Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection: Recalling A Forgotten Hero
The Rolls-Royce Landspeed Collection draws inspiration from George Eyston’s remarkable life and record-breaking feats. It also has strong aesthetic links to the unique, otherworldly landscape of the Bonneville Salt Flats where Thunderbolt made him, albeit briefly, the fastest man on Earth.
“It’s human nature to want to go further, do more, be greater than ourselves. The innate desire to extend horizons and define new limits is an instinct we’ve always understood at Rolls-Royce; and we have acted upon it once again with our new Landspeed Collection.
“The Collection, which includes both Wraith and Dawn Black Badge, celebrates someone with exactly that dauntless, fearless, pioneering spirit. His name was Captain George Eyston, a Cambridge University graduate, racing driver, gifted inventor and engineering genius. In the late 1930s, he broke the world land-speed record three times with his car Thunderbolt, powered by two Rolls-Royce R V12 aero engines. He was a true hero from an age of epic endeavours; yet both he and Thunderbolt have been all-but forgotten for more than 80 years.
“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.”
- Torsten Müller-Ötvös
CEO, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars
Rolls-Royce has been associated with world speed records on both land and water for more than a century. But while the exploits of Sir Malcolm Campbell are well documented and widely known, another British hero who set three land-speed records using Rolls-Royce engines has been largely overlooked by history.
Now, after more than 80 years, Rolls-Royce recalls this hero’s inspiring exploits. With the new Wraith and Dawn Black Badge Landspeed Collection, the marque uncovers and retells the remarkable story of the redoubtable Captain George Eyston, and his extraordinary car, Thunderbolt.
Born in 1897, George Eyston was fascinated with motorsport from childhood, racing both cars and (under an assumed name) motorcycles while still at school. His degree in engineering at Trinity College, Cambridge, was interrupted by the Great War, in which he served with distinction, rising to the rank of captain and winning the Military Cross. He spent the 1920s and 30s developing and driving racing cars; a talented inventor, he 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’.
In 1937, he returned to the Flats and went on to set three world land-speed records with Thunderbolt. This extraordinary machine had three axles, eight wheels and weighed seven tonnes, earning it monikers such as ‘behemoth’ and ‘leviathan’ in contemporary reports. The body was made from aluminium and, in its original form, had a blunt, heavyset profile topped with a large triangular tailfin.