Rolls-Royce celebrates first non-stop transatlantic flight centennial

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Rolls-Royce will produce only 50 examples of its Wraith Eagle VIII, a vehicle that celebrates the centennial of the first non-stop transatlantic flight, which was done in a Rolls-powered Vickers Vimy | Rolls-Royce photos
Flight and its path are illustrated in the headliners of the vehicles

On June 14, 1919, Capt. John Alcock and Lt. Arthur Brown flew a Vickers Vimy powered by twin Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean, from County Galway, Ireland, to St. John’s, Newfoundland. 

The flight was not easy. There was fog. The plane was overloaded, also carrying some mail and a pair of toy-cat mascots — “Lucky Jim” and “Twinkletoes.” The generators failed, so they lost their radio, and their heat, and even their intercom. Brown reportedly had to climb out onto the wings to clear ice.

“I do not know what we should most admire — their audacity, determination, skill, science, their aeroplane, their Rolls-Royce engines — or their good fortune,” said Winston Churchill, at the time Britain’s Secretary of State for War and Air.

Clock will have day and night displays

To mark the event’s centennial, Rolls-Royce is producing a limited-production 50-car run of the Wraith Eagle VIII and has released the first sketches of the time piece that will be on the dashboards of those vehicles.

“The unique skill of our Bespoke Design Collective sees the story of one of the most pivotal moments of the 20th century, the first non-stop transatlantic flight, told using Wraith, a motor car which speaks of power, drama and adventure,” Torsten Müller-Ötvös, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars chief executive, is quoted in the company’s news release. “Wraith Eagle VIII is a modern masterpiece – these sketches offer an extraordinary insight into its creation.

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“The designs highlight the remarkable attention to detail of Rolls-Royce Bespoke craftsmanship,” the announcement continues. “The starlight headliner sketch shows cloud embroidery, the halfway point coordinates and the flight path of Alcock and Brown. A further detailed sketch shows the night-time view from above, which is expertly incorporated into Wraith’s fascia, in the form of a gold, silver and copper inlay.

“The sketch of the Collection Car’s clock depicts an iced background effect reminiscent of the freezing instrument panels of the adventurers, while the clock’s green night time glow is illustrated – a direct reference to the only light seen by Alcock and Brown as they crossed the Atlantic. 

Clock and one of the vehicle’s audio-system speakers
Route illustrated on glove box cover
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A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the Web and becoming the author of more than 15 books. In addition to being Editorial Director at ClassicCars.com, Larry has written for The New York Times, writes a weekly automotive feature for The Detroit News and is an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.

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