Rolls-Royce has yet again created a special collection made up of the Wraith and Dawn, to pay tribute to Captain George Eyston, once the fastest man on the earth, and his passion for speed.
In the late 1930s, Eyston broke the land speed record three times on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA. The first two were 24-hour and 48-hour endurance speed records. Eyston’s third and final land speed record of 357.497 mph (575 km/h) on the 16 km course stood for 341 days.
These incredible records were broken in his car aptly named “Thunderbolt”. It was fitted with three axles, eight wheels and weighed seven tonnes – earning nicknames such as ‘behemoth’.
The Thunderbolt was powered by a pair of 37-litre supercharged V12 Rolls-Royce aero engines with over 2,000 horsepower. Only 19 of these engines were ever made.
They’re so rare that the engines are now being preserved at the Royal Air Force Museum in London. The car itself has been destroyed along with wool that caught fire in a storage in 1946.
Now, in order to revive the 80-year-old memories of the man and his incredible feats, both the Wraith and Dawn feature design elements with a story to tell.
The cars are finished with a specially created two tone finish, with a blend of Black Diamond Metallic and a new bespoke colour called Bonneville Blue. The effect is a colour that switches from light blue to silver to illustrate the vast skies over the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Inside, the clock on the dashboard comes with “357.497 mph” and “Bonneville” engravings to pay tribute to where the record was set.
Ahead of the front passenger is a panel that mimics the surface of the salt flats while the surface of the centre console is etched with the speed and date of the three land speed records. The salt flat surface is also featured on the centre console.
Due to the salt flats’ vast and open space, it was incredibly difficult to know if you were going straight as Eyston recounted:
“On the salt bed, which has to be carefully prepared by dragging, we paint one or more black lines along the whole length. These lines act as guides and prevent the driver straying; for errors of a few feet in steering might culminate in disastrous results. You see, you might drive a few feet away from the absolute line, something else might happen and you get a few feet more and, believe me, you will never get back”.
In response to this, Eyston’s team painted darkened track lines on the salt surface as a reference. This simple yet ingenious idea is now immortalised on the steering on the Landspeed Collection cars; with perforated details on the upper section of the steering and along the centre of the seats.
There’s also an outline of the Silver Island Mountains that served as a background for the salt flats is engraved between the front seats although it’s only for the Dawn units of the collection.
As the Thunderblot was unpainted, its bright silver aluminium body could not be detected by photo-electric timing equipment. You can imagine what it’s like – a silver car in a bright white surrounding.
To counter this, Eyston painted a large black arrow with a yellow circle on the side to improve the car’s visibility. As such, bright yellow accents can be seen all over the interior and exterior of the car. The black-tipped hands on the clock are also inspired by the arrows painted on the 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 and in 1938, after his record-breaking runs with Thunderbolt, he was made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur, France’s highest civilian decoration. In 1948, he received the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
As the colour combination of these ribbons are displayed on the driver’s door and is made in the same Grosgrain weave silk as the original medal ribbons. What in the world.
The arm rests in the centre and on doors are specially padded for the “club armchair feel”, similar to how Eyston liked it in his Thunderbolt.
Last but not least, like the Wraith Eagle VIII, the Starlight Headliner also tells a story. It’s a perfect recreation of the night sky at the Bonneville Salt Flats on the 16th of September 1938, the day Eyston set his third and final record.
The constellations are precisely marked using 2,117 individually placed fibre-optic ‘stars’, the largest number of stars ever fitted into the headliner of a Rolls-Royce Wraith.
Production of the Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection cars is strictly limited to just 25 examples of Dawn and 35 of Wraith, all of which have already been allocated to customers.