Last V-12 Wraiths honor a 357-mph Rolls from 1938


Rolls-Royce is now assembling the final dozen Wraiths, which also happen to be the last V-12 coupes the British brand will ever produce. The Wraith’s successor will be the Spectre, the company’s first all-electric car that ushers in a new era of sumptuous silence for Rolls-Royce.

The Wraith, however, is not going quietly. The last 12 cars will be “Black Arrow” specials, inspired by the Rolls-Royce Thunderbolt, which set a world land speed record of 357.497 mph in 1938.

Powered by a pair of V-12 R Series aero engines the eight-wheeled Thunderbolt was piloted by Captain George Eyston and flew across the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Astonishingly, it remains the fasted V-12 powered car ever built.

Thunderbolt’s polished aluminum bodywork made it hard for official observers to spot exactly when it blasted past the timing equipment, so Eyston painted a large black arrow with a central yellow circle down each side, and that stroke of genius is what has inspired the design of the run-out Wraiths.

Rolls-Royce Thunderbolt

The paintwork on the Wraith Black Arrow has been rather more painstakingly applied, however.

In fact, it’s one of the most complex paint jobs ever to come out of the Goodwood factory, with a full-color graduation between Celebration Silver and Black Diamond and an additional Crystal layer over the black to enhance the transition. Rolls-Royce reckons this creates a motion-blur effect even when the car is stationary, while also symbolising the texture of the historic salt flats.

It took 18 months to develop the paint and application techniques. Yellow bumper inserts, wheel pinstripes, the V-struts behind the grille, and the base of the Spirit of Ecstasy pay homage to the Thunderbolt.

Rolls-Royce Black Arrow Wraith tribute Thunderbolt

Moving inside, the coach doors and “waterfall” panel between the rear seats are lined with open-pore black wood, with more than 320 individual laser-cut marquetry panels that have been designed to resemble the cracked surface of the salt flats.

There’s an illuminated polished aluminum Speedform representing the Thunderbolt on the center console and a new deep black Club Leather adorns much of the cabin, although the front seats stand out boldly in yellow. A dark mark on the steering wheel indicates the dead-ahead position and is also echoed in the seat design to evoke the black lines Eyston’s crew painted in the salt to help him hold his course at over 300 mph.

The clock is a unique piece that references the functional interior of the Thunderbolt and, as a finishing flourish, the car’s Starlight Headliner displays 21117 fiber-optic stars in the exact formation of the Milky Way as it would have been seen from Bonneville on September 16, 1938.


Mechanically the Black Arrow cars don’t appear to be any different than their Wraith peers, which means that each’s 6.6-liter V-12 engine produces 624 horsepower and is good for 0 to 62 mph in 4.5 seconds. Top speed will likely remain limited to 155 mph so the 12 collectors who have already been allocated cars won’t be setting and land-speed records.

“As the last examples of this landmark motor car get ready to leave Goodwood, we commemorate Wraith’s status as the last series V-12 coupé we will ever make,” says Torsten Müller-Ötvös, CEO of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.

“Both Black Badge Wraith Black Arrow and its inspiration, the V-12-powered, land speed record-holding Thunderbolt of the ’30s, represent the culmination of many long years of achievement, and the end of their respective eras. This magnificent final V-12 coupé collection captures both the significance and spirit of Wraith through the marque’s hallmark and peerless Bespoke capabilities. A fitting finale for this transformative motor car.”


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