Rolls-Royce Revives Historic ‘Spectre’ Name for First Ever Electric Car
British luxury car marque Rolls-Royce has this week unveiled its first ever all-electric model – the “Spectre”.
A successor to the V12 petrol-powered Phantom Coupé, the new EV is set to hit roads in 2023, whereupon it will become the first series production Rolls‑Royce to carry the Spectre name.
Previously the moniker had only been used for one early demonstrator car and 10 experimental chassis dating from the early part of the 20th century.
In point of fact, it was back in August 1910 that the marque built Chassis 1601, which Claude Johnson – the company’s commercial managing director at the time – used as a trials, or demonstrator, car.
Johnson decided to name it “The Silver Spectre” (historic badge pictured below), which was the first recorded use of the Spectre name in the brand’s illustrious history.
During 1905 and 1913, Johnson is said to have personally devised, usually in consultation with clients, individual names for near-enough 50 cars the company manufactured – the most famous of these being “The Silver Ghost”, which was produced for the 1907 London Motor Show.
The car’s silver paintwork and silver-plated brightwork reportedly made such an impression on motoring journalists and the public at large that “Silver Ghost” was officially adopted as the car’s name, and indeed for all 40/50 horsepower (hp) chassis built until 1925, when the New Phantom was launched.
“Before the First World War, road transport was still dominated by horses and horse-drawn vehicles and those who could afford a Rolls-Royce would certainly have also kept and used horses themselves. It would therefore have been entirely natural and logical for them to name their new car, just as they would have done a favourite steed,” says the current marketing team at Rolls-Royce. “The marketing potential of this fundamental human trait was immediately evident to the keen business mind of Claude Johnson”.
In its formative years, Rolls-Royce followed a special naming convention for its prototype cars, giving them chassis numbers with the suffix “EX”. While the first such vehicle was the 1EX from 1919, the most recent example was the 103EX electric vision concept car that was revealed in 2016.
In 1930, Rolls-Royce co-founder Sir Henry Royce had started work on a new V12 engine for a brand new chassis with independent front suspension.
However, as a result of his death in 1933, he was unable to see the project reach its completion. It was in November 1934 that the new car, “30EX” (pictured below in black and white), was eventually readied for road-testing.
“As with all innovations, maintaining secrecy around the new V12 engine was commercially critical. Therefore, together with its chassis number, 30EX was also assigned a codename: ‘Spectre’. Nine further EX cars, with the ‘Spectre’ codename would follow, before the car entered production as Phantom III in 1936,” further explains the Rolls-Royce marketing team.
“There is a pleasing symmetry between the Spectres of the past and the present-day incarnation. In our history, Spectre is a name synonymous with technical innovation and development, and Rolls‑Royce motor cars that go on to change the world. Though separated by almost a century, both the Spectres of the 1930s and our own today are the proving-grounds for propulsion technology that will shape our products and clients’ experiences for decades to come,” adds Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the company’s present CEO.