American Marketer


Rolls-Royce celebrates milestone centenary with club-backed drive

September 13, 2011

The 1701 Ghost


British automaker Rolls-Royce Motor Cars celebrated the centennial of the brand’s first 100-mile journey with experimental speed car 1701 through a procession of 17 historic branded vehicles headed by the 20-Ghost Club.

The 1701 first ran from London to Edinburgh, Scotland on Sept. 11, 1911, in an attempt to showcase the brand’s quality of engineering and durability. The drive was exactly interacted as it was 100 years ago to portray Rolls-Royce’s heritage.

“Rolls-Royce has a glorious history,” said Andrew Ball, corporate communications manager for Rolls-Royce, West Sussex, England. “It is important to celebrate and embrace the history.

“We consider ourselves to be custodians rather than owners of the history,” he said. “The trial run that took place in 1911 really established the Rolls-Royce reliability and quality of engineering.

“The car that was built and undertook the trial led the reenactment.”

Gearing up

The 1707 drove from London to Edinburgh and back, using top-gear only and averaging fuel consumption of more than 24 miles per gallon, according to Rolls Royce.

The route was aptly named the Top-gear Centary Trail.

One hundred years ago, the vehicle underwent a series of tests and trials to prove its originality and the fact that it had not been altered in any way throughout the drive.


1701 from 1911

For instance, to prove that the original chassis had a normal back axle ratio and that the 1701 had received no mechanical alteration, the car was driven at a speed of 78 miles per hour, per Rolls-Royce.

The 1701 later reached 101 miles per hour when being fitted for a "wind-cheating seat." This sealed Rolls-Royce's fame as one of the top automakers of its time.

On Sept. 11, 2011, 17 historic Rolls-Royce Ghost models from 1911 – 1922 were led by a new Rolls-Royce Ghost.

The drive cemented the Rolls-Royce reputation for superlative quality, refinement and reliability, according to the brand.

Honor rolls
Rolls-Royce has celebrated a series of centenaries this year.

For instance, Rolls-Royce commemorated the 100th anniversary of its hood ornament, the Spirit of Ecstasy, by driving customers to its showrooms to view special portraits by the photographer Rankin (see story).


Spirit of Ecstasy portrait

The photographer took 100 photos inspired by the Spirit of Ecstasy that will be shared in Rolls-Royce dealerships.

The brand did not market the ride, rather it allowed the 20-Ghost Club and media to promote the event.

Rolls-Royce typically celebrates milestones such as these with drives that it believes preserves the branded name, tradition and heritage.

“It’s not about adding value,” said Nigel Wonnacott, product public relations manager at Rolls-Royce. “It’s about celebrating our rich heritage, embracing the enthusiasts clubs who act as careful guardians of the brand’s past.

“[Tradition and heritage] are so important to our success today,” he said. “Our brand is built on a rich and vibrant 107-year history.

“We are simply taking that forward into the 21st century, celebrating the past but looking to the future,” he said.

Final Take

Rachel Lamb, associate reporter on Luxury Daily, New York