“The advent of our first battery-electric car marks the start of a bold new era for Rolls-Royce,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive Officer, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “It is also the culmination of a long, painstaking process, in which every element in creating this landmark car has been considered in the minutest detail, over numerous iterations.
“But one aspect of this landmark motor car has always been certain: from the outset, we determined that it would bear the name Spectre – the first series production Rolls-Royce ever to do so,” he continues. “It was a decision inspired by our heritage: ‘Spectre’ cars were always associated with groundbreaking technical innovations, the relentless pursuit of perfection, and a sense of mystery and otherworldliness. The motor car we now present to the world embodies all those qualities, while making the Spectre name entirely its own.”
Choosing a name for a new Rolls-Royce car is a highly considered process, in which the marque’s unique heritage plays a central part. Of the current product family, all but Cullinan (named after the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever discovered) bear storied names from the past: Phantom, Ghost, Dawn and Wraith all have namesakes spanning Rolls-Royce’s 119-year history.
In naming its first battery-electric vehicle, Rolls-Royce sought to maintain and strengthen these important “genetic” links, while also marking a definitive shift into new territory defined by innovation and progress. As the following brief history explains, it found the perfect solution with Spectre.
What’s in a name?
According to a Chinese proverb, “the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names”, reflecting our innate need to identify and classify objects as a way to make sense of the universe. This is entirely obvious in relation to people, of course; and for our early ancestors, naming objects was a crucial survival technique. But why name an inanimate object like a motor car?
The practice is as old as the motor car itself. 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 for them to name their new car, just as they would have done a favourite steed.
The marketing potential of this fundamental human trait was immediately evident to the keen business mind of Claude Johnson, the commercial managing director of Rolls-Royce. Between 1905 and 1913, he personally devised, often in consultation with the client, individual names for almost 50 cars the company produced – the most famous of which was “The Silver Ghost”, created for the 1907 London Motor Show. The car’s silver paintwork and silver-plated brightwork so impressed motoring journalists and the public alike that “Silver Ghost” was adopted as the official model name for all 40/50hp chassis built until 1925, when the New Phantom was introduced.
Johnson would surely be gratified that these ethereal, otherworldly names, intended to capture the car’s near-silent running, still grace Rolls-Royce models, referencing this same quality more than a century later.