She’s 100 years old, but hardly looks it. No baggy chin. No cellulite. She puts on her best shiny face every time she sees daylight.
We’re talking about the Spirit of Ecstasy, the famous flying lady mascot who graces the prow of the British luxury automaker’s vehicles. To celebrate her birthday, Rolls-Royce paraded — you guessed it! — 100 Rolls-Royces, from 1911 until the present, at the brand’s home in Goodwood, England. Even the new Phantom Drophead coupe made the guest list.
Designed by Charles Sykes in 1911, the model for the Spirit of Ecstasy was Miss Eleanor Thornton, the personal secretary of John Scott Montagu, the 2nd Baron Montagu of Beaulieu and friend of company co-founder Charles Stewart Rolls. In 1915, Miss Thornton died at sea while traveling to India. But for a century her likeness has graced every Spirit of Ecstasy statuette.
“The Spirit of Ecstasy is a genuine icon, a graceful goddess who has adorned the prow of Rolls-Royce cars past and present,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
Interestingly, we have a little historical trivia for you: Were you aware that no one knows exactly who the “graceful goddess” is? According to a history on the Rolls website, the Rolls-Royce board publicly voiced its displeasure at gaudy hood ornaments “such as portly policemen” and went looking for a solution. A designer came up with the Spirit of Ecstasy. It may have been modeled after a co-worker named Eleanor Thornton. None of those involved confirmed that the Spirit of Ecstasy was based on Thornton. The designer’s daughter was asked about it once, and Rolls-Royce says she is reported to have replied, “Eleanor was a lovely person. It is an interesting story, and if it makes you happy, let the myth prevail.”
This year, every Ghost and Phantom will feature a special edition of the Spirit of Ecstasy with the inscription, “Spirit of Ecstasy Centenary – 2011” etched into the base. Our guess is that some very particular figureheads might insist on a 24-carat edition with diamond encrusted lettering.
The party isn’t over. Rolls-Royce plans to keep on celebrating throughout the rest of the year with Spirit of Ecstasy inspired initiatives and events. Stop in Penske’s Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Scottsdale to see how they are celebrating this 100-year-old mascot.