A look inside the Rolls-Royce collection car paying tribute to the first trans-Atlantic flight
Jocelyn Pride sits behind the wheel of the Wraith Eagle VIII – a Rolls-Royce made for, and named after, travel legends.
When British aviators Captain Sir John Alcock and Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Arthur Whitten Brown made the first non-stop transatlantic flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Ireland, overnight on 14-15 June 1919, little did they know their daring journey would be immortalised in a car – a Rolls-Royce at that.
Unveiled in 2019 to commemorate the centenary of the approximate 1,880 miles, (3,040 kilometres), 16-hour flight, the Wraith Eagle VIII is the epitome of motoring grandeur. Enthusiasts will be familiar with the Wraith – a fastback coupe, launched in 2013 as the most powerful vehicle in the Rolls-Royce stable. The Eagle VIII soars to even greater heights.
Encapsulating the 100-year old travel story, each aspect of this vehicle is like turning the page of a history book. Wrapped in gunmetal and selby grey, the body evokes the hues of the Vickers Vimy (that bomber that Alcock and Whitten Brown commanded), with a thin brass line along the body and around the wheel hubs hinting at what lies inside.
History in the making
With their flight instrumentation freezing shortly after take off and having to battle through snowstorms and dense fog, Alcock and Brown relied on two things for navigation: a sextant and the night sky. After navigating by sextant through the clouds, the duo used the stars to find Ireland.
There are sophisticated reminders of their feat throughout the car: a brass plaque inscribed with Sir Winston Churchill’s congratulatory quote is moulded into the driver’s door, brass speaker covers subtly engraved with ‘1,880 miles’ depict the flight distance, and the RR monograms on the headrests are embroidered in brass-coloured thread. However, it’s the starlight headliner that’s the showstopper.
Covered with 1,183 twinkling starlight fibres, the entire ceiling shows the exact celestial arrangement at the time of the flight in 1919, with the constellations and flight path embroidered in brass thread.
Only 50 of these cars exist. One in Australia. Snapped up at first sight by a 30-something-self-made-Melburnian-entrepreneur. With a price tag just under 1million (AUD), all 50 vehicles are sold.
What will be the House of Rolls-Royce’s next incredible creation?
This article originally appeared in volume 37 of Signature Luxury Travel & Style magazine. To subscribe to the latest issue, click here.
All images and video © Jocelyn Pride