Wraith Black Arrow marks end of R-R V12 coupes

One last special edition as Goodwood gears up for Spectre EV

By Matt Bird / Monday, 20 March 2023 / Loading comments

From Mercedes to Bentley, seemingly nobody can escape the demise of the 12-cylinder engine. Rolls Royce is no different; this Black Arrow not only signifies the end of Wraith production after almost 10 years, it’s also the final V12 Rolls-Royce coupe ever to be made. A pretty momentous occasion. Now, Rolls-Royce being Rolls-Royce, the imperious powertrain remains in service elsewhere – as in every other model currently in the line up – but the writing is clearly on the wall. The Spectre will be the first electric Rolls Royce, but it sure as heck won’t be the last one.

This Wraith is a big deal, then, and the specification reflects that. It’s based on the Black Badge model, already the most powerful R-R ever at 632hp, with a design concept inspired by Thunderbolt, a land speed record car from the 1930s. That’s not just been randomly plucked from the archives, either; not only was the Thunderbolt powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce V12 aero engines, it’s the fastest V12-powered car ever built. Captain George Eyston drove the seven-tonne, eight-wheeled ‘bolt to 357mph in 1938 (!), after which everyone was a little occupied to worry about land speed records. Once activity resumed after WWII, different powertrains were used to go crazy fast, and the Thunderbolt’s place in history was assured.

85 years ago, Eyston’s machine was polished aluminium with a black arrow on the side that incorporated a yellow circle. As a homage to Thunderbolt, the Wraith features something called gradient paint, Celebration Silver morphing into Black Diamond from the front of the car to the back. And that’s just the start: Rolls has used a glass-infused ‘Crystal’ paint to enhance the motion blur effect as well as creating a ‘subtle texture inspired by the crusted surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats, set beneath a high gloss lacquer’. A year and a half has been spent by the Bespoke Collective team getting the paint right, and it’s described as ‘one of the most technically complex paints that Rolls-Royce has ever created’. Half a day is spent just polishing to make sure the finish is perfect. Special mention ought to go to the yellow accents as well, which extend as far as the Spirit of Ecstasy, the struts behind the grille and wheel pinstripes. It’s hard to imagine the time and effort that’s gone into the paint – surely nobody will actually risk such craftsmanship driving it anywhere.

Not least with so much to look at inside. The Black Badge Wraith Black Arrow is treated to Black Wood for the doors – of course – albeit made up of ‘over 320 multi-directional and lasered marquetry pieces that mimics the cracked, irregular surface of the Bonneville Salt Flats’. The dashboard (though that sounds woefully prosaic for such a creation) brings the V12 into the cabin and was another two months’ work, engraving into black coated aluminium to again evoke the land speed record car. The outline of the Thunderbolt can be seen behind glass in the transmission tunnel; and new ‘Club Leather’ mimics the hide preferred by Eyston, with a greater sheen and even deeper black to Rolls’ natural leather. Where yellow leather isn’t employed, obviously. The Black Arrow also gets its own ‘Final Coupe Collection’ plaque for the engine, a clock inspired by Thunderbolt’s instruments (with the 357.497mph record inscribed underneath) and arrows on the treadplates. It’s an absolute treasure trove of masterful details.

One last thing, just to show off the lengths that have Rolls-Royce have gone to for its last V12 Coupe. The famous Starlight Headliner has been given a special twist for the Black Arrow. It features the most ‘stars’ ever seen in a Rolls-Royce (2,117), with the constellations of the Milky Way shown precisely as they would have looked over the Salt Flats in Utah on September 16th, 1938.

Rolls-Royce CEO Torsten Muller Otvos had, understandably, a lot to say about the Black Arrow: “Wraith is one of the most significant and influential cars we have ever made at Goodwood. 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.” Note the use of ‘last series V12’ there, implying that maybe more limited edition two-doors could follow. These ones are already spoken for, after all, and you only need look at the clamour for 12-cylinder engines elsewhere to know that the demand is there. And for those of us not in Rolls-Royce’s Black Badge black book, there are regular Wraiths available for just over £100k in the classifieds – with the 6.6-litre V12 absolutely present and correct…

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