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Rolls waves off the Wraith with Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.

Rolls waves off the Wraith with Black Arrow
Final Wraith coupe edition pays homage to Thunderbolt land speed record car.
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What's all this about?

This is the new Rolls-Royce Wraith, and that isn’t a typo. The Wraith has been with us for a while now, and as befits the definition of the word ‘wraith’ (‘a ghost or ghostlike image of someone, especially one seen shortly before or after their death’) this car is on its way out. But not before Rolls-Royce has launched a new special edition.

It's very... dark

Yes, this is the Black Arrow edition of the Wraith, and it’s Rolls’ way of waving goodbye to a beloved model, which is about to be replaced by a new all-electric Spectre coupe. Only 12 will be built, and Rolls-Royce says that it’s the last V12-engined coupe it will ever make.

So, should I alert my investment banker?

Definitely. The paintwork is a graduated two-tone finish that mixes Celebration Silver and Black Diamond with a glass-infused ‘Crystal’ paint over layer to mark the boundary between the two. It has taken Rolls-Royce 18-months to create this special paint, and it also features a faint texture meant to represent the famous Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, which leads us to the car’s inspiration. The colour and the name of the Black Arrow have been inspired by the efforts of a great former Rolls-Royce owner.

Lord Sugar?

No. Sir George Eyston, who instead of inventing a useless video phone, set a Land Speed Record in 1938, hurtling his seven-tonne, eight-wheeled leviathan called Thunderbolt to 357.497 mph. This formidable machine used a pair of Rolls-Royce V12 'R' Series engines, making it the last land speed record car to use a V12.

Thunderbolt’s record attempts took place on the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Against the glare of the brilliant white surface, and under a blazing desert sun, the reflections from the car's polished aluminium body made it almost impossible to tell precisely when it passed the timing equipment. Eyston's simple but ingenious solution was to paint a large black arrow on the car's sides, incorporating a yellow central circle motif that could be seen clearly even at high speed. Hence the name of this Wraith coupe and hence the little flashes of bright yellow that you’ll also find on the coachwork, which includes the base of an all-carbon fibre ‘Spirit of Ecstacy’ mascot.

What about the interior?

Inside, you’ll find more yellow and black, and a textured facia that is actually a solid sheet of aluminium, coated and then engraved with the outline of a V12 engine to reveal the sparkling metal beneath — another nod to the Thunderbolt. Black Arrow’s coach doors are lined with open-pore Black Wood, in a complex design comprising over 320 multi-directional and lasered marquetry pieces that mimics the cracked, irregular surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats. This also extends onto the rear ‘Waterfall’ panel, which separates the two rear seats. There’s a new ‘Club’ leather too, which is shinier and with a deeper colour, meant to represent the sort of deep, luxurious arm chairs that Eyston used in his own cars.

On the front console, there’s a ‘speedform’ sculpture, which records the various speeds set by the Thunderbolt, protected by a glass cover.

Even the 12 o’clock marker on the steering wheel – designed to line up with a similar stripe on the seats – is an homage to Eyston and the black lines painted on the salt flats so that he could hold the Thunderbolt straight.

Up above, the ‘night sky’ effect in the roof liner is achieved with 2,117 fibre-optic ‘stars’ — the most that Rolls has yet used in one car — all individually arranged by hand, the ‘stars’ depict the Milky Way as seen from vast open spaces, and the constellations precisely as they would have appeared over the Salt Flats in Utah on 16 September 1938, the date of Eyston’s final, immutable record.

Finally, there’s a bespoke dashboard clock, with yellow and black hands, inscribed with the word Bonneville and Eyston’s dramatic top speed on that day.

Anything else?

Oh, sure. Pop the vast bonnet and you’ll find an exclusive bespoke plaque mounted on the engine cover to signify this as the last V12 ever to be fitted to a Rolls-Royce coupe. Machined from a single piece of polished metal, the plaque is inscribed with the V12 monogram in Bright Yellow, and the legend ‘Final Coupé Collection’ in Black. Get the hankies out…

Crikey. How can I buy one?

You can’t. According to Rolls-Royce, all 12 cars have been allocated to customers.

“Wraith is one of the most significant and influential cars we have ever made at Goodwood," said said Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the chief executive officer of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars. "Its extraordinary power, performance and presence opened the Rolls-Royce brand to an entirely new group of clients. It created its own following within contemporary culture and then expanded that further in its alternative Black Badge guise. As the last examples of this landmark motor car get ready to leave Goodwood, we commemorate Wraith’s status as the last series V12 coupé we will ever make. Both Black Badge Wraith Black Arrow and its inspiration, the V12-powered land speed record-holding Thunderbolt of the thirties, represent the culmination of many long years of achievement, and the end of their respective eras. This magnificent final V12 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."

Neil Briscoe - 22 Mar 2023

2023 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.2023 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.2023 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.2023 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.2023 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.

2023 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.2023 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.2023 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.2023 Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow. Image by Rolls-Royce.    - Rolls-Royce road tests
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