100 years ago, Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown achieved one of history’s greatest feats, completing the first non-stop Transatlantic flight, powered by Rolls-Royce engines. 50 examples of a special edition Rolls-Royce Wraith are being built to mark the centenary.
On a dark and foggy night in June 1919, Alcock and Brown took off from St John’s, Newfoundland into uncharted skies and completely unknown territory in a modified World War One Vickers Vimy bi-plane bomber. In freezing temperatures and near-zero visibility, their navigation instruments and radio failed almost immediately, forcing the pilots to fly blind for hours on end – sometimes upside down.
They eventually emerged from the fog, still over open ocean, and it was only Brown’s brilliant navigational skills that allowed them to follow the stars to the landing strip in Clifden, Ireland. They had covered an estimated 1,880 miles at and average speed of 115mph.
Just about the only thing that didn’t go wrong was the plane’s 20.3-litre, 350bhp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engine. And it is that engine that the special edition Wraith is named after.
For the Wraith Eagle VIII, Rolls-Royce’s Bespoke Collective took inspiration from the night sky Alcock and Brown flew through and their Vimy. The bodywork is finished Gunmetal and Selby Grey, the two colours separated by a brass coachline. The black grille vanes echo the cowling on the Eagle VIII engine, while the wheels have a “shadow” finish.
Inside, there’s Selby Grey and black leather upholstery with brass accents and stitching. The Smoked Eucalyptus wood veneers are vacuum metalised with gold, and inlaid with silver and copper to mimic the earth as seen from above at night. The Starlight headliner depicts the night sky at the halfway point of the flight. And the clock echoes the frozen, dimly green-lit instruments of the Vimy.
As ever, Rolls-Royce hasn’t revealed how much the Wraith Eagle VIII costs. Even so, better be quick if you want one.
By Graham King