Posted by: Jerry Garrett | May 12, 2014

Rhapsody In Blue: Rolls-Royce Waterspeed Edition Heads to Villa d’Este

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Edition, along Lake Como.

Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupe Waterspeed Edition, along Lake Como.

A special deep blue Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé, commemorating a 77-year-old world record speed run on water, will be unveiled to the public May 23-25 at the Concorso d’Eleganza at Villa d’Este. The famed concorso, the European equivalent of America’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, is set along the shores of Lake Como in Cernobbio, Italy.

It was on an adjacent lake in northern Italy, Lake Maggiore, where on September 1, 1937, Sir Malcolm Campbell established a world-record speed of 126.33 m.p.h. on water, in his famous Bluebird K3 (a.k.a. “Miss England”) speedboat. Of interest to Rolls-Royce aficionados, of course, was that the boat was powered by a Rolls-Royce R Engine.

Editor's Note: A 20-year restoration of Bluebird K3 was completed in 2013. (

Editor’s Note: A 20-year restoration of Bluebird K3 was completed in 2013. (

Only 35 of the Waterspeed Collection cars will ever be built; Rolls-Royce expects no trouble selling the entire collection, despite a base price of $759,890.

The special cars feature a number of one-of-a-kind touches from the marque’s Bespoke Collection. I include Rolls-Royce’s verbatim description here, as it is – in and of itself – something of a rhapsody in blue (my bold face emphases are added):

“Waterspeed Collection Phantom Drophead Coupés feature a number of exclusively created Bespoke design and engineering features, perfectly executed to create a thoroughly contemporary tribute to Campbell’s famous craft.

The brilliant blue only found in an Italian lake!

The brilliant blue only found in an Italian lake!

“The car is finished in a specially developed ‘Maggiore Blue’ exterior paint, inspired by Bluebird’s famous colour scheme. Nine layers of paint are applied before an exhaustive process of hand-sanding and the application of a cutting-edge powdered lacquer is undertaken to ensure an impeccable finish. For the first time in Rolls-Royce history the exterior finish extends to the engine, creating a visually striking homage to the power behind Campbell’s records.

A Rolls-Royce first: A blue engine!

A Rolls-Royce first: A blue engine!

The finish also adorns the car’s specially developed, fully-polished eleven-spoke wheels for the first time, providing a subtle decorative accent.

“The exterior is completed with a hand-painted coachline that culminates in a Bluebird motif with the design taking Rolls-Royce’s master coachline painter four hours to apply by hand.

“Phantom Drophead Coupé’s traditional teak decking to the rear makes way for brushed steel. Each piece of material is individually panel-beaten by hand for 70 hours following initial mechanical pressing. A Rolls-Royce craftsperson will then hand-brush the metal for over 10 hours – showcasing the fastidious attention to detail and commitment to hand-craftsmanship that informs everything undertaken at the Home of Rolls-Royce.

The Waterspeed Collection's bespoke cabin.

The Waterspeed Collection’s bespoke cabin.

“The car’s Maggiore Blue exterior finish is subtly echoed on the interior via accents on the dashboard that perfectly complement the Windchill Grey interior leather scheme. The marque’s hallmark attention to detail extends to the application of hand-engraved door armrest tunnel caps featuring a new interpretation of Campbell’s famous Bluebird motif. The armrests alone take eight hours to complete. Abachi wood also makes its Rolls-Royce debut in Waterspeed. By nature the material is cool to the touch with a satin-like tactility, and is bookmatched at an angle to echo the wake left by a boat moving at speed.

“Further reference to Campbell’s craft is made via a new interpretation of the famous ‘power reserve’ dial.

"Into the blue" at about 160 m.p.h.

“Into the blue” (at left, full power) at about 160 m.p.h.

As the driver presses on, the dial moves backwards towards a yellow and blue zone, echoing Campbell’s original K3 boat’s ‘going into the blue’ at maximum engine revolutions. A Bespoke front-lit clock adorned with Bluebird’s infinity symbol and dials hewn from a billet of aluminium evokes K3 further. Direct tribute to the records is paid in the glovebox, with a hand-embroidered panel expressing the records Campbell achieved at Lake Maggiore and Coniston Water. Finally, the steering wheel is presented in two-tone for the very first time, with Maggiore Blue accents balancing perfectly with traditional black leather to complete a beautifully conceived interior design scheme.”


A sneak preview today introduced the car to the media, ahead of its public debut in two weeks.

In attendance was Donald Wales, the grandson of Sir Malcolm Campbell (who, unlike most boat racers of the era, died of natural causes in 1948). Wales pronounced the Waterspeed Phantom an appropriate homage: “The extraordinary attention to detail and commitment to engineering excellence so evident in these motor cars perfectly echoes the lengths my grandfather and his colleagues went to in their pursuit of the waterspeed records.”

Jerry Garrett

May 12, 2014


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