The Rolls-Royce 1920 amored car at the Dorset Tank Museum.
The Rolls-Royce 1920 amored car at the Dorset Tank Museum. Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has had a long and venerable history since its foundation in 1904. When most people think of Rolls-Royce, they probably imagine driving through the teeming streets of some Western metropolis, perhaps gazing distantly at the proletarians as they busy themselves in their daily cares. Maybe our theoretical rider lights his cigar with a hundred dollar bill and says to his driver, Jennings, drive faster - we can't be seen arriving late at Belmont.

But that's all just in our heads. Instead of imagining a monolithic trophy of plutocracy parting the masses as it cruises through the slums, try thinking about this: a big, green Rolls-Royce tank.

Rolls-Royce has put its World War I era armored car on display at the Tank Museum in Dorset.

Do take a moment to really reflect on the fact that Dorset, England has a tank museum.

While the car on display did not roll off the assembly line until 1920, cars similar to it saw service in the Great War starting in August 1914 when the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) began operating them in Flanders. The RNAS got a Christmas present that year when Rolls-Royce began building the turreted version now at the museum. Rolls-Royce armored cars saw service throughout World War I.

The Rolls-Royce armored car (although, really, with a gun turret like that, it looks more like a tank), was build using the chassis of the 40/50 hp Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost with some minor modifications to the rear suspension and wheels. The engine, crew compartment and radiator doors were all armored, and the hand-turned gun turret packed a Vickers water-cooled machine-gun.

The car on display at the museum was built in 1920 and saw service in Ireland with the No. 5 Armoured Car Company of the Tank Corps in the early 1920s. Later, in 1927, it rolled through Shanghai in what the museum calls an international emergency, probably the so called Shanghai Crisis when Chiang Kai-shek suppressed the Chinese Communist Party.

The armored car later moved to Egypt in 1929. It eventually saw service making coastal patrols in the U.K. during the second World War. It joined fleet of the Tank Museum in 1946. In 1997, it was used to drive Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II around during her visit to the Tank Museum.