In 1900, aged 22, Charles Stewart Rolls was the best known motorist in Britain, better known than Jeremy Clarkson today, having won the "Thousand Mile Trial" of that year, the event that launched motoring as a practical popular concept. Rolls followed his success in the Trial by racing in highly dangerous inter-city races in Europe.
He drove the fastest time ever achieved in Britain, although this was never ratified. At the same time, Rolls ran a large car-sales and service showroom in London, employing 70 staff with space for 200 cars. In the span of six months, he persuaded the secretary of the Automobile Society of Great Britain and Ireland to join him, and then, shortly after, discovered Henry Royce with whom his name is now forever linked.
This triumvirate of talented engineers and businessmen took Rolls-Royce Ltd. to the pinnacle of motor and aero engineering that the company has occupied ever since. Rolls helped create the new sport of hot-air ballooning and raced his balloon for his country. He then joined a select band of intrepid pioneers who risked all to prove the theory of powered flight. He was first to fly the English Channel both ways but weeks later perished at the Bournemouth Air Show. Engineer, salesman, aristocrat, pioneer, and businessman, Charles Rolls offers us a timely reminder of British invention, courage, and ingenuity more than 100 years ago.
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