Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection Honors Accomplishments of Early 1900s Military Hero

Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection Dawn Wraith
Dawn Landspeed's interior has enough room to comfortably seat four adults. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars

The new Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection celebrates the accomplishments of George Eyston, an accomplished auto racer who was the fastest man in the world in the first half of the 20th Century.

Eyston was an English engineer and racing driver best known for breaking the land-speed record repeatedly - three times between 1937 and 1939. Eyston drove his "Thunderbolt" custom-made car more than 350 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in his final record-setting attempt with more than a little help from two Rolls-Royce V12 aero engines.

The Flats are 10 miles long and 80 feet wide. It's a unique place on the planet where all terrain is level in every direction. The ground shines bright white under direct sunlight and its fissured surface creates tremendous glare that makes holding course and judging difficult at high speed.

George Eyston Thunderbolt factory
The car of George Eyston was recently completed at Tipton, Straffordshire, England ahead of his world record attempt at Bonneville Salt Flats. The car is fitted with twin aero engines and has eight wheels. Bettmann/Contributor/Getty Images

"On the salt bed, which has to be carefully prepared by dragging, we paint one or more black lines along the whole length," Eyston said in an address in 1938 describing the inherent danger of the feat. "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".

Built on Wraith and Dawn Black Badge models, the new Landspeed duo is aesthetically linked to the historic location of the world records. Each is finished in a two-tone paint job that combines Black Diamond Metallic with a new bespoke color, Bonneville Blue. Under sunlight, the new blue transitions from light blue to silver looking. Rolls-Royce says that this illustrates the "reflections of both the vast sky over Bonneville and the crisp salt flats on Thunderbolt's aluminum body".

A dark detail in the upper center of the steering wheel continues though the center of the driver's seat recalling the line painted by Eyston's team.

Rolls-Royce's team has replicated the fissured look of the Flats surface digitally on the wood veneer of the Landspeed Collection's fascia and console lids.

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Thunderbolt's unique silhouette and the records the model achieves are depicted on the polished, anodized aluminum surface of the Landspeed Collection's front tunnel.

In Dawn Landspeed, Eyston's view of the Flats surrounds, complete with the outline of the Silver Island mountains in the distance, are engraved on the upper waterfall between the rear seats.

Thunderbolt was originally left unpainted, which caused issues with the primitive photo-electric timing mechanism of the day as it was unable to detect the polished aluminum body. To solve the problem, Eyston painted a large black arrow with a yellow circle on it on the side of the model to enhance its visibility.

The Rolls-Royces give a nod to this by featuring bright yellow accents throughout the Landspeed Collection including two-tone yellow and black bumper inserts and black and yellow detailing on the instrument dials.

Eyston's third and final land-speed record of 357.497 mph stood for 341 days. That amount of time is commemorated in the Collection, engraved into the housing of the dashboard clock alongside the word "Bonneville".
The signature Rolls-Royce Starlight Headliner has had 2,117 individual fiber optic lights positioned to reflect the position of the heavens on September 16, 1938, the date of Eyston's final land-speed record.

In honor of his accomplishments, Eyston 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). He was awarded the Military Cross (MC) while serving in World War I.

Rolls-Royce has honored those medals and titles with a subtle detail on the driver's door that is made of the same Grosgrain weave silk and featuring identical colors as the original medal ribbons. Armrests that sit below the ribbons feature an armchair-like quality, something Eyston favored in his driving seats.

The bespoke automaker will make just 25 Dawn Landspeed models and 35 versions of the Wraith Landspeed. All vehicles have already been allocated to customers.

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