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Rolls-Royce Wraith Eagle VIII commemorates 1919 transatlantic flight

Autoblog logo Autoblog 5/23/2019 Antti Kautonen
a car parked on the side of a building: Rolls-Royce Wraith Eagle VIII

Rolls-Royce is building a 50-car limited edition of the Wraith called the Eagle VIII that will debut at the Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este event at the Lake Como. The vehicle commemorates two pilots that completed the first non-stop transatlantic flight 100 years ago.

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The story behind the flight is fascinating: Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown flew all the way from St John's in Newfoundland to Clifden, County Galway, Ireland, in a WWI Vickers Vimy bomber. The aircraft's engines were two 20.3-liter Rolls-Royce Eagle VII units, and it appears the engines were the only reliable thing on the flight apart from the crew themselves: the radio and navigation instruments failed right at the beginning of the journey as the wind-driven electrical generator broke, which also meant there was no heating. Because of this, the men had to rely on stars to find Ireland, when dense clouds finally subsided.

And it's the clouds and stars that form the centerpieces of the special edition car. The headliner contains 1,183 fibers that light up to form the celestial arrangement at the time of the flight in 1919, with the exact moment when the Vickers plane emerged from the clouds highlighted in red.

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The decorative wood has silver and copper inlays so it resembles a night-time Earth seen from above. Plaques read "The celestial arrangement at the halfway point 00:17am June 15 1919, 50" 07' Latitude North – 31" Longitude West", and next to the brass speaker grilles, there is a Winston Churchill quote commending the crew, the plane and their unprecedented achievement. "I do not know what we should most admire - their audacity, determination, skill, science, their aeroplane, their Rolls-Royce engines - or their good fortune", it reads. The crash-landing location coordinates are engraved below the dashboard clock.

The 1,880-mile ordeal with no heat, occasional snow and a constant barrage of noise from burst exhaust piping took Alcock and Brown 15 hours and 57 minutes, at an average speed of 115 mph. Both aviators were awarded the honor of Knights Commanders of the British Empire by King George V. Alcock later perished after crashing another Vickers plane en route to the Paris Airshow in December 1919. Brown passed away at the age of 62 in 1948.

Other detailing on the two-tone Gunmetal and Selby Grey car is also related to the record-breaking Vickers plane, including the black grille vanes that mimic the plane's engine cowling. The Concorso d'Eleganza Villa d'Este takes place May 24-26th.

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