Rolls-Royce is one of the most iconic names in the history of luxury vehicles. However, what you might not know about the British auto manufacturer is that they also produced one of the rarest cars on Earth. The Rolls-Royce 15 hp is considered to be one of the first cars ever designed by the automaker, and was produced following an agreement reached in December 1904 between Charles Rolls, an aviator, and Henry Royce, an engineer. Only six units of the 15 hp were ever produced, with only one actually surviving. This makes it one of the oldest cars known to exist.
Despite boasting great acceleration and style for its time, the 15 hp nonetheless didn’t make an impact upon its introduction in the early 1900s. So why is this? Read on to find out.
The History of the Rolls-Royce 15 hp
After the company was founded by Charles Rolls and Henry Royce, the Rolls-Royce 15 hp would soon come to be in Manchester, England. Rolls would have his company sell the vehicles, while Royce had his company make them. In 1904, four models were produced by Royce Limited. The first—and slowest—of these models would be the 10 hp, named after its horsepower capacity. The second would be the 15 hp, of which only six units were made. However, just one of these six units would actually survive, and was on display at Scotland’s Doune Motor Museum, which closed its doors in 1998. The two other models produced by Rolls-Royce at this time were the 20 hp and 30 hp.
The Specs Auto Mechanic School Students Should Know About
Despite its limited horsepower, 15 hp contained a three-cylinder engine, and was capable of achieving a top speed of 63 km/h. Because it contained three cylinders, this 3000 cc engine was less vulnerable to shaking, and was able to sustain its speed and stability for longer stretches of time. Starting the car up would necessitate a spark provided by a coil. A three-speed transmission was also among the 15 hp’s parts, as well as a transmission brake right behind it. Students enrolled in mechanics schools might be intrigued to learn that the 15 hp also used artillery-style wheels. Semi-elliptic leaf springs were also used on the rear and front axles. In addition, drivers would need to use a handbrake lever to operate its expanding drum brakes, and drive with a leather cone clutch—a popular feature in earlier automobiles.
Why Didn’t It Last?
The 15 hp was sold at a market price of 500 British pounds (about $880 CAD). When the vehicle was shown at the 1904 Paris Motor Show, its underbody had not yet been fully built. As a result, its three-cylinder engine was not ready to be displayed—the likely reason it failed to impress.
Students in auto mechanic school may not realize that while 15 hp is small fry by today’s automotive standards, it was fairly hefty for its time. While failing to launch by itself, the 15 hp would nonetheless help to grow the Rolls-Royce brand—which is now solidly reputed as one of the world’s premier luxury automotive manufacturers.
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