The name Rolls Royce has come to mean something built to perfection with no shortcuts or cost-saving measures to compromise the quality of the final build. As such, the name has become a generic term that extends far beyond the narrow confines of the motor industry. The expression “it is the Rolls Royce of…” is now commonly used.
The symbol of this iconic motor car is the Rolls Royce hood ornament named “The Spirit of Ecstasy” and has been employed by Rolls Royce (The car manufacturer) since the start of the 20th century in 1911. Today’s customers can select a “Spirit of Ecstasy” ornament for their new cars, which costs up to $200,000!
A ‘stock’ Rolls Royce vehicles don’t exist. Customers get to choose every adornment to fit the car, including color, fabric styles, equipment levels, and accessories. Although it is the symbol of luxury and has such a long history, it is paralleling a tragic tale involving poverty, death, and duplicity.
Jump ahead to..
- 1 What Is The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament?
- 2 All About The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament History
- 3 Who Was The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament Modelled After?
- 4 What Of The Future Of The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament?
- 5 Concluding The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament
- 6 Frequently Asked Questions
What Is The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament?
The only standard component of a Rolls Royce is the engine, which provides “sufficient” power. Everything else, the future owner individually specifies before manufacture starts. The list of options is mind-boggling and includes:
- The Seats.
- The fabrics used on the seats.
- The wood used in the paneling.
- The leather used on the controls
- The interior roof liner (including the Starlight headliner option)
- 44,000 different color combinations
- The Rear footrests.
- Rear curtains.
- Rear picnic tables.
- Teak and stainless-steel convertible top boot.
- Floormats made from lambswool.
- The grill surrounds.
- Visibility of the exhausts
- Whether the grill is illuminated or not.
- The metal used for the hood.
- Engraved or non-engraved, and illuminated or non-illuminated door footplates.
- Picnic tables fold out of the front seats for the rear passenger’s convenience.
- Color coordinated boot liner.
- Rear Privacy glass.
- Rear Compartment curtains
The list continues until the customer chooses the version of the Spirit Of Ecstasy to be installed.
The Spirit of Ecstasy can be selected in either Silver or Gold Plate as standard options. An optional extra is for the “More” well-heeled customers and is a Spirit of Ecstasy made from platinum and 150-carat diamonds; this is available at the princely sum of only $200,000. To create some perspective, the base price of a 2022 Lamborghini Urus is $225,500!
All About The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament History
The manufacturing behemoth, Roll Royce, was formed out of the partnership between Charles Rolls and Henry Royce of Manchester in the United Kingdom.
Henry Rolls was an engineer who has built an electrical and engineering business. When he made his first car, he met a car salesman called Henry Royce, and they agreed to collaborate. They quickly developed a reputation for building vehicles that had superior engineering and quality.
The first Rolls Royce was built in 1904 and was not adorned with a Rolls Royce hood ornament. It was not until 1909 when a customer, John Walter, the editor of “The Car Illustrated” magazine, commissioned a friend to sculptor a likeness of Eleanor Velasco Thornton for an ornament to be installed on his new car.
This version featured a figurine in wavy robes, with one finger against her lips to represent the secret love affair between John and Eleanor. This figurine was called “whisper” and is now displayed at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu.
By 1910 it had become fashionable to mount ornaments on the hoods of cars, and Roll Royce was becoming concerned that some of them clashed with the Rolls Royce ethos.
To counter this, Rolls Royce’s managing director, Claude Johnson, commissioned the original sculptor of “Whisper” to create Roll’s figurine.
The brief was that the work should convey:
- Speed with silence
- Absence of vibration
- The mysterious harnessing of great energy
- A beautiful living organism of superb grace.
The sculptor of the Rolls Royce hood ornament, Charles Robinson Sykes, produced the defining icon of Roll Royce cars, the Spirit Of Ecstasy.
Interestingly, Henry Royce was opposed to installing a mascot on the cars because he felt it impaired the driver’s vision, and could not be seen by the driver, so what was the point? When the work was commissioned, Henry Royce was ill, and he could not influence the decision.
Who Was The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament Modelled After?
Eleanor Velasco Thornton was the model for both the “Whisper” and the “Spirit If Ecstasy” figurines. Eleanor was both the secretary and secret lover of the editor of “The Car Illustrated” magazine.
Born Nelly Thornton, she adopted the name of Eleanor Velasco Thornton. She started working at “The Car Illustrated” magazine when she was eighteen and just out of school.
She was appointed as the secretary, and mistress, of John Walter (John, 2nd Baron Montagu).
They had an illegitimate daughter who she gave up for adoption.
They kept the affair secret was because Eleanor came from a lower social stratum; the fact that he was married does not seem to have been a consideration!
Eleanor was overweight, and her physique did not match the figurines. She was given a small silver model of the Spirit Of Ecstasy to acknowledge her involvement.
In 1915 Eleanor and John traveled to India. They were passengers on the SS Persia, which the German U-boat U-38 torpedoed while it was crossing the Mediterranean Sea. John survived, but Eleanor was lost at sea.
Eleanor’s sister, Rose, took possession of Eleanor’s silver figurine model. Rose was married to Gordon Willis Hayter in 1923, who, on her death in 1945, remarried to Dorothy Hayter.
The ownership of the figurine ended up with Dorothy Hayter.
Sadly, Dorothy’s home was robbed, and the silver figurine was stolen. Who knows if the ultimate recipient, whoever they were, knew the value of this artifact?
What Of The Future Of The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament?
Most manufacturers have ditched hood ornaments, with cars becoming ever more fuel-efficient. The word “Most” has never been part of the Rolls Royce vocabulary, and they remain committed to the Spirit of Ecstasy.
However, the Rolls Royce hood ornament has been modified to be more aerodynamically efficient for more recent models. Designers have lowered its stance by 17 percent, ironically making it closer to Charles Robinson Sykes’s original drawings.
The figurine positioning on the hood has been changed slightly, and her robes have been modified to produce less wind resistance.
The Rolls Royce hood ornament emblem on modern Rolls Royce’s can also be electrically powered into a secured, hidden compartment, protecting it from thieves and reducing wind drag. When instructed, Jeeves can call upon all the available horsepower to propel the car to the next dinner appointment!
Concluding The Rolls Royce Hood Ornament
It is ironic that the Rolls Royce hood ornament, the Spirit of Ecstasy, which over the years has come to portray the dignity, quality, and values of Rolls Royce’s, was commissioned initially out of a secret, extramarital affair between a Baron and a working-class girl from London.
Whatever the origin, this beautiful mascot ably represents the vehicles which are Rolls Royce’s. It has been associated with the brands identify now and is a symbol of supreme quality. Manufacturers across the globe all have their own unique identify portrayed through ornaments, badges or emblems, just like Maserati who have their own iconic Maserati trident emblem symbolizing their origins, representing their rich history and quality, the same way a Rolls Royce hood ornament does for Rolls Royce.
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are a list of some frequently asked questions and our answers to them:
What is the Rolls Royce hood ornament price
From the early 20th century in 1911 till today, customers of Rolls Royce have been able to select to put the Rolls Royce hood ornament on the front of their new cars. The price ranges greatly but can go all the way up to $200,000.
What is the Rolls Royce hood ornament name
The Rolls Royce hood ornament name has been referred to as a few different things over the years, such as the flying lady, but the official name for the Rolls Royce hood ornament is the Spirit of Ecstasy.
What car has the flying lady hood ornament
The car that is recognised as having the flying lady hood ornament is a Rolls Royce. The Rolls Royce hood ornament otherwise officially referred to as the Spirit of Ecstasy has been adorning the hood of Rolls Royce cars since 1911.