Revised Rolls-Royce shocking? Yes, but surprising is part of the history of this respectable brand. Suffice it to say that the famous Spirit of Ecstasy … had nothing to do with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
The Rolls-Royce brand is undoubtedly the blue blood of the automotive industry. An aristocracy with a history marred by sensationalism and scandal. The most famous member of this noble British family is, of course, the model of the Phantom, but even more recognizable is the silhouette of a woman in a flowing dress. A woman who had nothing to do with RR. Except for the daughter with the Phantom’s grip.
A sign of the times
When I say Rolls-Royce, many of you will see a large cathedral (this is what RR calls what some manufacturers call a grill or radiator grill) decorated with a small statue of a woman with wings. This image today is a brand symbol that is highly respected. How much? In front of someone from RR, try to say about the Spirit of Ecstasy that it is a logo. It may not come with a bang, but you will be given a look like the one who called the Louvre a poster shop or the Mississippi stream. In other words, they will see someone who doesn’t know.
The Spirit of Ecstasy is the most recognizable icon in the automotive industry. The statue, also known as the silver lady, is a trademark of Rolls-Royce. Interestingly, no one from RR is behind its creation. Okay, it’s a cliche. But we owe the Spirit of Ecstasy to secret love from the beginning of the last century. Pervertedly. To get to the bottom of it, however, it is necessary to present the silhouette of a certain master. British diplomat John Edward Scott-Montagu was a graduate of Eton and Oxford, MP and friend of King Edward VII. He loved cars, raced them and became famous for being the first to drive his car into the grounds of the British Parliament. Although it was received with disdain at the time, years later it was regarded as a sign of changing times. Thanks to his political commitment, he led the adoption of the Law on Motor Vehicles, among other things, the obligation to register cars and drivers. Lord Montagu was also the founder of “The Car Illustrated”, famous for its beautiful illustrations by Charles Sykes and which had the status of works of art. It is in the office of the editors of this magazine that the story of Spirit of Ecstasy begins.
The story of this statue is the story of a woman, a young English actress and model Eleanor Velasco Thornton, whom Lord Montagu hired as an assistant and with whom he fell in love without memory. There were two fruits of this relationship: the first is the daughter of Joan, the second – the Spirit of Ecstasy. Due to the fact that Lord Montagu was married to Lady Cecil, along with his property obligations and Eleanor’s low-ranking lineage, their relationship had to be kept secret. Joanna was put up for adoption. How the daughter was born – is known. How was the flying woman born? Well, in 1903, Montagu tested the sculptural talent of his painter Charles Sykes. On the occasion of the Gordon Bennett Car Race, the Lord sponsored a cup for the winner. Its author was Sykes in particular. He produced a silver cup – the image of a woman holding a winged chariot in her hands. The model of the artist was Eleanor. When the trend of decorating cars and mascots started a few years later, Mr. Montagu also agreed. He wanted to decorate the bonnet of the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost Type 70 with a personal mark. He entrusted the development of the project to those who fulfilled the order of the cup perfectly. Charles Sykes made a sculpture of a woman in a veil touching her lips in a secret gesture (today we know what secret she was hiding). The example was, of course, Eleanor. The statue was called The Whisperer, the same as the Lord called his Rolls-Royce, which Eleanor was sure to take for a ride.
What happened next? The master, as a master, had connections here and there. As soon as he saw the idol style in the cars, he immediately offered one of the directors of RR, a certain Cloude Johnson, the business. Creating a sculpture that will adorn every model of RR in the future. Therefore, in 1911, the noble director was presented with the well-known symbol of the “happy spirit”, which is an obvious variation on the theme of The Whisperer. In this way, the image of the beloved master became a symbol of the value of RR, i.e. speed, beauty, style and energy. Initially, the symbol was available as an option, but from 1920 it proudly adorned the cathedral of every Goodwood car.
Jewel in the crown (literal)
Now I look into the eyes of Eleanor for a long time, whose photo crowns the cathedral of the largest SUV of the brand, beautifully named Cullinan. And even though I know it’s a different perspective, I’m interested in this story. The respect with which he is treated is impressive.
I can almost feel this joyful spirit. And this is what cars of this brand are all about. No matter which style you choose, you’ll find a vintage spirit and a dignified ride. You will get a higher grade and level. You know how it is with money. They can be found, won or stolen and owned. Classes no. It cannot be found, stolen or won. You have to work, and it lasts. Often more than one generation. Class is a rule, a respect for history and often a rule or protocol. It is traditional, predictable and chic, but also wise and despite everything modesty, even if luxurious. And in the automotive industry? It’s a Rolls-Royce. And take my word for it, you can feel it in every instance of this brand. Even if it’s an SUV. While it may seem like a mistake to refer to the RR as an SUV, there is nothing wrong. The Cullinan is not just an SUV from Rolls-Royce. Above all, it is the Rolls-Royce of SUVs.
Porsche, Aston Martin, Bentley and Lamborghini, as well as Ferrari are already making big bucks in SUVs or are about to start. It’s a matter of customer expectations, and thus – often to be or not to be a brand. What is received with disgust today will soon be regarded as a sign of the times – as John Edward Scott-Montagu drove into the grounds of the British Parliament. And the sign of the times is SUVs today. Their share in sales increases in every segment. So in ultra-luxury too. The result? Rolls-Royce Cullinan – 2 meters wide, 5.3 meters long and 1.85 meters high. The car can go into water half a meter deep (I haven’t tried) and drive where another model of this brand is impossible to choose (I tried). Of course there is a drive on both axles, but no reduction gear or lock. He is a regular of famous states rather than off-road tracks. However, road efficiency is ensured by electronics and 850 Nm of torque, which is provided by a V12 petrol unit with a capacity of 6.75 l and a power of more than 570 hp. A pointed rear axle helps turn this colossus. The car accelerates to a hundred in 5.2 seconds and can run at a top speed of up to 250 km / h. When driving at high speed – despite the full suspension – you can feel the large mass of the car, and it rubs against 2.7 t (silencers alone weigh 100 kg). True, but in Rollsie (everyone) there is no room for compromise.
Nature obliges. The car seems to have nothing against climbing on forest paths and muddy paths. He will do the trick. The driver is not. At least not me. Tires soiled with mud, which is a reason to be proud of my Jeep, I see here as a fake pas, compared to adding a tuxedo and traps that are not clean. Just because something can be done doesn’t mean it can be done. The Cullinan however keeps the rules of protocol the same as other models from the brand. The suspension has a flying carpet effect (it’s hard to believe that the wheels are touching the pavement). Certainly there is no expensive SUV with such comfortable seats and a bed. All four doors can be closed automatically at the push of a button, so it’s a suggestion that this Rolls model can be driven without a driver. The car is available in a 5 or 4 seater version. In the latter configuration, a glass separating the cargo compartment from the passenger compartment is available. Thanks to him, although it is difficult for me to imagine, the interior should be much quieter. But even without glasses, only the remnants of sound from the outside world reach the ears of the driver and passengers. The engine (despite its size) cannot be heard at all. There are also no vibrations. As an electrician. This feature of RR cars means that when their owners switch to electric cars, it can go unnoticed. And I remind you: from 2030 there will be no non-electric Rolls. RR’s first plug-in model (brilliantly named Spectre) will arrive next year.
Cullinan, as befits an SUV, has a slightly squat silhouette. But that’s fine with RR. The interior is fair. It is the same in the sense that if you see wood, it is wood. As well as other devices. No pretense and no compromise. In addition, this timeless elegance, which is not disturbed by the decorations used by the competition (for example from Maybach). Diamonds should sparkle and basically don’t need any enhancements. Especially like a diamond. Because RR named its SUV after a diamond. The Cullinan is the largest and cleanest diamond known. It was discovered in 1905 at the Premier Mine near Pretoria. It was originally 10 by 6 by 5 cm and weighed 3106 carats (more than 620 g). In 1907, it was presented to King Edward VII. At his behest, the Amsterdam firm of the Asscher brothers split and polished the stone. On February 10, 1908, Joseph Asscher skillfully cut, thanks to which nine large and 96 small stones were found from the lump. Of the diamonds found in 1908, the two largest – Cullinan I and Cullinan II – were included in the British government mark. Well, tell me how to take this treasure under the run? Well, not good. True.
There is no happy ending
Culinan is also a diamond in the rough for RR himself. Today (next to the Ghost model) it is the most popular model of the brand. It is largely thanks to him that the company improves its results from year to year. In 2021, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars recorded the highest sales in the brand’s 117-year history. The company delivered 5,586 vehicles to customers around the world, 49 percent more than in (also breaking the record) 2020 I envy each of the new owners. Because the RR is more than the easiest mode of transportation. I know it sounds banal, but this is a legend of great love carved into a small statue. Unfortunately, without “hepiend”. The woman for whom the statue was made died in terrible circumstances in front of her lover. When the ship they were traveling to India in 1915 was hit by a German torpedo, it sank. The Lord is out of trouble. But the story goes that for the rest of his life he blamed himself for not holding Eleanor close enough. Lord Montagu died seven years later. It’s stories like that that create what’s great in the automotive industry. Climate and nature.