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V12 Black Arrow end of an era

Riley Riley

As the world moves towards an electric future, the Rolls-Royce Wraith Black Arrow marks the last V12 coupe the company will ever produce — and it’s limited to just 12 examples worldwide.

More performance-focused than predecessors, Wraith is one of the most influential models to emerge from Goodwood.

It fundamentally altered perceptions of Rolls-Royce and brought new, younger customers to the brand for the first time.

The two-door coupe, which shares architecture with the Dawn and Ghost as well as the BMW 7 Series, is powered by a whopping 6.6-litre twin turbo V12 that produces 465kW of power at 5600 rpm and 870Nm of torque from 1700–4500 rpm.

It offers some of the highest levels of performance ever achieved by a V12 Rolls, accelerating from 0-100km/h in 4.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 250km/h.

Looking at how to mark the end of the Wraith era, Goodwood’s designers and engineers took inspiration from an equally significant V12 from Rolls-Royce’s past.

In 1938, Thunderbolt, a seven-tonne, eight-wheeled monster equipped with two Rolls-Royce V12 ‘R’ Series aircraft engines set a world land speed record of 357.497 mph (575.335 km/h). 

Subsequent records have all been set with different engine types and configurations, leaving Thunderbolt in perpetuity as the fastest V12-powered motor car ever built.

The record was set on the legendary Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.

Incredibly, because of the glare and reflections from its polished aluminium body, it was almost impossible to time the car precisely.

A simple but ingenious solution was to paint a large black arrow on the sides, incorporating a yellow central circle that could be seen clearly even at high speed.

It is from this motif that Black Arrow takes its name and heritage.

The bespoke finish of the car features a mix of two colours, with a full graduation between: Celebration Silver and Black Diamond.

A glass-infused ‘Crystal’ top coat enhances the transition, achieving a blurred motion effect from front to rear.

It also gives the finish a subtle texture inspired by the crusted surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Contrast is provided by Bright Yellow bumper inserts and Bespoke wheel pinstripes, recalling the yellow circle within Thunderbolt’s black arrow.

In another first, Black Arrow’s V-struts, located behind the radiator grille, are also finished in Bright Yellow, drawing the eye to the V12 engine behind the dark chrome grille surround.

The use of Bright Yellow extends to the base of the layered carbon-fibre Spirit of Ecstasy, which incorporates Bright Yellow ring detail and an engraving of the collection name.

To commemorate the last-ever V12 coupe, the marque’s Bespoke Collective of designers, craftspeople and engineers collaborated to create a unique artwork for the fascia.

In keeping with its noir ambience, a highly complex design is engraved in a single sheet of black-coated aluminium to reveal the gleaming metal beneath, providing a bold visual link to Thunderbolt’s polished aluminium body.

Thunderbolt underwent a series of design changes during its lifetime.

Its final shape, is preserved forever in the illuminated, polished aluminium Speedform encapsulated behind glass on the front console.

Black Arrow’s Bespoke Starlight Headliner incorporates 2117 fibre-optic ‘stars’ all arranged individually by hand.

The ‘stars’ depict the Milky Way precisely as it would have appeared over the Salt Flats on September 16, 1938 — the date of Eyston’s record.

Inspired by the analogue instruments of the 1930s, the clock bezel references the raw, technical aesthetic of Thunderbolt’s interior, enhanced by black hand-tips that mimic the side arrows.

The surround is inscribed with the legend ‘Bonneville’ and Thunderbolt’s everlasting record speed of 357.497 mph.

Further ‘arrow’ detail appears on the tread plates.

All 12 motor cars in the Black Badge Wraith Black Arrow Collection have been allocated to clients around the world.

“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,” Chief Exec, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, said.

“This magnificent final V12 coupe 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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