The speed king and the Rolls-Royce

In a previous couple of posts I introduced Malcolm Campbell, who broke land and water speed records in the 1920s and 30s using vehicles named ‘Blue Bird’. One of his successful record-breaking attempts took place in February 1931 when he topped 245 miles per hour. Here’s our model of his car:

Model of Malcolm Campbells 1931 record-breaking car (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Model of Malcolm Campbell's 1931 record-breaking car (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Later that year, he decided to go for a ride in a somewhat slower car – a 1905 Rolls-Royce numbered AX148. This venerable old motor, with a top speed of 30mph, was one of the first Rolls-Royce cars ever made, and in November 1931 Campbell took the driving seat for its entry in the London to Brighton run.

Rolls-Royce 10hp motor car, 1905 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Rolls-Royce 10hp motor car, 1905 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

These ten-horse-power motor cars were made between 1904 and 1906 by the manufacturing company of Henry Royce, who had recently joined forces with Charles Rolls to make cars under the brand ‘Rolls-Royce’. A motoring legend was born.

To start with, AX148 was used by Royce himself, as early sales were slow (and he needed a runabout). Its first buyer was a chap called Paris Singer (son of sewing-machine magnate Isaac Singer) who bought it in 1906. It was his second; he’d been Royce’s first ever customer back in 1904. Clearly he liked these cars! We’ve one of his father’s original machines on show:

Original Isaac Singer sewing machine, 1853 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Original Isaac Singer sewing machine, 1853 (Science Museum / Science & Society)

After a couple of changes of ownership, AX148 was bought back by Rolls-Royce in 1935 and presented to the Science Museum. It’s now one of only four of these pioneering cars thought to survive, and the only one in public hands. We’ve lent it to the wonderful Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester – go see it if you can!

3 thoughts on “The speed king and the Rolls-Royce

  1. Peter Turvey

    A nice little runner guv – and cheap at half the price. Its younger sister fetched a princely sum at auction last year.

    The Science Museum Library at Wroughton has an amazing volume of photos showing Charles Rolls’ own cars.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Stories from the stores » Momentous motoring meeting in Manchester

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