The year was 1937 when Captain George Eyston’s Thunderbolt reached a record land speed of 312 mph, powered by two Rolls-Royce R V12 aero engines. The British racer was not new to the world of racing as two years prior, he had already set new 24-hour and 48-hour endurance speed records held at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. For his outstanding achievements, he was presented with the Segrave Trophy — an award to “British national who demonstrates Outstanding Skill, Courage and Initiative on Land, Water and in the Air”.
While the world is acquainted with Sir Malcolm Campbell and his car, Blue Bird, he was bettered by Eyston and the new record timing would stay in place till 1939. More than eight decades later, Eyston’s accomplishments still hold a special place in the chronicles of Rolls-Royce. Determined to proclaim to the world Eyston’s inspiring feat, the British marque has unveiled two special versions of the Wraith and Dawn in a Black Badge finish, which collectively is called the Landspeed collection.
“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.” — Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
The Landspeed collection, unfortunately, is not equipped with the V12 engines seen in the Thunderbolt. Only about 19 of these engines were ever made and the ones in the Eyston’s are now preserved at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon and the Science Museum in London. Motor enthusiasts be sure to mark down these places and make a quick pit stop when visiting the UK. In replacement, Rolls-Royce has fitted the well-known 6.6-litre twin turbo engine, which also provides the same horsepower as the V12.
In designing the marque’s Landspeed collection, the allure of the Bonneville Salt Flats has been irresistible to dismiss. Aside from being the prime location for famous motor events, stunning views at night also warrants attention. The star-filled sky is meticulously captured in the Wraith Landspeed’s Starlight Headliner, which calls to mind the heavens of 16 September 1938, the date that Eyston and Thunderbolt sealed their last land-speed record. Using exactly 2,117 fibre-optic ‘stars’, they are fastidiously placed to resemble the constellations of that date and the largest number of stars ever fitted in a Roll-Royce Wraith Starlight Headliner.
Elsewhere on the car, identical Grosgrain weave silk and colours as with Eyston’s accolades he had received during his lifetime can be found on the driver’s door — Military Cross for serving in the Great War, Légion d’honneur and the Order of the British Empire. Reminiscence of the Thunderbolt could be seen with the occasional splashes of yellow and black, this combination was pertinent in allowing the day’s timing equipment to accurately record the results.
The Landspeed collection will no doubt be rare as the marque has planned to only manufacture 25 Dawn Black Badge and 35 Wraith Black Badge.
All images courtesy of Rolls-Royce