Rolls-Royce’s celebrated ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ has received an aerodynamic redesign, 111 years to the day since its introduction, for the luxury marque’s upcoming range of electric vehicles.
Standing 82.73 mm tall compared to the predecessor’s 100.01 mm, the Spirit is said to feature “a lower, more dynamic stance”, including her robes, which have also been more aerodynamically and realistically shaped.
Previously, the Spirit leaned forward with her legs together and straight legs. Now, the reimagined example stands with her legs slightly bent and with one further forward than the other, as if leaning into the wind. The body is also tucked lower.
The new design is said to be more in-keeping with the drawings originally penned by sculptor Charles Sykes in 1911, though the redesign is more than just a celebratory gesture. The new Spirit, for example, takes physical queues from ‘The Expression’ design language of the upcoming Spectre, due to arrive in 2024 and on which the designed emblem will make its production debut (the current example will continue to adorn the Phantom, Ghost, Wraith, Dawn and Cullinan). Fittingly, the two-door fastback is also the most aerodynamic Rolls-Royce ever created, boasting a drag co-efficient of just 0.26.
The Spectre, revealed in camouflage last September, is the first of a new all-electric range for Rolls-Royce, which will cease production of ICE vehicles by 2030.
“The Spirit of Ecstasy is the most famous and desirable automotive mascot in the world,” Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Müller-Ötvös explains in an official statement. “More than just a symbol, she is the embodiment of our brand, and a constant source of inspiration and pride for the marque and its clients. Like our brand, she has always moved with the times while staying true to her nature and character. In her new form she is more streamlined and graceful than ever before – the perfect emblem for the most aerodynamic Rolls-Royce ever created, and for gracing the prow of our bold electric future.”
“111 years ago today, the Spirit of Ecstasy became an official part of Rolls-Royce,” director of design Anders Warming continues. “Yet, she has come to represent a spiritual direction for our brand. Her form perfectly captures the marque – she leans forward, expressing our relentless pursuit of progress, and her dress gracefully flows in the wind, echoing the serenity of our products in motion. For Spectre and beyond, she becomes lower and more focused; braced for unprecedented speed and the exciting future her presence will define.”
Though a rarity, this is not the first time the Spirit of Ecstasy has received a redesign since its introduction on February 6, 1911. Commissioned by Lord Montagu of Beaulieu in 1909 as a bespoke mascot for his Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, the Spirit, sculpted by Charles Sykes, actually started out life as ‘The Whisper’, a young woman in flowing robes holding a coquettish finger to her lips. Whether this related to the quiet engine or speculation of an affair between Lord Montagu and his private secretary Eleanor Velasco Thornton, nobody is absolutely sure.
Displeased with the trendsetting Montagu (mascots adorned each of his limousines from then on), then-Rolls-Royce MD Claude Johnson later commissioned Sykes to create an official mascot for the British luxury carmaker. And so The Whisper was reinterpreted as ‘The Spirit’, and would continue to be handmade and polished by Sykes and his daughter Jo until 1939.
Though a predominantly unaltered symbol of Rolls-Royce for more than a century, the Spirit did receive a brief redesign during the mid-1930s and the late 1940s/early 1950s. Now kneeling, the re-sculpted Spirit gave drivers a clearer view of the road ahead, but disappeared when the Silver Dawn, Phantom IV and Silver Wraith went out of production.