The marque: British icon, now owned by BMW.
The history: The electrical engineer Henry Royce built his first three cars in 1904, and they found favour with Charles Royce, who was looking for models to sell in his London showroom. The two combined forces to form Rolls-Royce, and their first creation followed in 1907 - the six-cylinder Silver Ghost, lauded as the best car of its day and still legendary. In 1914, Royce developed his first aircraft engine, the Eagle. It provided half of the Allies' horsepower in the First World War, but the definitive Rolls-Royce engine was the Merlin; built for the prestigious Schneider Cup seaplane races, it became the heart of the Second World War's Spitfire and Hurricane fighters. Rolls absorbed Bentley in 1931 and the car business prospered, even after Rolls-Royce went bust in 1971. The business was hived off and eventually found itself being fought over by Volkwagen and BMW, the latter taking the flying lady off to a new factory at Goodwood. Notable post-war models include the 1947 Silver Wraith, the 1965 Silver Shadow - a best seller - and the latest Phantom.
Defining model: 1907 Silver Ghost.
They say: "When it doesn't exist, design it."
We say: The best cars in the world. Sometimes. Happy 100th birthday.