By on October 14, 2020

Those of you familiar with vintage motorcars will recall that there was once a period in history where hood ornaments weren’t the classy exception but the rule. Automakers have been affixing their corporate iconography to the top of vehicles since before there were seat belts, tapping members of the animal kingdom, indigenous leaders who opposed the British (back when such things were acceptable), winged letters of the alphabet, rocket ships, and just about everything else one could imagine wanting to stick atop an automobile. But most of those have been modified to suit the times and/or relocated onto the grille in an effort to avoid impaling pedestrians (Ed. note: And perhaps theft. I think my grandparents had the hood ornament stolen off their mid-’90s era Buick once. — TH).

While a few companies attempted to get around government safety regulations by implementing flexibly mounted hood ornaments designed to avoid stabbing the person you’ve already done the disservice of hitting with your car, just about all of them have given up the ghost by 2020. The only notable exception is Rolls-Royce, which has spent a fortune designing a spring-loaded device that snaps its famous Spirit of Ecstasy (aka the Flying Lady) down inside the engine bay whenever a moderate amount of force is applied.

The company has since decided to update its ornament to allow drivers to retract it on demand. It has also started offering a £3,500 option that makes Spirit of Ecstasy an illuminated crystal bauble that has suddenly run afoul of the European Union’s new light pollution regulations. Rolls-Royce will need to remove it from its brochures and customers will be forced to neuter their vehicles if they want to be compliant with the law.

While we can’t imagine panicked millionaires rushing to get these “fixed” after some cop pulls them over with a funny-sounding siren, the manufacturer will undoubtedly be scrubbing the option to avoid being fined. The manufacturer actually seems to have been aware of the regulations for a while. But wasn’t clear what would need to be done as Brexit negotiations continue, seemingly without end.

“In February 2019 we sent our dealers a bulletin saying we were removing the option of an lit Spirit of Ecstasy. It was no longer to be sold to customers. It came off the options list,” a Rolls-Royce spokesman told The Daily Mail. “Sadly, we are telling our customers that we will by law have to disconnect their Spirit of Ecstasy.”

The latest hubbub seems to stem from dissatisfied owners who don’t see any good reason to modify their mega-luxury vehicles based on regulatory guidelines focused on seemingly innocuous design choices. Unlike some other outlets that mocked Rolls-Royce owners as decadent capitalists and sarcastically treated this as a non-problem, we’re incredibly interested in how this might impact future automotive designs. The guidelines for what lighting applications constitute a “statutory nuisance” in the EU seem terribly vague. Once complaints of light pollution have been made, regulators need only to assess whether the glow in question serves any purpose. This has made everything from holiday decorations to security lights (business or domestic) subject to new restrictions.

That also makes Rolls-Royce the first automaker we’re aware of that’s being forced to change anything in Europe. But we’re betting it won’t be the last. Tons of manufacturers have added illuminated accents to the exteriors of their products in recent years. Mercedes-Benz will even sell you a Three-Point Star that lights up, assuming you haven’t already purchased one from the dozens of aftermarket firms offering the same item. All of that sounds as if it could easily be in violation of EU regulations if the right person complains.

As for those troubled Rolls-Royce customers, the company said it would happily swap out their glistening Flying Ladies for a traditional Spirit statuette and refund them £3,500 used to purchase the now-illegal option. But new vehicles won’t be sold with them anymore. Moving forward, Rolls intends on using the standard double R emblem by itself and retiring the Flying Lady.

[Image: Rolls-Royce/BMW Group]

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35 Comments on “EU Bans Rolls-Royce’s Illuminated Spirit of Ecstasy for ‘Light Pollution’...”


  • avatar
    HelloWorld

    If there was a competition for the dumbest, most brain-dead automotive regulation in the world, this would be a hot contender for the win.

    I mean, what could possibly be the reason for c*** like this?

    Any factual reasons? Does a lit hood ornament really constitute “light pollution”? No, of course not. You cannot drink so much gin as to seriously believe hat.

    Which leaves purely ideological political reasons for such nonsense.

    They’re banning that ornament because it’s deemed too preposterous and too ostentatious.

    Amazing.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    And they wonder why the UK pulled the ripcord on the forth reich. :-/

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      Historical ignorance like this would be funny if it weren’t so ignorant.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      +1

    • 0 avatar
      Old_WRX

      This whole EU thing is pretty creepy. They seem to regularly act in despotic ways always pretending to take moral high road.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Released KGB documents in 1991 referenced a Soviet strategy to neutralize NATO through the concept of a European super state. Gorbachev started pushing such a concept in 1989.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Home

        “Blacker wrote that Soviet leadership “appeared to have believed that whatever loss of authority the Soviet Union might suffer in Eastern Europe would be more than offset by a net increase in its influence in western Europe.”[9]”

        Between the United States and the Soviet Union, which of the two does the EU more resemble?

  • avatar
    Rnaboz

    I am surprised they have brochures! It must be a leather bound tome.
    Perhaps the lit up ornament is to see to the bottom of their Grey Poupon.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I would think that the UK has bigger fish to fry then the light from maybe 6 Rolls Royce hood ornaments. Can the Merc lighted star be far behind?

  • avatar
    TR4

    I wonder if those regulators have ever seen some of the highly decorated semis on US roads?

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    Dear Great Britain: don’t sweat the small stuff.

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Ridiculous, absurd, asinine.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    So then ;

    Headlights are next ? .

    They put out far more light than this does .

    Good by opera lamps too I guess .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    R Henry

    ”But constant experience shows us that every man invested with power is apt to abuse it, and to carry his authority as far as it will go.” –Charles de Secondat

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    “Moving forward, Rolls intends on using the standard double R emblem by itself and retiring the Flying Lady.”

    This is the real crime here.

  • avatar
    MKizzy

    If the EU’s worried about light pollution to the point of banning illuminated hood ornaments, then they may seriously be less than a decade away from limiting the use of street lamps and banning private vehicles from their roads at night.

    At least then, EU residents can get wonderful vistas of the thousands of Elon Musk’s starlink satellites criss-crossing the night sky.

  • avatar

    In 1954 my father purchased a new Pontiac Chieftain. That model had an hood ornament with an illuminated Indian head. My father asked them to disconnect it. I asked him why and never received a good explantion. It had nothing to do with light pollution, though.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      Lord how I miss my 1954 Pontiac Coupe .

      Straight eight engine & dual Hydromatic slushbox, full power and factory AC .

      Three tone factory paint .

      I replaced the bulb in the hood ornament and polished the yellow plastic Chief’s head, it looked very cool to me .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    Anyone ever driven in Belgium?

    How about you start with the endless street lights?

    Worry about the Lady once you’ve got those things removed.

  • avatar
    conundrum

    Newsflash: It’s a hoax. What, you expect actual news from that rag the Daily Mail?

    This is like the stuff that twerp Boris Johnson used to send back to HQ at the right-wing Daily Telegraph as news when he was EC reporter. Drink all day, drink all night, a bit wobbly at copy deadline, so Boris would invent stuff like the EC won’t allow curved bananas, they have to be straight — and the other big one was eggs, now to be sold by weight instead of number by EC decree. On the strength of japes like that, Boris became Lord Mayor of London, then the Brexit Prime Minister. If you can fool the dumb people that easy with fake news, you can get them to vote for you, and it’s not until then they notice you don’t even do a couple of hours work a day because actual work is boring, and Boris would rather love acting the buffoon and grandstanding instead.

    Nothing to do with a change to this EU regulation.The regulation has been in force since 2013: 

    https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/…13/R048r9e.pdf

    What, it took BMW (RR owner) seven years to get around to reading the document, and five years before Benz ignored it with their version?

    The Daily Flail we used to call it when I lived in Blighty. Funny that no other English newspaper carries the story. The Daily Mail has several old London bridges and statues it wants to sell Americans. Tower Bridge would look great over a Michigan brook.

    They’re still selling the lighted mascot at Rolls Royce:

    https://www.rolls-roycemotorcars.com/en_GB/boutique/all-accessories/spirit-of-ecstasy-illuminated.html?categories=&models=All models&productList=All%2520Accessories

  • avatar

    What you’ve never been in opera? Don’t lie to me.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    I would file this story under who really cares. Most cars don’t have hood ornaments just large ugly Billy Bass grills. Very few readers on this website will ever own a Rolls.

  • avatar
    Schurkey

    Any possibility of getting rid of Damned Daytime Running Lights?

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