One hundred years ago today, sculptor Charles Sykes delivered the design for the world's most iconic hood ornament, Rolls-Royce’s Spirit of Ecstasy. The emblem, which closely resembles the Greek goddess
Nike, has changed very little—altered only by aerodynamic tweaks and its
button-controlled retraction. These days the figure is made using
21st-century laser mapping in combination
with age-old molding techniques, a week-long process documented above. Legend has it that Sykes modeled the three-inch-tall radiator mascot after Eleanor Thornton, the secretary and lover of automotive pioneer Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. The social and economic disparity between the couple prevented them from marrying, so the star-crossed affair remained stealth—and ripe for interpretation. “The famous pantheon grille on which she stands represents the scale and
majesty of the cars, while she points to something more mystical and
ethereal," says Kris Sukhu, Surface Integration Manager of Rolls-Royce. Available in stainless steel, sterling silver or 24-carat gold, each model bears the inscription “C.S. 2-6-11,” in homage to Sykes’s inscribed signature, and the date he took luxury to a whole new level.