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Rolls-Royce commemorates first non-stop transatlantic flight

Words by Rob Chilton

A landmark in aviation has been marked with a special edition car

The first non-stop transatlantic flight in 1919 has been remembered by Rolls-Royce with a special collection of 50 Wraith Eagle VIII cars. Intrepid pilots Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown made the historic journey from Canada to Ireland in a modified World War I Vickers Vimy bomber aircraft, powered by twin 20.3 litre, 350 bhp, Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engines.

Sleek lines

Embedded in the roof of the highly collectable car are 1,183 starlight fibres that show the celestial arrangement at the time of the flight in 1919, with the flight path embroidered in brass thread.

Starlight roof

Clouds are embroidered in the headliner, with a plaque bearing the message, ‘The celestial arrangement at the halfway point 00:17am June 15th 1919, 50” 07’ Latitude North – 31” Longitude West’ shows the halfway point of the perilous journey.

Inside the car’s gunmetal exterior, the car is decked out in grey and black leather with accents of brass that echo the sextant used by the aviators to plot their route. Brass speaker covers, ‘RR’ embroidered in brass coloured thread on headrests and a flash of brass on door panniers all hint at Alcock and Brown’s trusted navigation device. Torsten Müller-Ötvös, chief executive of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars described the Wraith Eagle VIII as “an homage to heroes."

Sophisticated interiors

Dense cloud and freezing fog hampered the journey for Alcock and Brown, who had to fly using the stars after their radio and navigation instruments failed soon after taking off. Remarkably, they managed to maintain an average speed of 115mph.

The driver’s door of the Wraith Eagle VIII features a brass plaque with Sir Winston Churchill’s quote commending the duo’s achievement. Commenting on the aviation landmark, Churchill said, “I do not know what we should most admire: their audacity, determination, skill, science, their aeroplane, their Rolls-Royce engines – or their good fortune.”

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