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Old 1st October 2015, 20:39   #1
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Default Bespoke luxury : The story of Rolls-Royce & Bentley

The early 1900's was an interesting time for automobile manufacturing industry, and a source-point for some of the most interesting stories of partnership & development. One of such stories I felt deserved a thread of its own, there is a very informative thread about the history of Rolls-Royce here in The International Automotive Scene which one can read about, however this is focussed exclusively on the competition-turned-partnership-turned-competition of 2 of the oldest British origin brands.

Ask most car enthusiasts about 3 luxury brands that comes to mind first and the answer will most likely be Mercedes, BMW & Audi in that order. They aren't wrong, for decades the luxury market has been dominated by these 3 with models that are increasing by the year to fit every budget possible. However there never can be an upper-limit to luxury, that's the reason bespoke luxury exists and no two brands better define it than Rolls-Royce & Bentley, also being the early pioneers of automobiles apart from Benz-Motorwagen.

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Rolls-Royce Limited founded 1906 began as a car making brand in Derby city of England. Right off the block they began to develop 6-cylinder engines to make engines smoother & more powerful. Their initial models were named 10, 15, 20 & 30 hp before they moved to the now popular names of Ghost & Phantom. The World-Wars however put them into various states of financial crises and also saw them going into aviation engine development.

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Bentley Motors started as an independent car-making group in 1919 by brothers H.M.Bentley & W.O.Bentley. They used aluminium pistons in engines as a lighter alternative to cast iron & thus started their DNA of racing cars & they won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race 5 times starting 1924 until 1930. However the depression followed by an unstable business environment resulted in losses and very few takers for their expensive automobiles, as a result of which Rolls-Royce took control of all their assets in 1931 & renamed them Bentley Motors Limited.

The Partnership :

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Rolls Royce & Bentley joining hands led to combined R&D as expected & resulted in the Rolls-Royce-Bentley L Series V8 engine in 1959 which was used in models such as RR Phantom IV, Bentley Mulsanne, RR Flying Spur (yes! RR used that nomenclature first) and arguably the best looking Bentley ever, the Arnage. Since both companies were effectively the same, sharing of intellectual patents was a given.

The Vickers plc takeover :

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Vickers plc was a restructuring of Vickers-Armstrong, a company which held interests in aviation, steel & shipbuilding. From here it gets extremely complicated even from a business takeover perspective, but the short of it is that Vickers plc took control of a struggling Rolls-Royce Motors in 1980. This was because the mother company of RR Motors, RR Limited was nationalised due to losses and then it was decided that RR Motors would be sold to focus purely on aviation engines. Vickers didn't hold control for long, divesting Rolls-Royce Motors in 1998.

The 2 brands part ways :

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Somewhere between the years 1980 & 1998 when Vickers plc held RR Motors, they assigned engine manufacturing to Bayerische Motoren Werke (better known as BMW). BMW supplied V12 engines for the Phantom & Ghost and this made the sale of RR Motors by Vickers even more complicated. BMW were leading the offer with £340 million, however VW Group outbid them by quoting £430 million.

The dilemma :

Realistically, VW had won all rights to RR Motors with their bid, there was just one complication however, since BMW made the engines for Rolls Royce cars at that time and were licenced to do so for at least a year more, it seemed impossible for VW to begin manufacturing RR legally with immediate effect. They also had no rights to the famous logo of Rolls-Royce & the Spirit of Ecstasy, its emblem, BMW won them over from RR plc. A deal was brokered by the German government wherein it was agreed that BMW will supply engines and also authorise the use of RR trademarks to VWAG until 2002 when complete control will be handed back to BMW. VW post 2002 held full control of only Bentley, and continued to use modified L Series engines. They also subsequently discontinued Bentley's most luxurious, exclusive car the Arnage in favour of sporty more compact models like Flying Spur.

Today :

RR & Bentley continue to be rivals to this day under different leaderships, although if one were to look at the obvious, its sure that Bentley doesn't stand a chance against the mighty Rolls-Royce with its much improved ride & handling, engines & luxury. Bentley continues to experiment with its models, now even on the verge of creating an SUV but by and large sticking to its heritage of fast, sporty cars with a touch of luxury.

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Featured above the Rolls-Royce Ghost & Bentley Flying Spur
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Old 2nd October 2015, 15:01   #2
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Default Re: Bespoke luxury : The story of Rolls-Royce & Bentley

Nice read, thanks for sharing! Losing the Rolls-Royce brand name was a rare failure from Ferdinand Piech.

For those who joined in late, here's a great summary of what happened: NYTimes.com

"I would have preferred to keep both brands," said Ferdinand Piech, the ambitious chairman who has sought to extend Volkswagen's dominance from small cars like the Golf to the top of the luxury ladder. If he had sorted out the trademark and parts issues earlier, "the price would have been much lower than Volkswagen finally paid," he acknowledged.
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Old 2nd October 2015, 20:59   #3
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Default Re: Bespoke luxury : The story of Rolls-Royce & Bentley

People here crib on about whether it is the s class or the 7 series which is the better car. I say none of them not even the new ones comes close to bentley's erst while arnage. It is so much more intimidating yet classier at the same time than any other full size luxury car. The only one that comes close for me is the phantom. If professor moriarty was alive today, he would drive an arnage.

Bespoke luxury : The story of Rolls-Royce & Bentley-bentleyarnager20021366x768006.jpg

And just look at that interior. You can keep all your 20 inch touch screen mmi and i drives. I will take this over those electronic gibberish anyday.

Bespoke luxury : The story of Rolls-Royce & Bentley-2009bentleyarnagerblackdash.jpg

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Old 2nd October 2015, 22:25   #4
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Default Re: Bespoke luxury : The story of Rolls-Royce & Bentley

A bit about Rolls Royce engines............

RR engineers chose the 6 cylinder in-line format because of its inherent perfect balance. When it came to designing a new engine for the Phantom in the 1930s the 6 cylinder inline format was not powerful enough, and the RR engineers did not like a V-8 because of secondary harmonics which could not attain THE perfect balance. Hence it had to be a V-12.

RR did design straight 8 engines as well, one being used in a RR powered truck.

In the 1930s the British Govt asked for designs for an air-cooled aero engine. RR engineers tried, but had repeated problems with the gasket between the cylinder block and the cylinder head. Finally Mr Royce walked into the design office one day and said "We shall make what we know how to make" and asked for a water-cooled engine design though that did not meet the Govt specs.

Thus was born the Merlin which went on to power the Spitfire, Mosquito and even the US-built P-51 Mustang. This engine started with about 1,000 bhp from 27 liters, and went on to produce as much as 2,250 bhp from exactly the same displacement, mainly due to ever increasing compression ratios (upto 14:1) achieved by increasing the boost from the supercharger and using higher octane fuels fortified by huge amounts to lead to prevent knocking.
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Old 3rd October 2015, 13:03   #5
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Default Re: Bespoke luxury : The story of Rolls-Royce & Bentley

Originally Posted by nakul0888 View Post
People here crib on about whether it is the s class or the 7 series which is the better car. I say none of them not even the new ones comes close to bentley's erst while arnage.
Class & charm, yes, but the S-Class is indeed a superior luxury car...no matter what parameter you evaluate them at. And at a far lower price!

The S-Class is newer, has more technology, equals the best on comfort and has versions that are faster too (i.e. AMG).

There's a reason for that = $$$$$$$$, plain & simple. Because the S-Class sells 75,000 copies a year, Mercedes can invest heavily in its R&D. That R&D can be further justified by the fact that cars like the E-Class etc. will use that technology one day.

What you see in Bentleys & Rolls-Royces is not much different from high-end Audis & BMWs (respectively). Other than the badge, design & leather quality, there's not much else that's unique about a Bentley or Rolls Royce today.
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Old 2nd December 2016, 16:01   #6
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Default Re: Bespoke luxury : The story of Rolls-Royce & Bentley

An interesting read on Bentley and their brand strategy

And although the company never admits sales targets, it seems inevitable that in the next two years it will break its own annual production record by delivering as many as 12,000 cars.
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