Rolls-Royce Twenty Celebrated As First Rolls-Royce Car That Could Be Driven

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Rolls-Royce celebrates the 100th anniversary of its iconic Twenty model.

Rolls-Royce was established as a luxury automaker in 1906 and its sole purpose since then has been to make the world's finest automobiles. That's still true to this day, as evidenced by the recently updated Phantom, and by future products such as the Spectre - Goodwood's first-ever electric vehicle.

The prestigious brand recently celebrated 114 years of the Ghost nameplate, and now it's the turn of the legendary 20 H.P. Affectionately known as the "Twenty," the first model debuted on 6 October 1922 and set itself apart from its stablemates in one unique way. Sir Henry Royce designed it to be driven by its owner, making this the spiritual predecessor of models like the Ghost and Cullinan.

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What's more, the Twenty also set the mechanical template for Rolls-Royce motorcars to come, which the automaker says gives it "historical parallels with the forthcoming Spectre." While the Silver Ghost was the preferred choice of propulsion for the world's elite, Henry Royce envisioned a smaller car that would take up the slack from slowed Silver Ghost sales - this was just after World War I, after all.

Like the modern-day Ghost, the Twenty was considerably smaller than its bigger sibling, but Rolls understood that it had to meet the high standards its customers came to expect. Clients were reassured that "under no circumstances would the standards of excellence maintained in their products be diminished" and, in September 1920, Henry Royce told the company's board that he was satisfied with the final product.

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Just over two years later, the automaker introduced its newcomer. The Twenty's 3.1-liter straight-six engine was far smaller than the Silver Ghost's 7.5-liter mill, but it had one ace up its sleeve - a far lighter body. The Twenty was around 30% lighter than its larger sibling, making the smaller option nearly as quick as the Silver Ghost.

In fact, advancements in technology such as lighter controls and superior braking, suspension, and steering systems made the Twenty a joy to drive. This was reflected in feedback from the owners, who heaped praise upon the 20 H.P. with myriad letters sent to the press, extolling the virtues of Rolls' newcomer.

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One customer described it as "a charming piece of mechanism" while another said they were impressed with the touring abilities. "I drove my 20 H.P. here from Liverpool and am very satisfied with the running of the engine, not having to change gear between Liverpool and Versailles.

There was a slight problem, however. Built in the golden age of coachbuilding, wealthy clients wanted heavy coachwork that caused higher wind resistance. The smaller Rolls 20 H.P wasn't built for this, with Henry Royce originally hoping coach builders would practice restraint with their designs. Of course, the performance of these coachbuilt vehicles suffered.

Nine years later, the more powerful 20.25 H.P was introduced - but it still wasn't good enough. In 1935, the 3.1-liter was replaced with a larger 4.25-liter engine in the 25/30 H.P model.

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By the time production of the Twenty came to an end, Rolls-Royce had produced 2,940 examples, which is remarkable. Even though it was no longer available, its legacy lived on in the range for years. The straight-six engine, for example, would provide the template for the brand's engines for the next three decades.

"During our long history, there have been certain defining models that have permanently altered the wider automotive landscape. The 'Twenty', launched 100 years ago, is one of them. We join owners and enthusiasts around the world in marking this very special occasion and celebrating the lasting legacy of this legendary and much-loved motor car," said CEO Torsten Muller-Otvos.

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