AS you might well know, this year brings the 100th anniversary of the founding of the most prestigious company in the history of the motor industry writes Roy Brooks

This, of course, being none other than Rolls-Royce -- a name that quickly became synonymous throughout the world for the highest quality and reliability.

For most of last week I was fortunate enough to be able to be part of the celebrations marking the first meeting of the Hon C S Rolls and F H Royce that is recognised as taking place on May 4, 1904, in Manchester's Midland Hotel.

Let me mention just a few of the more interesting, sometimes small, features that most impressed me.

I must though go back a month earlier to April 1 which marked the 100th anniversary of the first trial run of the first Royce car. This was from the original works in Cooke Street, Manchester (long since demolished) to Royce's home, Brae Cottage (still existing) in Knutsford. The Sir Henry Royce public house stands pretty close to the old works site and from there we followed the route taken by Royce.

Looking at the original test records of that first Royce engine its power output was recorded as 120 volts and 45 amps -- Royce was a highly successful electrical engineer. My schoolboy science equates that to 7.2 hp, and even with that very modest output I bet he made better time than we did on that same journey!

He had no mechanical problems, we were held up by the density of traffic.

The celebrations last week embraced events in Manchester, Derby and Crewe, the prime manufacturing sites of the company.

The first visit was to Crewe, built as a shadow aero engine factory just prior to the Second World War. The firm's post-war cars made there, with the first being the Bentley Mk VI (Bentley was acquired by Rolls-Royce in 1932), followed by the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith.

That same factory is again making Bentley cars but only Bentley, under Volkswagen the new owners of that marque. And a splendid job they are doing. Quality standards appear every bit as high as under its previous owners and clearly there are now vastly more resources available for research and development.

The Bentley Continental GT two-door sports coupe looks a snip at £110,000. If you ever get the chance to visit the factory, be sure to see the Lineage Centre which houses a changing display of cars of historic interest. Not least of which when I was there was the oldest Bentley existing (actually the second to be made) and in a condition like new.

Tuesday brought the formal Centenary Luncheon at the Midland Hotel to celebrate the actual first meeting of the two men. Interestingly the precise date is not recorded and the place of meeting has been the subject of debate, but research suggests that this was the most likely.

The meal was preceded by an impressive flypast of a Rolls-Royce powered Lancaster bomber of the Second World War to emphasise the importance of the company's aero engine business which started in 1915 at Derby.

Every participant was given a copy of a splendid book by Michael Evans dealing in fascinating detail with the Manchester origins of Rolls-Royce -- in my case, autographed by the author.

Following the introduction in 1907 of the Silver Ghost, credited with the unsurpassed sobriquet of "the best car in the world", demand for Rolls-Royce cars was so great as to outgrow the capacity of the Manchester factory. In July 1908 a brand new factory, designed by Royce himself was opened in Derby.

The original "No 1 Shop" still exists and this formed a focus of the last visit of the week with a number of the cars actually made there returning to their birthplace. That was after everyone had found their way to the venue -- Derby with all its congestion and one way streets is a terrible place for strangers to find their way.

Today Derby is the headquarters and prime manufacturing base of Rolls-Royce plc that produces what are widely acknowledged to be the best aero engines in the world.

To see at close quarters such as the mighty Trent gas turbine engine in all its complexity and realise it can produce some 90,000 horsepower helped to make one proud that these indeed are still very British.

The cost of such an engine runs into millions of pounds and they are mostly rented by airlines rather than bought outright.

The reputation of Rolls-Royce engines for reliability and fuel economy is such that in some applications they are chosen by more than 80 per cent of all operators.

Amazingly the Rolls-Royce idea of a small rubber cone fitted to the nose of the gas turbine shaft made a fuel saving about 1.5 per cent.

Naturally there were a number of the latest BMW made and designed impressive looking Rolls-Royce Phantoms in evidence at all the events. The very first of these was handed over to its UK owner on January 1, 2003, at the official opening of the advanced new factory specially constructed at Goodwood.

A visit there was not part of the itinerary, although the company were obviously closely involved with the celebrations.

All in all a great, if somewhat strenuous, celebration of something that really was worth celebrating.

One thing for certain, few of us will be around to celebrate the next centenary!