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.

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