Rolls-Royce restores a pair of soapbox racers it built in the 2000s



Rolls-Royce inaugurated its current headquarters in Goodwood, England, in 2003, but it started making cars there before the plant was officially opened. It built a soapbox racer called RR-0.01 in 2001 and manufactured a second example named RR-0.02 the following year. These one-offs were raced at the Goodwood Festival of Speed and largely forgotten about until they were given a full restoration in 2024.

Building a soapbox racer might sound odd for a brand that develops some of the world’s most luxurious cars. Rolls-Royce explains that entering the Goodwood Festival of Speed’s Soapbox Challenge was a way to preview what was then a new chapter in its history. In just a few short years, it had been sold to Volkswagen by a company named Vickers and sold again to BMW after an intense round of negotiations. It had split from Bentley, its longtime sister company, and it was forced to build a new plant, a new headquarters, and develop a new range.

The soapbox racers were made by some of the same workers that later manufactured models like the Phantom, and they featured a Rolls-Royce-esque design thanks largely to a bright grille with vertical slats. It should come as no surprise that these weren’t your typical home-brewed racers built on a gutted riding lawnmower chassis. Rolls-Royce used carbon fiber, fiberglass, and aluminum to keep the 0.01’s weight in check, for example, while the 0.02 featured a formula racing-style steering rack, wood trim, as well as leather upholstery. The two racers also stood out with several unusual design cues: 0.01 wore a hare-shaped hood ornament while 0.02 got a “??” logo above the grille.

Rolls-Royce notes that its soapbox racers last competed in 2013; during the event, 0.02 reached 72 mph, which is remarkable (and a little scary) considering it’s powered solely by gravity. They were stored in as-raced condition until the company asked a team of apprentices to fully restore them. The work performed included repairing parts damaged during racing, including 0.01’s grille and 0.02’s wood cowl.

Both freshly-restored racers will be displayed at the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club’s headquarters in Northamptonshire, England.



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