The first cars of Frederick H. Royce - 1904

Believed to be the first prototype chassis built by F.H. Royce.
Either the first or second car built by Royce.
Believed to be the second prototype chassis built by F.H. Royce.
Frederick Henry Royce established an electrical engineering company, F H Royce & Co.,  in Manchester in 1884 (building electric motors and switchgear). According to Nick Forder, Curator of the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, shortly after the founding of the Royce company, Ernest Claremont purchased a partnership for £50 - he also became a director of W T Glover (a cable maker whose products were used by Royce). Henry Edmunds moved to chairman of Glover’s, at which time, Claremont then arranged with Edmunds to exchange shares in Royce Ltd for shares in Glover’s. This gave Henry Edmunds an interest in Royce Ltd. Henry Edmunds was an early proponent of the motor car (In 1899 he joined the Automobile Club) and would be an important ally to Royce in moving to production of motor cars .

Royce had owned an automobile (a 10hp, two-cylinder Decauville) prior to the building of his own cars - for the express purpose of commercial production. It is also known that Royce supplied the electric motor for the Pritchett and Gold electric car (sometime in 1902). By 1903, Henry Royce endeavored to build three prototype cars. The first Royce car (10hp, 2 cylinder) was completed during spring 1904 and the car was given to Ernest Claremont to use. Soon after, it was loaned to Henry Edmunds for entry into the Automobile Club's Sideslip Trials in London (April/May 1904) - it's possible C S Rolls, a fellow member of the Automobile Club committee, saw and/or drove this car at that time. Not coincidentally, the two men met at the Midland Hotel in Manchester on May 4th, 1904. It is said that Rolls was shown the second prototype car, which apparently was constructed with a number of components from the first car. However, there were certain differences, including the addition of a fan. The result of this meeting was that Rolls would retail all the cars Royce could build - to be sold as “Rolls-Royces”. These arrangements were finalized in 1906 with the creation of Rolls-Royce Limited.

The images seen here are all marked on the back: "Rolls-Royce Limited, Crewe, Motor Car Division". Additionally, the image of the finished car has the following written in pencil on the back: "The 2nd. 2 cyl 10hp Rolls-Royce ever built. Photographed early in 1904 in Manchester". I have seen this image elsewhere, noted as the first car built (I'm not sure which it is). It's interesting to note the sign by the door on the building behind the car - It says Royce Limited, as this car is technically pre-Rolls-Royce. The chassis shots are also interesting to inspect. Upon a close look (click on the image to enlarge), these appear to be the first, and later, second chassis. The two are quite similar, but have notable differences - including a fan on the 2nd chassis.

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