Rolls-Royce is so closely associated with luxury cars that it's often easy to overlook the fact that the badge has also graced everything from jet engines to nuclear reactors. As a reminder of the company’s history, Rolls-Royce gave us a hint on Tuesday of its new Bespoke Waterspeed Collection, with the release of a sketch of its Phantom Drophead Coupé. The car features a special design to honor the achievements of land and water racing legend, Sir Malcolm Campbell.
The early decades of the 20th century were an interesting time for Rolls-Royce. When it wasn't making cars that merely “failed to proceed” (as opposed to breaking down), the company was building engines for some of the most famous land, sea, and air competitions of the day. In the 1920s and ‘30s, Rolls-Royce built the engine for the Supermarine S.6B seaplane, which won the Schneider Trophy and would in a few years evolve into the legendary Spitfire. In addition, it also built the R-Type V-12 engine used by Sir Malcolm Campbell in his Campbell-Railton Blue Bird, which set land speed records at Daytona Beach in 1935.
This same engine was also installed in Sir Malcolm’s record-setting speedboat, the Blue Bird K3. Designed by Fred Cooper and built by Saunders Roe Ltd, the Blue Bird K3 was a single-step hydroplane hull made out of plywood and doped aircraft canvas, and got its name for its Lloyds K3 unlimited rating.
On September 1, 1937, Sir Malcolm used the Blue Bird K3 to challenge the United States, which had held the water speed record for five years. On that day, he drove the boat on Lake Maggiore on the Swiss-Italian frontier, where he set a new record of 126.32 mph (203.29 km/h). Dissatisfied by the craft’s performance, he tried again the next day, when he pegged 129.5 mph (208.41 km/h).
According to Rolls-Royce, the limited edition Phantom Drophead Coupé is intended to echo the cutting-edge technology of the original Blue Bird K3, as well as its design cues. With its open-top design, Maggiore Blue and brushed-steel finish, hand-crafted wood, and white trim, the Phantom Drophead Coupé certainly is a strong visual reminder of its model while remaining distinctly a Rolls-Royce. However, it will only be in the coming months that we’ll get a better look at the final product.
According to Rolls-Royce, the run of the Phantom Drophead Coupé will be limited to 35 cars.