20 cars for 20 years: the evolution of Rolls-Royce, 2003-2023

Posted on 27 Jan 2023 by The Manufacturer

When Rolls-Royce Motor Cars began full-scale manufacturing at Goodwood, it produced just a single model: the original, seventh-generation Phantom. The first completed motor car was handed over to its new owner in a special ceremony at one minute past midnight on 1 January 2003. Since that historic moment, no fewer than 20 different models and variants have been created and handmade at Goodwood – equivalent to one for every year.

Today’s Rolls-Royce model family reflects two decades of continuous innovation and progress in design, technology, materials and methods, as the marque seeks to satisfy its clients’ ever-changing needs, tastes and desires.

Phantom, and its siblings Phantom Drophead Coupé and Phantom Coupé, were followed by the more approachable Ghost, which went on to become the best-selling model the marque has ever produced since its foundation in 1904. The product family grew further with Wraith (2013) and Dawn (2016), respectively the most powerful and seductive models in the marque’s portfolio; they were joined in 2018 by Cullinan, the ‘Rolls-Royce of SUVs’, which is now ranked among the world’s most desirable and in-demand luxury products.

With the exception of Phantom, all models in the current product family are available as Black Badge variants. Created for a new breed of client who desired a more subversive, rebellious expression of the Rolls-Royce brand, this permanent Bespoke series now accounts for more than a third of the marque’s total output.

ROLLS-ROYCE PHANTOM, 2003. Courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Rolls-Royce Phantom, 2003. Courtesy of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

Since 2003, the Home of Rolls-Royce’s design and engineering teams have produced a number of experimental motor cars. In keeping with tradition, these were given the ‘EX’ designation, used until the 1950s by Rolls-Royce engineers to maintain secrecy during testing and development, and the distinctive red-on-silver ‘RR’ badge. Never intended for series production, they were fundamental to the process of creating some of the most technically significant and commercially successful products in the marque’s history.

Two Coachbuild masterpieces that represent the ultimate expression of Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke capabilities also grace the list. Individually commissioned and entirely hand-built, they echo the coachbuilding traditions of the marque’s early years, while employing the very latest in contemporary design, engineering, manufacturing and craft techniques to create true works of art.

The first 20 years at Goodwood have culminated in the launch of Spectre. The first all-electric Rolls-Royce in history, this landmark motor car also marks the beginning of a new technological era, in which every new Rolls-Royce model will be fully electric from 2030 onwards. With series production yet to begin, Spectre is not strictly among the 20 cars produced between 2003 and 2023, so does not appear in the list that follows. However, it is both the next evolutionary step in the model family’s development, and the technical and philosophical foundation for all that will follow in future.

This remarkable period in the marque’s history has seen the creation of a countless deeply personal, complex and beautiful expressions of the marque’s motor cars.

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