If you’ve been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the Olympics on the 13-inch Sony Trinitron in the corner of the sports bar where you’re trying to watch the Dodgers game, you may have noticed that British vehicles have made a sporadic, “British cars are still relevant!” appearance; for example, the remote-controlled cars used to recover javelins and discuses from the Olympic field were Mini Coopers. The closing ceremony featured plenty of iconic London taxis in diamond-studded livery, and a lot of cars wrapped, like the fish and chips of yore, in newspapers. (Oh, and the Spice Girls did something, too.) And somebody built a double decker bus that can do push-ups.
But the only car that wasn’t suspiciously wrapped in the Daily Mail, grilles exposed for maximum brand familiarity, was Rolls-Royce: it’s hard to miss an 18-foot Phantom Drophead Coupe, especially if Jessie J sings from the back. It’s hard to miss the Spirit of Ecstasy too, the famous hood ornament on the front of the Drophead Coupe that’s as integral to the Roller experience as ticking clocks and Grey Poupon. But wait! International Olympics rules forbid branding from companies that aren’t official sponsors, and despite Rolls-Royce’s patronage from official sponsor BMW, badges would have to be covered up. (It’s why all those other cars were newspaper-wrapped; otherwise, why would a German car take center stage at London?)
Hence, Rolls-Royce fiddled with the badges on the Phantom Drophead Coupe. And for the first time in 108 years, a Rolls-Royce drove from the Goodwood factory without the R-R badges that initialize Charles Stewart Rolls and Sir Henry Royce.
There’s nothing we couldn’t say about this vehicle that wouldn’t already sound farfetched, so we will let the press release do the talking:
The new grille badge features the iconic Spirit of Ecstasy with patriotic Union Flag replacing the traditional flowing gown of the Graceful Little Goddess. The steering wheel centre includes a traditional laurel wreath and torch, and the self-righting wheel centres feature the words “London 2012″ surrounded by the Olympic motto, “Citius, Altius, Fortius” (“Faster, Higher, Stronger”). The badges are complemented by unique tread plates identifying each car as “One of Three,” creating perhaps the most collectable (and unobtainable) Rolls-Royce Bespoke items ever produced.
Well, at least they know it’s unobtainable—right up until it turns up behind a Long Beach wrecking yard in 50 years, just in time for make up for the most charming barn-find story to add to the opening bid of its inevitable Gooding and Company Pebble Beach auction. The Rolls-Royce Olympic editions (if they can be called that, seeing as they’re not for sale) will probably be tucked away to a museum or the company’s warehouse, if they’re not sold to a private collector outright. And switching out a badge may not be something for us plebeians to understand, but no matter how many special editions a carmaker rolls out—don’t be surprised if Rolls-Royce floods our inboxes with press releases trumpeting an “Olympics London 2012 Special Edition Ghost”—the one thing they know not to touch is the badge. Hey, at least the Spirit of Ecstasy is still there. The Olympics don’t come very often, so we think Proprietors Rolls and Royce would be proud.