 - The Trent 1000 TEN completes its first flight test, on the Flying Test Bed (FTB)


November 2017 - Trent 1000 TEN enters service, with Air New Zealand, Scoot and Norwegian


Feb 2018 - First Airbus A350-1000 revenue flight (Qatar) powered by Trent XWB-97


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"Rolls-Royce Plc ." International Directory of Company Histories. . (June 22, 2022).

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Rolls-Royce is 117 years old.

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Charles Rolls and Henry Royce founded Rolls-Royce.

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Rolls-Royce may also be known as or be related to Rolls Royce Corporation, Rolls Royce of Naples, Rolls-Royce, Rolls-Royce Corporation, Rolls-Royce Marine North America, Inc., Rolls-Royce Plc and Rolls-Royce plc.