Rolls-Royce pays homage to 1st transatlantic flight

50 Wraith Eagle VIIIs will be made to commemorate the 1919 non-stop flight

Published: May 23, 2019, 4:55 PM
Updated: November 21, 2021, 2:53 PM

Rolls-Royce Wraith Eagle VIII

This weekend, at the fabled Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este on the shores of Lake Como, Rolls-Royce will unveil its latest Collection Car, the Wraith Eagle VIII.

Created by the Bespoke Collective at the House of Rolls-Royce, just 50 Wraith Eagle VIIIs will be made to commemorate one of the most pivotal moments of the 20th century — the first non-stop transatlantic flight 100 years ago, in June 1919 by Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown.

“Wraith Eagle VIII is at once an object of desire; an homage to heroes and a protagonist to today’s visionaries,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Chief Executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. “This Rolls-Royce Collection demonstrates the extraordinary skill of our Bespoke Collective at the Home of Rolls-Royce in Goodwood, West Sussex. Bespoke remains the jewel in the crown of the marque, creating luxury items that defy the trend of mass luxury manufacturers using ‘tick-box’ options to answer customer demand.”

The flight has a Canadian tie-in, having departed from St. John’s, Newfoundland (Newfoundland didn’t become part of Canada until 1949) on the afternoon of June 14th and landing in Clifden, Ireland the morning of the 15th. The modified Vickers Vimy WW1 bomber was power by two 350-hp 20.3-litre Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines (hence the limited edition’s name.

The two were presented with a Daily Mail prize of £10,000 (today’s equivalent of $260,000 Canadian), presented by then Secretary of State for Air, Winston Churchill, who reportedly remarked “I do not know what we should most admire - their audacity, determination, skill, science, their aeroplane, their Rolls-Royce engines - or their good fortune.”

Rolls-Royce says the 2-tone exterior (Gunmetal Grey with Selby Grey upper) of the car is evocative of Alcock and Brown’s night flight. The two greys are separated by a brass line, and the grille vanes are black to tie into the Vickers Vimy engine cowling. Wheels are partly polished with a translucent shadow finish.

The 2-tone interior is Selby Grey contrasted with black leather, with brass stitching (such as the RR embroidery in the headrests) and accents (such as speaker covers that depict the 3,025-km flight). The instrument panel is covered in Smoked Eucalyptus wood, metalized in gold and inlaid with silver and copper, reportedly to depict the rich detail Alcock and Brown may have seen in the nighttime sky.

The iconic clock is crafted in an iced background effect (in homage to the flight’s frozen instruments due to altitude) that glows a faint green (reminiscent of the only illumination the pilots had from their control panel lights). The red hour-hand mimics a compass needle, as do the lines on the clock’s fascia. The landing location’s coordinates are etched below.

But the most intricate feature comes from the starlight headliner done up in 1,183 fibres arrayed in the celestial arrangement on the night of the flight, showing constellations and the flight path, with a red fibre-optic light indicating the exact moment the plane broke the cloud cover in 1919 to navigate by the stars. Clouds are embroidered, and a plaque commemorates the halfway point of the journey (50” 07’ Latitude North – 31” Longitude West, at 00:17am June 15th, 1919.