Самыми знаменитыми автомобилями из носящих носовое украшение, бесспорно, являются Rolls-Royce. Облицовку радиатора этих самых престижных в мире автомобилей украшает женская фигурка. Наклонившись чуть-чуть вперед, как бы сопротивляясь набегающему порыву ветра, она олицетворяет скорость и красоту. Фигурку изваял английский скульптор Чарльз Сайкс (Charles Sykes) в 1911 году.
Автор назвал её «Духом экстаза», но у нее есть ещё много имен и прозвищ: древнегреческая богиня победы Ника, летящая леди, Эмили, Нелли в ночнушке. За столь продолжительное время фигурка неоднократно изменялась как по форме, так и по материалу изготовления и покрытию. Первоначально статуэтку отливали из баббита, позднее — из бронзы и других металлов с последующим покрытием никелем или хромом, по специальному заказу изготавливали из серебра и золота. Фигурка полируется вручную молотыми косточками черешни. На современных Rolls-Royce с целью предотвращения вандализма фигурка утапливается внутрь.
To all intents and purposes, it was Lord Montague of Beaulieu – one of the first motor car aficionados in the United Kingdom – who in 1899 was the first person to mount a St. Christopher mascot on the radiator grille of his Daimler motor car. To call this an invention, though, would be stretching things too far, because it had for centuries been a maritime custom to decorate ships’ prows with figureheads. Even the ancient Romans took pleasure in adorning their chariots in a similar manner – so why shouldn’t motoring enthusiasts follow suit, asks Reinhard Lintelmann.
Montague’s example didn’t really start to catch on until after the turn of the century, when motor cars were gaining in popularity. Queen Margherita of Italy had a St. Christopher mascot fitted to the radiator grille of her Itala in 1906. Less prominent motoring fans soon followed their example, starting an incredible boom for this popular accessory. The only surviving radiator mascots are now the “Mercedes Star”, the Rolls-Royce “Spirit of Ecstasy” and the pouncing jaguar on the bonnet of the eponymous car. These are the last representatives of more than 6,000(!) mascots which once adorned our radiators.
Radiator mascots specific to a car marque were a rarity 100 years ago. The car industry had little use for this kind of frippery and left the production of these flights of fancy to the accessory companies, with taste back then alternating between kitsch and art. The producers worked on the principle that nothing was impossible, and introduced all kinds of birds, lions, bulls, tigers or even snails as miniature mascots to top the radiator. Even gods, huntsmen, boxers or skiers were used. People would buy anything!
In the United Kingdom and France, in particular, a large number of companies grew up specialising in the manufacture of radiator mascots. “Lejeune” alone had 60 different dog sculptures in the company’s range. In the United Kingdom, “Desmo” offered car owners a mail order service for radiator mascots. The company also made individual mascots to customers’ own designs.
It was only a matter of time before professional advertisers got in on the act. From their point of view, the car radiator was the ideal location to carry small advertisements, because cars were still a rarity, and accordingly attracted attention.
The advertising industry launched a range of radiator mascots – some more original than others – extolling the virtues of oil producers, lamp manufacturers, tyre companies, match producers and a large number of suppliers to car makers. But not every motorist was inclined to carry advertising for third party companies.
The car makers, who had initially cold-shouldered this development, started to take a dim view of the whole affair. Rolls Royce in particular no longer intended to stand by and watch the head of the radiator on their luxury cars being desecrated by grotesque kitsch. The company commissioned the famous painter and sculptor, Charles Sykes, to create the silver lady that even today graces every Rolls Royce radiator.