The Bencmark of the Class
The turn of the 20th century marked the beginning of an extraordinary partnership between two of the most innovative minds of the moment. Henry Royce, a successful engineer and Charles Rolls, owner of one of the UK’s first motor car dealerships, agreed to sell motor cars under the name Rolls-Royce.
At that moment, a new company was born: Rolls-Royce. This happened in 1904 in Manchester, United Kingdom. They quickly developed a reputation for superior engineering by manufacturing the “best car in the world”.
The Best Motor Car in the World
In 1907, Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost was declared “The Best Car in the World” breaking the world record for a non-stop motor run, travelling from London to Glasgow 27 times – covering 14 371 consecutive miles (23 127 km), demonstrating unrivalled reliability and comfort.
Silver Cloud – the Introduction
The introduction of Silver Cloud came in 1955. Designed by JP Blatchley and capable of a top speed of 106 mph (170 km/h), it featured the same 4,887 cc engine as Silver Dawn but with a completely new and handsome steel body. This model was produced from April 1955 to March 1966 and was the core model of the Rolls-Royce range during that period.
Silver Cloud III – The Red Carpet Favorite
Becoming a leader on road, sea and air, throughout the years, actors, rock stars and celebrities chose the brand as a symbol of their success.
A white 1965 Silver Cloud III featured prominently in The Avengers episode “Mission: Highly Improbable” broadcast November 1967. In a 1971 song called “Up to Me”, the British rock band Jethro Tull refers to this car with the lyric “I’ll buy a Silver Cloud to ride.”
The Silver Cloud III was first displayed to the public at the Paris salon at the beginning of October 1962. External dimensions were slightly altered, the interior remodelled, the weight reduced by a little over 100 kg (220 lb) and improvements made to the engine.
The headlights were grouped in a four-headlamp layout subsequently continued in the later Silver Shadow. Other external changes included a slightly increased slope of the bonnet to correspond with a 1 1⁄2 inches (3.8 cm) reduction in radiator grille height.
Between 1963 and 1966 there were no major changes. Stainless steel wheel trims replaced chrome-plated ones in April 1963, and an improved rear window demister was introduced in November of the same year.
Wider front seats were fitted in January 1964, and five months later a revised headlamp surround now incorporated a very small RR monogram. A chrome badge reading “Silver Cloud III” in an italic font can be seen on the right bottom side of the boot of most UK and European delivered examples, whilst US versions were delivered without this badge.
As with earlier models, Rolls-Royce continued to make the Silver Cloud chassis available to traditional coachbuilders.
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In the Spirit of Ecstasy
The Spirit of Ecstasy is the bonnet ornament sculpture on Rolls-Royce cars. It is in the form of a woman leaning forwards with her arms outstretched behind and above her. Billowing cloth runs from her arms to her back, resembling wings.
The Spirit of Ecstasy, also called Eleanor, Silver Lady, or Flying Lady, was designed by Sykes, a graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, and carries with it a story about secret passion between Montagu, second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu after 1905, a pioneer of the automobile movement, and editor of The Car Illustrated magazine from 1902, and the model for the emblem, Eleanor Velasco Thornton – an English actress and artists’ model.
Eleanor (also known as Thorn) was the secretary of John Walter, who fell in love with her in 1902 when she worked for him on the aforesaid motoring magazine. Their secret love was to remain hidden, limited to their circle of friends, for more than a decade.
The reason for the secrecy was Eleanor’s impoverished social and economic status, which was an obstacle to their love. On the other hand, Montagu had been married to Lady Cecil Victoria Constance Kerr since 1889.
By 1910 the managing director of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, was asked to commission a more dignified and graceful mascot. He turned to Sykes to produce a mascot which would adorn all future Rolls-Royce cars and become generic to the marque, with the specifications that it should convey “the spirit” of the Rolls-Royce, namely, speed with silence, absence of vibration, the mysterious harnessing of great energy and a beautiful living organism of superb grace.
Royce was ill during the commissioning of the flying lady. He did not believe the figurine enhanced the cars, asserting that it impaired the driver’s view, and was rarely seen driving one of his company’s vehicles adorned with the mascot.
The Spirit of Ecstasy was manufactured by the British firm Louis Lejeune Ltd. for a number of years.
Today’s Spirit of Ecstasy, from the 2003 Phantom model onward, stands at 3 inches (7.6 cm) and, for safety, is mounted on a spring-loaded mechanism designed to retract instantly into the radiator shell if struck from any direction.
There is a button within the vehicle which can raise/lower the emblem when pressed. She can be made from highly polished stainless steel, stainless with 24-carat gold plating, or from illuminated frosted crystal – the latter two being optional extras. Aftermarket customized versions are also available, including those covered in a matte black paint or studded in diamonds.
See a video with the history of Rolls-Royce :