The Spirit of Ecstasy (famous flying lady mascot), the enigmatic mascot of Rolls-Royce Motor cars, has been carved to perfection and set atop the trademark bonnet grille of every Rolls-Royce car that has ever been produced since February 6, 1911. The Rolls-Royce Motor Car Company was officially founded in 1906, but its iconic radiator mascot — the Spirit of Ecstasy — wasn’t crafted and placed on cars until five years after.
Spirit of Ecstasy Centenary Collection Phantoms –won’t be identical to one another. Each, however, will offer owners a number of special touches unavailable on other Rolls-Royce models. Up front, the Spirit of Ecstasy itself is cast in silver, while its base is gold plated. The Rolls-Royce emblems applied throughout the car are also unique, as their silver-on-black color scheme is the inverse of the company’s actual logo.
To honor this moment, the Ghost and Phantom models that are built by Rolls Royce in Goodwood will get a special Spirit of Ecstasy that will be engraved with the inscription "Spirit of Ecstasy Centenary – 2011". This inscription can be seen at the base of the mascot and it will be written in a special font named ITC Willow.
Charles Rolls, Henry Royce and Claude Johnson are the founding fathers of the Rolls-Royce brand. Charles Rolls was an aristocrat, engineer and ran a car import business near Earls Court. Dissatisfied with the quality of foreign cars, Rolls sought and found a kindred spirit in Henry Royce, an established electrical engineer with a car manufacturing business in Manchester.
The men were brought together in 1904 by Claude Johnson, who became known as the hyphen in Rolls-Royce. Johnson had been secretary at the Motor Club of Great Britain, latterly the RAC Club, but in 1901 had joined Rolls in business. When C.S. Rolls and Co. established exclusive rights to sell Rolls-Royce cars from its dealership in Conduit Street, Mayfair, it was Johnson who helped drive its success. In an early advertisement for Rolls-Royce he famously coined the line ‘The Best Car in the World’. John Scott Montagu was a friend of Claude Johnson and Charles Rolls, as well as a fellow motoring pioneer. He founded The Car Illustrated in 1902 and today his son’s estate in Hampshire continues to guard the Spirit of Ecstasy legend.
Montagu appointed a young sculptor and illustrator called Charles Sykes as resident artist for his magazine in 1903. It was Sykes’ beautiful illustrations and bronzes that signposted the way to the creation of the first Spirit of Ecstasy. The final and most important player in the story is Eleanor Thornton, a British beauty and secretary to Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, founder and editor of The Car Illustrated magazine. Eleanor was the inspiration for many more of Sykes early sketches, paintings and bronzes. The Whisperer is perhaps the most famous example of a Sykes figurine in bronze, which more than hints at the famous bonnet mascot.
The early motor car featured a radiator cap on its hood/bonnet, but by 1910, the hood ornament/car mascot became fashionable. The Rolls-Royce board of directors voiced their displeasure of the gauche hood ornaments that was sat atop its vehicles. So Montague told Sykes to fashion something that would embody “speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace.” Sykes created the gilded woman he presented in 1911; it became Rolls’ standard bonnet adornment in the 1920s.