2004 marked the 100th Anniversary of Rolls-Royce. The marque could be traced
back to the year 1904, when the first meeting of Frederic Henry Royce and Charles
Stewart Rolls resulted in their decision to produce Rolls-Royce motor cars.
To launch the Rolls-Royce 100 EX Centenary experimental car was one of the highlights
by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars to celebrate the event.
The two-door four-seater drop-head coupe of really ostentatious dimensions
made its debut at the Geneva Salon in March 2004. Thus was given a glimpse of
future developments at Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, a wholly owned subsidiary of
BMW Group. From 2003 onward their Rolls-Royce Phantom, a four-door model had
been supplied from a new factory located in Goodwood in the South of England.
The design of the drop-head coupé though obviously influenced by that of the
Phantom didn’t come from the United Kingdom. It had been created at BMW Group’s
studio Designworks in Southern California in the USA and the experimental car
had then been built by a department of BMW, Munich, that was specialised on
such tasks. All this unmistakeably indications of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars being
under the wings of a ‘Global Player’.
Based on a lightweight aluminium space-frame one remarkable feature of the
body were rear-hinged doors. The early 50ies had been the last period when such
had been found on but very few two-door cars. A highly sophisticated door-locking
mechanism was a must even on an experimental car. After all these doors where
burdened with the epitaph ‘Suicide Doors’, a reflection of the fact that doors
inadvertently opened during driving could rarely be shut again; usually flung
most dangerously fully open from wind-pressure.
Not only the space-frame was made from light alloy, that also was the material
for the bonnet. The windscreen surround plus A-post were machined from solid
aluminium, too. The theme was reaching further with a polished aluminium waist
rail surrounding the passenger compartment. Bleached teak decking was an eye-catcher
on the tonneau cover for the folded hood; formed teak footwells accentuated
the flooring. However the interior wood veneer, e.g. on the dashboard, is figured
mahogany. The designers admitted they had been keen to run “a strong nautical
Responsible exterior designer was Serbian-born Marek Djordjevic, who on this
model – as a variation from the Phantom he had designed – was keen on a silhouette
with a rise in the waistline over the rear wheels. And he positioned the classic
radiator in a surprisingly rakish style. The traditional emblem of entwined
RR on the radiator was red (instead of the standard black). The Spirit of Ecstasy
mascot was made in hallmarked silver. A design-peculiarity that deserves to
be mentioned was the two-piece bootlid. The lower part of that could be folded
down to a horizontal position; though perhaps it shouldn’t be employed like
similar features on pre-war cars, i.e. to carry additional luggage.
In Rolls-Royce Motors Cars’ parlance the 100 EX Centenary was an experimental
car and they clearly separated this new model from a ‘concept car’ of mere prototype
standard. No doubt was left this was a one-off with yet no decision as regards
series-production. That the experimental car’s role was to test and evaluate
new systems, components and features did permit the conclusion though of certain
design-elements and/or mechanical components to make their way into series-production.
This caused the new engine to become a focus of interest. A light alloy V16-engine
of 9 litres capacity; naturally aspirated, neither turbo- nor supercharging.
At present there is not a single car manufacturer in the world offering an engine
with sixteen cylinders and four valves per cylinder.
light alloy 16-cylinder-engine, four valves per cylinder, capacity 9,000 cc;
digital engine control, power output: not revealed; 6-speed automatic gearbox;
rear wheel drive; independent suspension front and rear, wheelbase 3,470mm,
height 1,561 mm, width 1,990 mm, overall length 5,669m m, tyre size front 255/50/R21
on light alloy wheels 8 1/2J R21, tyre size rear 285/45/R21 on light alloy wheels
9 1/2J R21; max. speed: not revealed