The new Landspeed Collection from Rolls-Royce tells the story of a long-forgotten hero of the racing world.
So you might be in the market for a new Rolls-Royce? Well, haven’t you done well? Fortunately, you’re in luck with the arrival of the new Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection, special edition Wraith and Dawn Black Badge models that celebrate the records set by British engineer Captain George Eyston in the RR-powered Thunderbolt.
The good Captain, a Cambridge University graduate, racing driver, gifted inventor and engineering genius, broke the world land speed record three times in his car Thunderbolt, which, as you have probably guessed, was powered by two Rolls-Royce R V12 aero engines. He was a true hero from an age of epic endeavours, yet both he and Thunderbolt have been all but forgotten for more than 80 years. Until now.
The interiors of the new collection recall the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah, where Eyston pursued his record-breaking endeavours in 1937-38. A unique Salt Flats’ fissured texture is perfectly reproduced in the engraved fascia while the steering-wheel detail mimics the dark track-line marked on the surface during record runs.
Even more impressive is the Starlight Headliner, which precisely depicts the night sky on September 16, 1938, when Eyston set his third and final land-speed record of 575.34km/hr (357.497 mph).
Silhouettes of the long-lost Thunderbolt, and its three record-breaking speeds, are also laser-engraved on the front tunnel, while subtle detail in the driver’s-side door reproduces ribbon colours of the honours awarded to Eyston during his lifetime.
According to the history books, Eyston’s third and final land-speed record of 357.497 mph stood for 341 days. In the new Collection Cars, it is commemorated for all time, engraved into the housing of the dashboard clock alongside the name ‘Bonneville’, in homage to where the record was set.
Thunderbolt was originally left unpainted, which caused an unexpected problem. During the first record attempts, the photo-electric timing equipment was unable to detect the polished aluminium body against the searing white of the Salt Flats’ surface, making accurate timing impossible. Eyston’s brilliantly simple solution was to paint a large black arrow with a yellow circle on the side, to heighten visibility when travelling at great speed. Bright yellow accents throughout the Landspeed Collection, including two-tone yellow and black bumper inserts, pay tribute to this vision.
The clock’s design recounts this theme. Based on the instrument dials from Thunderbolt, with yellow and black details, black-tipped hands are inspired by the arrows painted on the original car’s exterior.
During his lifetime, George Eyston received three significant honours. He was awarded the Military Cross (MC) while serving in the Great War; in 1938, after his record-breaking runs with Thunderbolt he was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civilian decoration; and in 1948, he received the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
These honours are marked in both Wraith and Dawn Landspeed with a subtle detail in the driver’s door, made in the same Grosgrain weave silk and colours to match the original medal ribbons. The armrests on both the passenger side and below the ribbon detail are specially padded to give them the comfortable ‘club armchair’ quality that Eyston favoured in his driving seats, much to the amusement of his fellow racers.
The Collection’s cars are presented in a specially created two-tone finish, which marries Black Diamond Metallic with a new bespoke colour, Bonneville Blue. This specially developed hue bears particular significance to the Collection, with a colour that transitions under sunlight from light blue to silver, illustrating the reflections of both the vast sky over Bonneville and the crisp salt flats on Thunderbolt’s aluminium body.
The Thunderbolt was powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce R supercharged 37-litre, V-12 aero engines, each producing well over 2,000 horsepower. Around only 19 of these engines were ever made: indeed, they were so rare that Thunderbolt’s engines had a previous career in the Schneider Trophy-winning Supermarine S6.B seaplane that would lay the foundations for the legendary Spitfire.
Limited to just 35 examples of Wraith Black Badge, and 25 of Dawn Black Badge, the new Landspeed Collection uncovers and retells the remarkable story of the redoubtable Captain George Eyston, and his extraordinary car, Thunderbolt.
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