Throughout history, Rolls-Royce engines have been used to power record-breaking vehicles – on land, water, and in the air. The success of three land-speed records is all down to the British hero – Captain George Eyston and his Rolls-Royce powered land speed racer, Thunderbolt, the focus of the new Wraith and Dawn Black Badge Landspeed Collection bespoke design.
In the late 1930s, Captain George Eyston broke the world land-speed record three times with his car Thunderbolt, powered by two Rolls-Royce R V12 aero engines. By leaving his indelible imprint over the track for 80 years, the Landspeed Collection car comprises the Wraith and Dawn Black Badge. The celebration of human endeavour and fearlessness, bear an equivalence with Eyston, who has a dauntless and pioneering spirit.
A Celebration of Achievements
“It’s human nature to want to go further, do more, be greater than ourselves. With this Collection, we have revived Eyston’s memory and retold his remarkable story. Throughout Wraith and Dawn Landspeed, clients will find numerous subtle design elements and narrative details that recall and commemorate his amazing achievements, grand vision and exceptional courage,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
Inspired by George Eyston’s remarkable life and record-breaking accomplishments, the Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection has brawny aesthetic links to the unique, otherworldly landscape of the Bonneville Salt Flats, where Thunderbolt made him, albeit briefly, the fastest man on Earth.
The Collection Cars comes in two specially created tones, combining Diamond Metallic Black with a new Bespoke colour, Bonneville Blue. This specially developed colour has special meaning for the collection, with the colour changing in sunlight from pale blue to silver, illustrating the reflection of the vast sky above Bonneville and chunks of salt on a Thunderbolt aluminium body.
Thunderbolt is powered by a pair of supercharged Rolls-Royce R 37-liter V-12 aero engines, each producing more than 2,000 horsepower. Only 19 of these engines have ever been built: indeed, they are so rare that Thunderbolt engines made the career of the Schneider Trophy award-winning Supermarine S6.B seaplane, which will lay the foundations for the legendary Spitfire.
Eyston set a record on the International Freeway, an especially compacted section of the Bonneville Salt Flats 10 miles (16 km) long and 80 feet (24 m) wide. The terrain is perfectly flat in all directions and shines white in the sun: the absence of landmarks and the combined harsh light make it extremely difficult to judge direction and distance at high speeds.
As he admits, stepping out of the fast lane would be extremely dangerous, especially given the massive weight of Thunderbolt. In response, Eyston’s team drew some dark trails on the salt surface for Eyston to track — effectively his only means of keeping Thunderbolt running straight above 350 mph.
This simple yet ingenious idea is echoed in the Landspeed Collection by a subtle perforated dark detail in the upper centre of the steering wheel, which continues across the centre line of the driver’s seat, highlighting both Wraith and Dawn’s call.
Bonneville Saltworks seems to be going well; in fact, they are sewn up with tiny cracks. This distinctive texture is perfectly reproduced, digitally traced from the surface itself, in the wood grain of the Landspeed Collection’s fascia and console lids. The interior references continue with the unique silhouette of the Thunderbolt and the records it has achieved, depicted on the polished and anodized aluminium surfaces of the Landspeed Collection front tunnel. Dawn Landspeed continues to honour George Eyston’s vision with the contours of the Silver Island Mountains, which dominate the Bonneville skyline, carved into a “waterfall” above the middle of the back row.
According to history books, Eyston’s third and final land speed record was 357,497 mph in 341 days. In the new Collection Cars, it is forever remembered – engraved on the instrument panel box with the name “Bonneville”, in memory of the spot where the record was set.
The original Thunderbolt wasn’t painted. During initial recording attempts, the photoelectric chronometer was unable to detect the polished aluminium body on the burnt white surface of the Salt Flats, making precise timing impossible. Eyston’s brilliantly simple solution was to draw a large black arrow with a yellow circle on the side, to increase visibility when moving at high speeds. The bright yellow accents throughout the Landspeed collection, including the two-tone gold and black bumpers, pay homage to this vision.
Meanwhile, the clock design speaks with the theme. Based on Thunderbolt’s dials, with gold and black details, the black taper hands are inspired by the arrows painted on the original car’s exterior.
The charm of the Bonneville Salt Flats attracts not only record-breakers but astronomers as well. Astronomers appreciate this vast, uninhabited wilderness for its exceptionally night sky, creating perfect conditions unaffected by artificial light.
In Wraith Landspeed, the Starlight Headliner perfectly recreates the skies as they appeared over the Flats on September 16, 1938, when Eyston and Thunderbolt set their third and final land speed record. Constellations are precisely marked using 2,117 individually placed optical fiber “stars,” the highest number of stars in a Rolls-Royce Wraith Starlight Headliner ever introduced.
During his lifetime, George Eyston received three significant honours. These honours are marked in the Wraith and Dawn Landspeed with a subtle detailing in the driver’s door, crafted in the same grosgrain woven silk and coloured to match the original medallion bands. The armrests on the passenger side and under the ribbon detailing are specially padded to give them the comfortable “club seat” quality Eyston favours in his driver’s seat, leaving his racing teammates to he is amused.
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Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Kuala Lumpur continues to build a discerning customer base in Malaysia – one of the 35 Landspeed Wraith has destined for a Malaysian client.
For more information about Landspeed Collection, visit here.
(Read more: Rolls-Royce Aims To Build The World’s Fastest All-Electric Aircraft)