Rolls-Royce has dedicated two new luxury drives in honour of “a forgotten hero” in the world of racing. With the new Wraith and Dawn Black Badge Landspeed Collection, the marque recalls the exploits of Captain George Eyston, another British hero who set three land-speed records using Rolls-Royce engines.
Who was Captain George Eyston?
Born in 1897, George Eyston was always fascinated with motorsport, having raced both cars and motorcycles during his schooldays. He studied engineering at Trinity College in Cambridge, only to be interrupted by the Great War, where he served with distinction, rising to the rank of captain and winning the Military Cross. In the ’20s and ‘30s, he dedicated his time to developing and driving racing cars. As a talented inventor, Eyston also held a number of patents, particularly in the field of supercharging.
In 1935, Eyston was among the first British racers to travel to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, where he set new 24-hour and 48-hour endurance speed records. He subsequently received the Segrave Trophy, awarded to “the British national who demonstrates Outstanding Skill, Courage and Initiative on Land, Water and in the Air.”
Two years later, he returned to the Flats with his trusted companion – Thunderbolt – to set three world land-speed records. In 1938, Eyston achieved his third and final record-breaking sprint – where he hit 357.497 mph on the Flats.
As for his inimitable partner, Thunderbolt sported three axles, eight wheels, and weighed seven tonnes – earning it monikers such as “behemoth” and “leviathan”. Its body was fashioned out of aluminium, and in its original form, had a blunt, heavyset profile topped with a large triangular tailfin.
Celebrating Eyston’s legacy
For the Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection, the reimagined Wraith coupe and Dawn convertible both feature strong references to Eyston’s record-breaking feats, as well as the landscape of the Salt Flats where he was, albeit briefly, the fastest man on Earth. Both featuring a Black Badge trim, the duo is presented in a specially created two-tone finish, marrying Black Diamond Metallic with a new Bespoke colour – Bonneville Blue. This specially developed hue features a transformative quality, transitioning under sunlight from light blue to silver – illustrating the reflections of the vast sky over Bonneville and the salt flats on Thunderbolt’s body.
The Landspeed cars also carry inspiration from Thunderbolt. The latter was powered by two enormous Rolls-Royce 37-litre V-12 aircraft engines, capable of churning out over 2,000 hp each. As for the Wraith and Dawn, they’re equipped with twin-turbocharged 6.6-litre V12 engines that deliver a total of 624 hp and 563 hp respectively.
Other aesthetic references to Thunderbolt include two-tone yellow and black bumper inserts, which pay tribute to the black arrow and yellow circle that was painted on the side in order to detect accurate timing.
A look within
Inspired by the darkened track lines on the salt surface that prevented Eyston and Thunderbolt from deviated from the International Speedway, the Landspeed Collection subtly brings a perforated dark detail in the upper-centre of the steering wheel, which continues through the centre-line of the driver’s seat – accentuating both cars’ driver focused appeal.
To mimic the tiny fissures on the Bonneville Salt Flats, the Landspeed Collection captures this distinctive texture by digitally retracing it into the wooden veneer of the cars’ fascia and console lids. The interior references continue with Thunderbolt’s unique silhouette and the records it achieved – depicted on the polished, anodised aluminium surface of the Landspeed Collection’s front tunnel. Dawn Landspeed additionally celebrates George Eyston’s vision with the outline of the Silver Island mountains which dominate the Bonneville horizon, engraved on the upper “waterfall” between the rear seats.
In commemoration of Eyston’s third and final land-speed record which stood for 341 days, the record gets engraved into the housing of the dashboard clock alongside the name “Bonneville”, another homage to where the record was set.
Inside the Wraith Landspeed, the Starlight Headliner recreates the shimmering heavens as they appeared over the Bonneville Salt 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 individually placed fibre-optic “stars”, marking the largest number of stars in a Rolls-Royce Wraith Starlight Headliner ever featured.
“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,” said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
For more information, visit the Rolls-Royce website.
Photos: Rolls-Royce Motor Cars