Magazine article The Spectator

Glamorous Ghost

Magazine article The Spectator

Glamorous Ghost

Article excerpt

The motor industry likes anniversaries because they help sell cars. This year is the centenary of Ford's assembly plant at Trafford Park in Manchester - its first outside North America - which produced the Model T from kits. It's also the 50th birthday of the E -Type Jaguar (how many times will we see the word 'iconic' alongside that this year? ). My favourite, however, is the shapely Nelly Thornton, immortalised in 1911 as the Spirit of Ecstasy that has adorned most Rolls-Royces ever since.

It's not proven that Eleanor Thornton, mistress of Lord Montagu and secretly mother of his child, modelled for Charles Sykes, creator of the Spirit, but rumour becomes myth and myth historical reality if enough of us believe it. What is undoubtedly true - sadly - is that mother and child were drowned when the troopship on which all three sailed for E gypt was torpedoed in 1916. I once proposed it as a film, only to hear that someone was about to make one, though nothing seems to have come of it.

But Nelly lives on, gracing those famous (another opportunity for 'iconic') grilles, and her anniversary seemed reason enough to try out the Ghost, the baby Rolls. Of course, it's not a baby at all, being over 17-feet long, weighing nearly 2.5 tonnes and featuring a new engine (6.6-litre V12, 563bhp, 575lb/ ft) that makes this the most powerful Rolls ever. It is, however, over 16 inches shorter than its big sister, the Phantom (Spectator, 29 September 2008), albeit with comparable interior space as a result of monocoque construction. Its lines are softer than the stately brutalism of the great barge and it's more likely to be driven by owners than chauffeurs. Since its introduction in 2009, it has attracted enough new buyers to justify two shifts at the Goodwood factory without, surprisingly, diminishing Phantom sales. In fact, some existing Phantom owners are forking out £200,000-plus to have the Ghost as well.

I don't blame them. It drives as well as it looks, a tribute to engineer Helmut Riedl and designer Ian Cameron. I was initially baffled by the transmission, parking brake and ignition sequence, but once I did get it started I genuinely - genuinely - thought I hadn't, so quiet is the engine thanks to the double bulkhead. Nor was the appearance of the car seriously marred by a scattering of stone chips at Nelly's feet - a memento from the Top Gear team who nearly trashed the vehicle in Albania. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.