Here’s why Rolls-Royce cars have the spookiest names
Phantom, the friendly Ghost and the Wraith
Let’s face it: The only automaker that has been able to get away with models named after various supernatural apparitions is Rolls-Royce. Nissan, for example, would not be able to name one of its sedans Ghost. And something like a Chevy Phantom would have a lot to live up to, unless it was a really bland, anonymous design and the car wanted to underscore that point. Who is it haunting anyway?
Phantom, on the other hand, has been a marketable nameplate for Rolls-Royce for almost a century, and we would pay serious money to have been at the unveiling of the very first Phantom when people heard that name for the first time. But of course, there weren’t really auto shows back then—there were industrial exhibitions—and automakers didn’t have the unveilings they do now. Still, hearing the name Phantom applied to a car for the first time must have been a mind-bender, because a century ago cars had really boring names like Two-Liter, or some guy’s surname, or a string of random numbers. Or it was something brash, like Chevrolet Superior. There was little middle ground. (But it was mostly surnames.)
So how did Rolls-Royce get rolling with ghost-themed names?
The British automaker started out, like many others, with numbers, including the 1907 model that eventually gained the name Silver Ghost.
“Originally and simply called a ’40/50,’ the chassis of this car was first produced at Royce’s Manchester works and later produced from 1908 at the Derby factory (still in use for aviation engine production) and between 1921 and 1926 in Springfield, MA, USA,” the Silver Ghost Association says. “While the name ‘The Silver Ghost’ was originally given to chassis no 60551 and other cars were given individual names as well, the title ‘Silver Ghost’ was taken by the press, although the Company did not recognize the series as such until the introduction of the new Phantom range of cars in 1925.”
So Rolls-Royce did not start out particularly hip when it came to marketing, but then again most cars back then were named for their displacement or cylinder count. So in a way it was rescued from boring obscurity by journalists.
What about the Phantom then?
That model, which debuted in 1925, replaced the Silver Ghost, with the automaker billing it as the “New Phantom” in a flash of marketing savvy.
Rolls-Royce’s current lineup now stays true to the ghostly theme with a Phantom, Ghost and Wraith in the lineup. But there’s also Cullinan, the origin of whose name is not particularly spooky, but is definitely strange for other reasons.
And the photo above shows two Rolls cars that are actually haunted. For mechanical reasons.