Rolls Royce: The True Spirit of Ecstasy
“Nil fato relinquemus”
A Rolls Royce is a legend. Being timeless in design, no matter what age or model, the Rolls Royce is a supreme achievement in motoring. Everywhere it is driven, it never passes unremarked. A Rolls Royce is a thing of beauty and a masterwork of automotive art. The Spirit of Ecstasy is the true spirit of excellence. Being the pinnacle of luxury, no other car even comes close to its majesty. A Rolls Royce is a tribute to craftsmanship and engineering perfection. As symbol of prestige, it is the ultimate expression of dynamism and splendor. Rolls Royce – being the epitome of elegance and opulence – is the pride of the UK and the envy of the entire world…
Rolls Royce is synonymous with luxury world-wide. It is a symbol of your taste…not your aristocracy. It’s one of life’s greatest satisfactions left in our harried, mass-produced world. Without conjecture, any Rolls Royce is an immediate source of pride and pleasure, not to mention, a long-term asset. All the time-honored materials of the coachbuilders are worked patiently, largely by hand into an elegant and completely individual motorcar. So what goes into making the best car in the world?
Each classic radiator grille is made by one of a team of craftsmen. It takes one man almost a day to soft solder the virtually invisible joints between the eleven pieces of hand-crafted stainless-steel that forms the main structure of this iconic trademark. If you could see behind the finished product, there are the initials of the craftsman that made it. He has personally signed responsibility for the quality of his efforts. Should the grille ever need repairs, it can be returned to the man who knows it best.
The radiator shell appears to be perfectly rectilinear. To achieve this illusion every line and surface has been slightly curved. This is a property called entasis which is the visual display of contrasting lines and shiny surfaces used by ancient Greece. This process was used in the architecture of the Parthenon with the graceful curves of its Doric columns.
To construct the iconic radiator grille requires special skills and talent learned over many years. It is an art of which few have mastered. Each is imperceptibly different from the next because it is completely hand-crafted. After the radiator grille is completed. It is hand-polished up to five hours before the “RR” badge is attached.
The legendary Spirit of Ecstasy – a symbol of motoring excellence for over 100 years – is the automobile’s crowning glory. It emphatically states the Rolls Royce motorcar is a thing of beauty.
The silvered Flying Lady was hand-sculpted by Charles Sykes in 1911. It expresses the sensation of soaring; which is the smoothness of riding in a Rolls Royce. The famous mascot was designed to discourage the use of hideous ornamentation and to maintain a uniform appearance of luxury. It was decided upon that if a mascot was to be used it should complement the graceful lines of the motorcar. The Spirit of Ecstasy garnered considerable acclaim from the day it was introduced. In 1920 it won a first prize gold medal in a world competition for the best motorcar mascot.
The method of casting the Flying Lady is known as “The lost wax process.” It was discovered over four thousand years ago by the Chinese. It starts with a perfect wax pattern of the statuette. Then it is surrounded by a special refractory material. After it has set, the mass is then heated to the point where the wax melts out leaving a perfect impression inside.
Molten metal is poured into the refractory block. Once it has cooled, the refractory coating is chipped away leaving a perfect reproduction of the wax pattern. She is then hand-polished to perfection. The Spirit of Ecstasy, the famous radiator grille, and badge have become known and recognized world-wide as the hallmarks of motoring excellence.
The pinnacle in ultra-luxury motoring is a coachbuilt Rolls Royce. A first time buyer is excited about it in stock form, but the seasoned enthusiast seeks a little more. Mulliner Park Ward – the eminent coachcrafter with a history of exemplary fit & finish – created one of a kind masterpieces. The coachbuilder received notoriety for their two-door Fixedhead and Drophead coupe models.
Silver Shadow Mulliner Park Ward and Silver Cloud Mulliner Park Ward Drophead coupe models are highly sought by collectors world-wide. And…lest we forget, the formidable Corniche coachbuilt Fixedhead and Drophead coupe models with all their motoring majesty…were collectible as soon as they left the assembly hall. A Rolls Royce two-door saloon has always been built at a highly restricted pace to retain its exclusivity –
Here is the Corniche evolution
This is the Corniche V, the last of the Corniche series
Speaking of exclusivity and supremacy…a Rolls Royce in its grandest manner is a coachbuilt limousine. The legendary Phantom is the ultimate expression of dynamism and luxury. Due to their highly bespoke nature, no two will ever be alike. These handcrafted limousines were meticulously built by such coachbuilders as HJ Mulliner, Park Ward, Mulliner Park Ward, and James Young. With infinite choices of features and accessories available, a Rolls Royce Phantom was limited only by its owner’s imagination. As a symbol of prestige, there is no more formal manner in which to arrive than in these impressive Flagships.
One of the many splendid pleasures of driving the Spirit of Ecstasy comes from being surrounded by the most exquisite natural materials. The incomparable craftsmanship of the beautifully hand-crafted wood veneers uses the same techniques handed down through the generations. Each year experts from Rolls Royce travel to Milan, Italy to purchase wood for the elegant veneers for the next production year. They review over 500,000 sq. ft. of veneer but only purchase 1/10 of that.
The veneers are mirror-matched
Each car has a different veneer pattern
The beautiful wood veneers in the Spirit of Ecstasy are made from eight invisibly joined slivers of hand-cut veneer. The wafer-thin sheets of veneer are inspected by the master woodsman. The sheets are then paired and cut. He creates patterns of which no two cars will ever share. The veneers are artfully shuffled, mirror-matched, and cut before being mounted to a seasoned hardwood backing. Slivers of aluminium are sandwiched in between the slivers of wood for added durability. In case of a serious accident, the veneers will not crack and splinter.
The wood is tempered in slow ovens for added strength. The age-old art of architectural entasis is used to give the ultimate impression of flatness. All the panels are made slightly convex to achieve this look. The wood is lacquered and hand-polished to a glass-like appearance. All veneer patterns are recorded in the car’s history book. Should damage occur a repair can be made with a spare section of the original veneer.
It takes eight to eleven perfectly matched hides to upholster the interior of the Spirit of Ecstasy. The selector for the hides will inspect and reject some 500 or more before he finds the ideal skin. The rejects end up as high-end leather goods. The curing process is designed to reduce to a minimum the release of vapor that could lead to misting on the inside of the windows at certain cabin temperatures. The leather is tested for resistance to cracking and rubbing from worsted cloth before being cut and sewn.
The hand-fitted, hand-tufted 100% wool carpets line the floor and boot luxuriously. The off-cuts from the hides that lavishly upholster the seats, edge the carpet. Carpeted footrests add to rear seat passenger comfort. Lambswool rugs add the finishing touch of decadent elegance. When you step into a Rolls Royce…it’s like stepping into another world. It is a world of almost total silence and unprecedented comfort. There’s nothing quite like a Rolls Royce.
Ever wonder why a Rolls Royce paint finish seems to glow with such depth? There are many stages before it even gets near the painting booth. The bare-steel bodyshell can spend up to four days being cleaned, inspected, measured, and brushed with wire wool. A technician with dedicated hands does nothing but “feel” for flaws…the hands can catch what the eyes may miss.
Special highlighting fluid and lighting also detects the tiniest flaws which are marked with a grease pen for re-work. Only after the best inspectors in the world are satisfied with the condition of the bodyshell, it is cleaned – five times.
All external body surfaces are then sprayed with an acid etch primer that provides the base for the coats that follow. A layer of primer is shot which forms an almost impervious barrier to penetration by water. All internal joints are sealed with a complex plastic compound. The surface of the body is coated with a five-thousandth of an inch thick layer of epoxy primer. Each coat is a double layer. A team of highly skilled inspectors and technologists that follow the progress of every motorcar throughout production now takes over, searching for imperfections.
Sound deadening and undersealing compounds are applied to all surfaces exposed to the road. A double coat of grey primer surface forms the third priming operation. It is now ready to accept the pigment color.
Several double coats of color are applied to the bodyshell. It is stoved for an hour in an oven at 180 degrees and then hand-rubbed. After washing, rinsing, and de-greasing, the bodyshell is ready for two more double coats of paint. Up to now, the bodyshell has spent more than fifty-five hours in the pre-treatment and anti-corrosive process. The vehicle has only begun its journey through production. It will take another three to six months before it is ready to leave the factory as a Rolls Royce –
A Rolls Royce maintains perfect poise at all times. Hydraulic engine-driven pumps kept the car level regardless of load or road conditions. The rear suspension is where the network is located. Gas filled shock absorbers and hydraulic leveling systems were used by earlier Rolls Royce models. For the later models, the height control is electronic and includes electronic stability control. A Rolls Royce always maintains the proper ride height to preserve its beauty.
Many of the Spirit of Ecstasy’s components are nickel chrome plated for durability. The exhaust system, radiator grille & mascot, wheel discs, and window frames are made from austenitic stainless-steel. Every Rolls Royce is still built with the same virtues as Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Frederick Henry Royce set forth from the company’s inception in 1906. Each car is built largely by hand, patiently, and dedicated to quality.
At the heart of the company’s approach to building motorcars which require the best that brain, hand, and eye can create, is the philosophy of the craftsmen who believe there is only one way…the right way – anything less is an unacceptable compromise. These standards of excellence are impetus to the men and women at Rolls Royce. The best people in the world build the best car in the world. Excellence is the norm while integrity is the guiding principle – A Rolls Royce is the only automobile that precludes the restless quest for something finer to replace it with –
“Strive for perfection in everything you do. Take the best that exists and make it better. When it does not exist, design it. Accept nothing nearly right or good enough” was the credo of Sir Henry. It was the Silver Ghost that garnered accolades while obtaining the “silent motorcar” reputation. Even Sir Henry, the perfectionist, considered them to be the best cars he had ever made. The Silver Ghost is the most famous example of the 40/50 hp model. It was the first milestone vehicle for the brand. There was a sign posted in the factory that read: “Beware the silent motorcar.”
Sir Henry designed his own components. He made his own coil and distributor. He created a new carburetor design and brakes that were more secure. He even made the suspension more comfortable. Sir Henry also built a better gearbox that was silent. Sir Henry invented the modern clutch. He perfected his machines night and day. His strive for perfection was relentless…just as today’s Rolls Royce motorcars. A Rolls Royce is the undisputed “Standard of the World.”
The Pinnacle Travel Phantom
“The quality will remain long after the price has been forgotten…” was Sir Henry’s idea regarding the Rolls Royce. This remains true. Generations of craftsmen passed on traditional excellence to make every detail that the hand and eye could devise…as perfect as possible. A Rolls Royce motorcar is built by craftsmen…not machines. It is a symbol of prestige… the ultimate expression of dynamism and luxury. A Rolls Royce – being the epitome of elegance and opulence – is the pride of the UK and the envy of the world.
Special thanks to Rodd Sala Park Ward Motors Museum
Special thanks to Balmoral UK
Special thanks to Daniel Schmitt Classic cars
Photos courtesy Rolls Royce Press Club
Rolls Royce Celestial Phantom
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