Roll Up, Roll Up, Its the End of the Line for Rolls-Royce; as a Name It's as British as Harrods but, like the Famous Knightsbridge Store, Things Ain't What They Used to Be. Yesterday, the Last Car of the Line Begun in 1904 by Charles Rolls and Henry Royce Was Displayed in Typically Dignified Fashion to the Press before the Official Take over by BMW. It's Just Another of Life's Great Ironies Says RICHARD SHERRIFF

Article excerpt

Byline: RICHARD SHERRIFF

AS a death notice, the invitation issued this week from the Rolls Royce factory at Pyms Lane, Crewe, was as sad an announcement as the British motor industry has seen in some years.

"Opportunity to see the last ever Crewe built Rolls-Royce motor car

EVENT: Last ever Crewe built Rolls-Royce motor car ready to be viewed.

DATE: Friday, August 30th 2002

TIME: 09.30 hours (please report at 0900 hours for security checks)

LOCATION: Rolls-Royce & Bentley Motor Cars, Pyms Lane, Crewe, Cheshire.

PICTURE: Dry weather option: Car stationary/moving underneath the ''Welcome To Crewe - Home of Rolls-Royce..." sign at the factory"

EVEN the addendum ''Wet weather: Car undergoing final preparation at the end of the 2-door car production line,'' was as British as you can get as, after just under a century of production, the last British Rolls to be built was displayed to the Press assembled to record the sombre fact.

After 98 years of production that saw Rolls linked irrevocably with British success and endeavour - until recently at least - it truly marks the end of an era.

Used in every corner of the Empire, the cars from crewe were pressed into service during wartime and were naturally the transport of choice for the Royal Family.

Rock stars have also developed a fondness for 'Rollers', the term is anathema to purists, and John Lennon caused outrage in the 60s when he had his painted in a psychedelic colour scheme.

The cars have also been synonymous with conspicuous consumption from Pools winners to Lottery millionaires.

Of course, the name Rolls Royce will live on under the new ownership of BMW who bought the rights to the name only at the same time as Volkswagen sneaked off with the Pyms Lane factory and, more importantly observers believe, the Bentley name.

Certainly, Bentley is in the ascendency at present while Rolls are deemed to be a little out of step with today's times.

The current Silver Seraph may well be luxurious in the extreme but dynamically and technologically speaking the Maybach and Mercedes S-class, not mention the BMW 7-series, have it hammered.

Nevertheless, BMW have promised their new car will be worthy of the famous Spirit of Ecstasy radiator emblem when the new Rolls is launched in January next year.

Costing about pounds 200m the new plant is expected to produce 1000 cars a year and employ 350 people.

Karl-Heinz Kalbfell, managing director of BMW's Rolls-Royce project, has been quoted as saying: ''The new company will be structured and managed in line with the overriding objective to continue the great heritage of the Rolls-Royce marque in its original and authentic style. …