The Rolls-Royces of today might be powered by massive twelve-cylinder engines but when it comes to speed, the Spirit of Ecstasy is not the first thing that pops up in your head. In fact, it’s the last thing that people consider for such things; the power is simply there, should you need it. However, once upon a time, the Rolls-Royce Motor Cars of today and the one that produces aircraft engines were part of the same company which supplied V12 aero engines for a car that set three land speed records between 1937 and 1938.
The Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection remembers the man who set the records — Captain George Eyston. Eyston broke the world land-speed record three times on the Bonneville Salt Flats in a car named ‘Thunderbolt’ — powered by two Rolls-Royce R V12 aero engines.
The Landspeed Collection includes Wraith and Dawn Black Badge; both finished in a specially created two-tone finish, marrying Black Diamond Metallic with a new bespoke colour Bonneville Blue. Under the bright sun, the bespoke color transitions from light blue to silver, reminiscing the reflections of Bonneville Salt Flats and the sky over it on Thunderbolt’s aluminium body.
There’s another story for the car’s black paint and subtle yellow highlights. Thunderbolt was originally left unpainted, which caused an unexpected problem. During the first record attempts, the photoelectric 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 solution was to paint a large black arrow with a yellow circle on the side, to heighten visibility when traveling at breakneck speeds.
The interior of the two cars features more interesting details. In Wraith Landspeed, the Starlight Headliner, for example, recreates the heavens as they appeared over the Flats on 16 September 1938, the date on which Eyston and Thunderbolt set their third and final world land speed record. The constellations are precisely marked using 2,117 individual fibre-optic “stars”, the largest number of stars ever featured in a Wraith. Another neat detail is the Salt Flats’ fissured texture — engraved on the veneers on the dashboard and centre console lids. The record references continue with a laser-engraved anodized aluminium insert on the centre console. On the driver’s door, there’s a subtle detail that reproduces ribbon colours of the honours awarded to Eyston during his lifetime.
The clock’s yellow and black theme pays homage to the instrument dials in Thunderbolt; the black-tipped hands are a reference to the arrows painted on the original car’s exterior.
The Landspeed Collection is “strictly limited” to just 25 examples of Dawn and 35 of Wraith, and Rolls-Royce said that all of ’em have already been allocated to customers.