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:: [  The Tsar's Rolls Royce  or  Lenin's Rolls Royce  ] ::
Part 2 of 3.

Investigative research by Bozi Mohacek

nteresting photo received in 2008 from Stanislav Kiriletz (Germany) trying to firm up the history of "Lenin's Rolls-Royce", chassis plate 79 YG, then in the Gorki Leninskie Museum. 

here seems much copy-pasting and cribbing of other journalists reportage so that same historical mistakes keep on being regenerated without anybody bothering to check if the facts are accurate. The purpose of this article is to go into historical detail about this Rolls-Royce Half-Track and determine the history behind the car, the history behind the main characters in the story, and the history behind the events that were the cause of it.  Is it the Tsar's Rolls-Royce or is it Lenin's Rolls-Royce?

In Part 1 of this article we featured a brief history of Tsar Nicholas II, the background to the Frenchman Adolphe Kegresse, and the introduction of his  Autochenille half-track attachment, We know that The Tsar has been assassinated and that Adolphe Kegresse had designed and developed the Autochenille half track system and that he had fitted it to some of the Tsar's cars. We have also determined that Adolphe had already left the country and we know that the Half Track Rolls-Royce above has Chassis Number 79YG. We also know that there is no record of the Tsar having any Rolls-Royces in the Western Garages, and we know that none are listed in the final records of the the Tsar's fleet of some 60 cars. So this Rolls-Royce could not have been sequestrated by the Bolsheviks. Also, as the Tsar had been dead for four years before the chassis was actually built, it can be safely said that this could not have been the Tsars Rolls-Royce. As Adolphe Kegresse had left Russia some five years previously, there is no way he would have known this car nor have worked on it, nor indeed could have put the half-track system onto , - nor could he have been Lenin's chauffeur. So if the Tsar did not use it, presumably it must have been Leninís ?

When looking for information on this car on the Internet, and in some learned books on Rolls-Royce, the normal story goes that " this was one of many Rolls-Royces belonging to Tsar Nicholas II which was subsequently confiscated by the new Soviet Regime from the Tsar and given to Vladimir Lenin as his daily chauffeured car. Same sources report that Lenin's chauffeur at the time was Frenchman Adolphe Kegresse, and that it was he who put the half-track system, which he had designed, onto the car for purposes of this being Lenin's 'winter car'. This was apparently one of 9 Rolls-Royce cars owned by Lenin ! ".  Regretfully, none of this is  possible !

Rolls-Royce were quite late in entering the Automobile Hall of Fame so it was interesting to find out why and haw it was that these cars came about. The potted histories of the two founders follow; two entirely different and unlikely people to get together. One knew how to drive and sell automobiles, and one knew how to make them. It should be remembered that most of the events were taking place over a 100 years ago at the dawn of motoring and well before the First World War

Charles Stewart Rolls (1877-1910) was the third son of John Allan Rolls, the 1st Baron Llangattock, a Victorian landowner, Conservative Party politician, socialite, local benefactor and agriculturalist. He lived at The Hendre, a Victorian country manor house north of Monmouth in Wales. Charles Rolls was educated in Berkshire and later at Eaton where he got the nickname of 'Dirty Rolls' from tinkering with engines. He subsequently gained entry to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he struggled a bit to get a degree in 1898 in mechanical and applied science. 

In 1896, at the age of 18, he went to Paris to buy his first car, a second-hand 3.75 hp Peugeot Phaeton, one of the most powerful available, which cost him £225, - a loan from his father helped. His first journey was from London to Cambridge. The Peugeot was the first car based in Cambridge, and one of three cars he owned in Wales. As an early motoring enthusiast, he joined the Self-Propelled Traffic Association, which campaigned against the restrictions imposed on motor vehicles by the Locomotive Act, and became a founder member of the Automobile Club of Great Britain.

C S Rolls first car, a 1896  Peugeot 3.75 HP which was run by him on English roads under the old Red Flag Act

The Hom Charles S Eolls On his new 12 HP Panhard Two Seater purchased in 1899

All-rounds sportsman, Rolls was a keen cyclist in 1896 and won a Half Blue and became captain of the Cambridge University Bicycle Club. He made his first balloon ascent in 1898 from Crystal Palace to Epping Forest, a distance of 16 miles. His working career started in 1898 on the steam yacht Santa Maria followed by a position at the London and North Western Railway in Crewe. 1899 he sold his 8hp Panhard named "The Fire Engine" and went to Paris again to buy a new 12hp model 'to take part in the 1900 One Thousand Mile Trial'. Also in 1900 he wrote the automobile section for the Encyclopedia Britannica. 

Later that year the Duke and Duchess of York (later King George V) stayed at Rolls' family home The Hendre where they are introduced to the Panhard Levassor motor car.  In 1903 Rolls drove a 80hp Mors car at the Duke of Portland's Clipstone Park at 82.8 mph and claimed the kilometre world record. 

As Rolls' talents were in salesmanship, in January 1902, and with the help of £6,600 provided by his father, he started one of Britain's first car dealerships, C. S. Rolls & Co. based in Fulham, London, to import and sell French Peugeot, Belgian Minerva, and the British New Orleans cars. In 1903 he opened showrooms in Brook Street, Mayfair.

Rolls also continued ballooning making over 170 ascents, one of the first crashing and completely destroying the craft. Also in 1903 he was a founding member of the Aero Club and was the second person in Britain to be licensed to fly by it. His hobbies were listed as "Football, engineering, ballooning. Awarded gold medal in the 1,000 miles' trial of 1900. His prowess in cycling, athletics and motor driving has also brought him in several prizes. Holds a third engineer's (marine) certificate, and is an expert aeronaut. Horses continued being an important part of his life, as was yachting". 

Charles Rolls, a Rolls-Royce and a yacht  Santa Maria

Charles Royce about to ascend in a Balloon

In 1904 Royce's partner and co-director Ernest Claremont was also a Director of  WT Glover, electrical wiring manufacturer in Manchester. Another Director of WT Glover was Henry Edmonds, who was a co-director of F. H. Royce and Company. Claremont showed Edmunds his Royce car which was one of three that had just been built by the Royce company. A meeting was arranged in Manchester between Rolls and Royce for both to discuss the car. Despite his preference for three or four cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the two-cylinder Royce 10 and in a subsequent agreement of 23 December 1904 agreed to take all the cars Royce could make and sell them through his dealership. These would be two, three, four and 6 cylinders and would be badged as Rolls-Royce.

Rolls on a Rolls-Royce 20 prepared for the Isle of Man TT

Meantime he continued with his own business and his sporting activities. In 1906 he broke the Monte Carlo to London record in a 20 hp Rolls-Royce, taking 28 hours 14 minutes to drive the 771 miles from Monte Carlo to Boulogne. In the same year took part in the 1906 Gordon Bennett Balloon Race as the British representative; having crossed the channel from Paris, he was awarded the gold medal for the longest time spent in the air. Again in 1906 he took a test flight in the Wright airplane. He was said to be distracted from his auto business by his many other interests but in 1906 Rolls took the Grey Ghost to New York to demonstrate its speed on the Empire City track where he won against cars for greater power. In 1907 Rolls test-drove the new 40/50 hp Silver Ghost and again returned to the USA to race and to explore the market.

In 1908 he visited Le Mans in France to study Wilbur Wright's experiments with his newly invented aeroplane. Wright's first powered flight was only five years earlier at Kittyhawk. in USA. Rolls was one of the first to fly with Wright and published an account of the experience. In view of this, Rolls proposed to the board that Rolls-Royce should acquire the rights to manufacture Wright airplanes but was over-ruled by his fellow directors. On May 1909 he ordered a glider from Short Brothers and started to learn to fly the glider at Standford Hill, Eastchurch. He made 43 flights before the end of September with the longest being 210 feet. 

Charles Rolls about to fly The Channel

1909 Wright Flyer Model AB taking off

Also in 1909 he took delivery of the Short Wright Flyer No 1. A day later he crashes it when it stalls. His flying activities occupy most of his time in 1909 and 1910. so much so that in April 1910 he resigns as the Technical Director of Rolls-Royce in order to concentrate on his aviation activities, but remains an adviser to Rolls-Royce. In June he becomes the first man to make a non-stop double crossing of the English Channel by airplane, taking 95 minutes - faster than Louis Bleriot who had done it one way a year earlier. In late 1910 he was planning to start the "Rolls Airplane Company" and a Rolls Powered Glider was being built at Short Brothers. 

On the 12 July 1910, just a month after his cross-Channel crossing, Rolls went to the Hengistbury Airfield, Southbourne, to give a flying display in his Wright Flyer at the Bournemouth Aviation Meeting. He was participating in a takeoff/landing competition when "some tail wires gave way, turning and descending his aeroplane in a rather abrupt way, and subsequently the machine fell with violence to the earth, and, alighting at an acute angle, buried him beneath the wreckage. Rolls sustained a fractured skull and was pronounced dead at the scene." He was the first Briton to be killed in an aeronautical accident with a powered aircraft, and the eleventh person internationally. His was also the first powered aviation fatality in the United Kingdom. He was just a few weeks short of his 33rd birthday. He was buried in the churchyard at Llangattock Vibon Avel, where most of his family were laid to rest. His much loved house and estate outside Monmouth, Hendre, is now the home of the Rolls of Monmouth Golf Club.

Nearby Newton Steam/Water  Mill of very similar type as the demolished Alwalton Mill  where Henry Royce was born

Fredrick Henry Royce
1863 - 1933

Frederick Henry Royce (1863-1933) came from humble beginnings being born at the Alwalton Mill, near Peterborough. His father, James Royce, came from a line of local nearby millers but he was new to milling. The mill was a thriving business in 1851 under the then owner Chapman March, a 'miller and bonecrusher' converting bones to fertiliser. At some point in the late 1850s, records suggest that one of the mills was being powered by a steam engine. March was renting the mill from the Dean & Chapter of Peterborough. March however died at a young age of 45 and the Mill was eventually put up for auction. The winning bidder in 1858 was James Royce, named in the 1861 census as "miller and corn merchant". Living with him were wife Mary and five children, the youngest being Fredrick Henry. A sign of problems started in 1863 as James repeatedly advertised for "experienced millers" and in 1864 advertising for a Governess to help bring up the five young children. It is reported young Fredrick Henry nearly lost his life there when at the age of two he fell into the mill pond. In February 1867, the Royce's business failed and Alwalton Mill was declared bankrupt. It seems nobody subsequently ran it as a business and by 1885 it was no longer on the local maps. The Royce family moved briefly to Ickleton in Cambridgeshire and then on to London. James Royce, died in poverty at the Greenwich Workhouse in 1872, aged just 41.

The next few years were not very pleasant for young Henry Royce. With his father having died bankrupt Henry was obliged after only one year of formal schooling to go out to work selling newspapers for W H Smith and delivering telegrams to help with the family income. In 1878 an aunt bought him an apprenticeship with the Great Northern Railway Company at its works in Peterborough. When the aunt's money ran out, Royce found work in Leeds as a toolmaker. After a short time in Leeds he returned to London to join the Electric Light and Power Company. At the age of 19 he was moved to their Liverpool office as chief engineer working on street and theatre lighting. The company however failed, and at the age of 21 he was again unemployed. 

With only £20 in savings Henry Royce and his friend Ernest Claremont, with £50, formed a partnership in the business of manufacturing domestic electric fittings. The business was based in Cook Street, Hulme, in Manchester, and was called FH Royce and Company. In 1894 they branched into making dynamos and electric cranes, some of which went as far abroad as Japan. In 1899 the company rebranded as Royce Ltd with another factory d in Trafford Park, Manchester.

It is reported that Henry Royce was an inveterate workaholic who took very little care of his health or ever had regular meals, or had more that two hours of sleep at a time. Employees would follow him round the factory with food and milk trying to persuade him to have some. He became progressively ill, possibly with ulcerative colitis and at one point he had to take a break with family in South Africa. 

The two partners and the company were doing well so Henry decided to buy a car. The first vehicle purchased was a De Dion Bouton Quadricycle which made him very nervous as it had practically no braking. In 1903 he purchased a twin cylinder French Deacuville. He was not very happy with this either and made numerous modifications and improvements. Still dissatisfied, he decided to design his own car. He cordoned off a corner of the works and borrowed a couple apprentices. The design and implementation of the new car owed much to the Decauville and prototype was rolled out on 1st April, 1904. After the birth-pains, three cars were eventually made. One was given to Royce's partner Ernest Claremont.

In 1904 Royce's partner and co-director Ernest Claremont was also a Director of  WT Glover, electrical wiring manufacturer in Manchester. Another Director of WT Glover was Henry Edmonds, who was a co-director of F. H. Royce and Company. Claremont showed Edmunds his car which was one of three that had just been built by the Royce company. A meeting was arranged in Manchester between Rolls and Royce for both to discuss the car. Despite his preference for three or four cylinder cars, Rolls was impressed with the two-cylinder Royce 10 and in a subsequent agreement of 23 December 1904 agreed to take all the cars Royce could make and sell them through his dealership. These would be of two, three, four and six cylinders and would be badged as Rolls-Royce. The Royce & Co company would continue separately making motors and cranes, while Rolls-Royce was formed in 1906 specifically for making cars.

The agreement covered five sizes of vehicles: 10HP, 15HP, 20HP, 30HP and the V8. All cars were chassis only with the customer to arrange coachwork extra, with Barker recommended. The Rolls-Royce 10 was a development of the Royce 10 but had a triangular bonnet top rather than flat on the Royce. Engine was a water-cooled two cylinder  1800cc, later 1995cc overhead inlet and side exhaust. Sixteen cars were made total at £395 each. 

The nest was the 15HP, a three cylinder car of 3,000cc, overhead inlet and side exhaust. Six cars were made total, at £500 each. The 20HP car had a 4,118cc four cylinder engine with overhead inlet and side exhaust valves, three of four speed gearbox.  40  cars were made total, at £650 each. The 30HP car had as six cylinder engine of 6 000cc. 37 cars were made total, at £890 each. They also made the Rolls-Royce V8 intended as a petrol-engined car competing with battery powered cars. This had 90 degree V8 side-valve, 3,535cc. Only three were made and none survive. All these cars were made in the period of 1905 and 1906. - and were followed by the model that we are actually interested in, the Model 40/50.

The original 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost 40'50 remains in preservation with the original Monmouth number-palate.

So at this point of the story in 1907 we know that Rolls and Royce had met and that the Rolls-Royce Company had progressed to the introduction of the new bigger 40/50 six cylinder model. So what did this have to do with Lenin?

To be continued Next Month as Part 3 of 3

Three Part Article: Part 1    Part 2Part 3

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