How Rolls-Royce Makes The World's Most Famous Hood Ornament [PHOTOS]

The image of a Rolls-Royce has long been inseparable from the famous hood ornament of a woman with her arms spread out behind her, her clothes billowing in the wind.

The statuette, officially known as The Spirit of Ecstasy, dates back to the early days of the automaker, and was created by British sculptor Charles Robinson Sykes.

Sykes made the first version of the hood ornament for motoring enthusiast Lord Montagu. His model was Montagu’s secretary and mistress, Eleanor Thornton, according to The Telegraph.

Soon after, Rolls-Royce, annoyed that its customers were making up their own hood ornaments, commissioned Sykes to create a similar statue for all its cars. The Spirit of Ecstasy has been standard on Rolls-Royces since the 1920s.

Since 2003, Polycast Limited, based in Southampton, has been responsible for making the Spirit of Ecstasy. Today, it churns out about 5,500 per year.

Reuters photographer Stefan Wermuth went behind the scenes to see how they do it.

Southampton-based Polycast Limited has been responsible for making the Spirit of Ecstasy since 2003. It now makes about 5,500 per year.

The statuette starts out as a wax form.

Once the wax version is made, it's cooled off.

The details are fine enough to make out the features of Eleanor Thornton, the secretary who modelled for the original version.

Right down to her billowing clothes and the hair on the back of her head.

Then it's time for the real thing. First step: melt some steel.

The melted steel is poured into a form.

Once cooled, the Spirit of Ecstasy is completed by hand.

It's a precise job.

Then it's just a matter of sticking it on the car.

Now take a close look at another luxury ride.

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