One Very Uncommon

April 1, 2011 | By Ted Kade

London Drive

NEXT TIME YOU’RE planning a special cruise-in for your car club, you might take a few tips from the Rolls-Royce folks on how you can go about hosting a truly memorable event.

A cruise given in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Rolls-Royce Spirit of Ecstasy hood ornament included vintage Rolls vehicles on the streets of London

For starters, be aware that this was no monthly gathering of the local Rolls-Royce gearheads to talk shop and exercise their vehicles. This was a special “Spirit of Ecstasy Centenary Drive” that kicked off a year of celebrations in honor of the 100th anniversary of the famous flying lady mascot. She has been gracing the hoods of Rolls-Royce cars since the design was first registered in London in 1911.

the flying lady herself

“The Spirit of Ecstasy is a genuine icon, a graceful goddess who has adorned the prow of Rolls-Royce cars past and present,”said companyCEOTorstenMüllerÖtvös. “The centenary drive was a fitting tribute to such an important figure for our company.”

and a stop at the home of the Duke of Northumberland.

The drive consisted, appropriately enough, of 100 Rolls-Royce cars including both vintage and present-day models. Drivers included members of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club, VIPs and “media guests.” (For the record, no one from Auto Restorer was invited to take part.) Among the cars were Silver Ghosts,Silver Clouds, Silver Shadows and Silver Spurs.

Now, here’s where you might want to take some notes for when you plan your next driving event:The Rolls-Royce cruise started in Belgravia, which, in case you didn’t know, is a district of central London to the southwest of Buckingham Palace. (I didn’t know that either; I had to look it up.) The drivers then made their way past a number of London landmarks such as Big Ben, Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. They also took in “locations of significance for the Rolls-Royce brand,” including the birthplace of Charles Rolls, the site of the studio where sculptor Charles Sykes is thought to have created the Spirit of Ecstasy design, and the current home of Rolls-Royce in London.

The drivers wrapped it up at the Great Conservatory, a domed glass and steel building set in 40 acres of gardens at Syon House in West London. Syon House, of course, is the home of the Duke of Northumberland.

For those of you who, like us, didn’t get to take part in the cruise, we’ve gathered up some photos on this page to give you and us a chance to see some of the day’s highlights. Furthermore, you still have an opportunity to get in on the centennial celebrations by purchasing one of the Spirit of Ecstasy Centenary Collection Phantom models. This group of 100 specially prepared cars will include “a suite of features inspired by the legendary flying lady, complemented by a range of exclusive exterior colours, wood veneers and leather options.”

This group of special features on the Centenary Collection starts with “the famous icon herself.” The hood ornament on each of these cars will be cast in silver and carry the words “Spirit of Ecstasy—2011”on the base and again on the cover plate for when the mascot is in the lowered position. For more on Rolls-Royce products, visit

And for moreon the story behind the legendary Ecstasy hood ornament and some tales about the woman who just might have been the inspiration for the flying lady, see the Rearview Mirror column on page 2.

—Ted Kade