Park your indignation for a moment. The Rolls Royce Cullinan might be yet another obscenely large and heavy capitulation to the market’s appetite for SUVs but, in the world of ultra-premium manufacturers, Rolls-Royce stands on firmer ground than any other in terms of precedent.
From 1914, armoured cars built upon its Silver Ghost chassis were equipped with water-cooled .303 Vickers machine guns and sent to serve in the First World War. Squadrons a dozen strong made it as far afield as the Middle East, where they helped TE Lawrence conquer Turkish forces in the desert.
“More valuable than rubies” was how Lawrence of Arabia famously described these fantastically ugly 7.5-litre 4.7-tonne machines and, in one form or another, Rolls-Royce’s front-line service endured until 1941.
Even during the time between Rolls-Royce’s 1904 founding and its involvement in conflict, its vehicles often functioned as what would now be called SUVs. They had to be luxurious and reliable but were expected to deliver those attributes on often appalling ‘road’ surfaces.
Fitted with shooting brake bodies, they also provided motorised support for the many off-road activities of the privileged. European aristocracy needed ground clearance and roomy cabins for hunting excursions and one Indian maharaja later ordered his 1925 Phantom with taller wheels, searchlights and an elephant gun mounted on the rear bumper.