Image credits: © Bentley.

When Bentley introduced their R-Type Continental in 1952, it had a top speed of 120-mph and was hailed as 'the fastest four-seat car in the world.' The R-Type was replaced in 1955 by the S-Series, which also had a Continental variant.

The S Series had a long chassis which many feared would degrade the cars performance. This was not so, as the engine received an increase in displacement and the rear-axle ratio was changed to provide performance levels on par with the model it replaced. The suspension was improved which gave the car a nicer ride while improving its performance.

H.J. Mulliner bodied the Rolls-Royce styled fastback coupe, also known as the Sports Saloon. There were a handful of coachbuilders that were tasked with performing their craft on the Continental models, with Park Ward probably being the most famous. Their firm produced both open and closed models for the Continental S Series. It is estimated that 431 S1 Continentals carried this Drophead Coupe body and only 69 are in existence in modern times.

By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2017

Vehicle Profiles

Sports Saloon
Coachwork: Hooper

Chassis Num: B460-AN
Engine Num: BA 230

In the post-World War II era, a new type of marketplace for the elite in society began to evolve; one that had owner, rather than chauffeur, driving the car. A new type of Bentley was needed. ....[continue reading]

Continental Cabriolet
Designer: Graber

The Bentley S Type or S1, as it was more commonly known, was produced from 1955 through 1959, during which time 432 examples were Continentals that featured the 4,887cc engine with the six-port cylinder head and other performance enhancements. Bentle....[continue reading]

Sports Saloon
Coachwork: Mulliner

Chassis Num: BC36LAF

The second of only 24 left-hand drive examples built between 1955 and 1959, this Bentley S1 Continental Mulliner Fastback Coupe was restored in 1971 by Steve Morton. He then drove it from Cincinnati to the Rolls-Royce Owners Club meeting in Newport, ....[continue reading]

Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.

Chassis Num: BC26lBG

One of 31 left-hand-drive alloy bodied convertibles built between 1956 and 1959. This early example has been equipped with the upgraded large valve, large carburetor cylinder head as found on the later versions, power steering and air conditioning. F....[continue reading]

Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Mulliner

This vehicle is a 1956 Bentley S1 Drophead Coupe with coachwork by H.J. Mulliner. It is finished in black with a red leather interior. It was on display at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.....[continue reading]

Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.

Chassis Num: BC16LAF
Engine Num: BC15A

1956 Bentley S1 Continental Park Ward Coupe is the Ex Jack Warner Car and is one of the very early S1 Continentals built. The S1 had the six cylinder engine which was well proven and reliable. Coupled with styling and many interior amenities, this i....[continue reading]

Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.

Chassis Num: BC22LBG

Park Ward built this design on only 31 left-hand-drive S1 Continental chassis. This style was not an 'adaptation' from the factory design stampings, but rather a fully custom body, built from the ground-up by Park Ward, handcrafted in aluminum. ....[continue reading]

Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Mulliner

The Bentley S-Type or S1, as it is more commonly known, was produced from 1955 until 1959 and featured a 4887cc engine with six-port cylinder head and other performance enhancements. Bentley claimed that the eS1 Continental was the fastest four-seate....[continue reading]

Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.

Chassis Num: BC54LAF
Engine Num: BC53A

This Bentley Drophead Coupe wears coachwork by Park Ward. Many of the Bentley convertibles in this era were 'adaptations' however this example has a fully custom body built from the ground up by Park Ward's craftsmen. ....[continue reading]

Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.

Chassis Num: BC 23 LAF
Engine Num: BC 22 A

This S1 Continental Drophead Coupe with coachwork by Park Ward is one of only 31 original left-hand drive US delivery cars. It was delivered by New York City's Inskip Motors to Mr. R. L. Parish. It came equipped from the factory with a radio, sun vis....[continue reading]

Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.

Chassis Num: BC8BG
Engine Num: BC8B

This Bentley S1 Continental Two-Door Saloon is one of 69 examples wearing coachwork by Park Ward. The car was delivered on July 31st of 1956 to its first owner, D. Mackinnon Esq. of England. It came optioned with one-piece taillights and subtle fins ....[continue reading]

Sports Saloon by Hooper
Chassis #: B460-AN 
Continental Cabriolet
Sports Saloon by Mulliner
Chassis #: BC36LAF 
Drophead Coupe by Park Ward & Co.
Chassis #: BC26lBG 
Drophead Coupe by Mulliner
Coupe by Park Ward & Co.
Chassis #: BC16LAF 
Drophead Coupe by Park Ward & Co.
Chassis #: BC22LBG 
Drophead Coupe by Mulliner
Drophead Coupe by Park Ward & Co.
Chassis #: BC54LAF 
Drophead Coupe by Park Ward & Co.
Chassis #: BC 23 LAF 
Coupe by Park Ward & Co.
Chassis #: BC8BG 


The Bentley S1 was produced from 1955 through 1959 during which 3538 examples were created with 145 being outfitted with custom bodies. 431 examples were Bentley S1 Continentals. Thirty-five of the Bentley S1's sat atop a long wheelbase. Some of the notable coachbuilders who outfitted the S1's were Park Ward and H.J. Mulliner.
The Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I and the Bentley S1 were nearly identical, except for different badging and radiators. Mechanically, they were identical. Under the hood was an F-head 4887 cc straight six Crewe engine with cast-iron cylinder block and aluminum alloy cylinder heads. A dual SU carburetor type HD6 was used from 1955 through 1957. From 1957 through 1959, a dual SU carburetor type HD8 was used. A four speed automatic gearbox was standard; however, a four-speed manual unit was available as optional equipment. Stopping power was provided by drum brakes. The vehicles were adorned in two-tone paintwork with the hood finished in the lower color.

Six months after the introduction of the S1, Bentley introduced the S1 Continental, a name that had also been used as early as 1952 on the R-Type sedan. The Continental versions featured a slightly tuned engine and other performance features. Bentley claimed the Continental as 'the fastest four-seater in the world'. The engines were modified by enlarging the bore which increased the displacement to 4.9 liters. With the standard automatic gearbox and the added weight of optional power steering and power windows, the increase in engine size was well received by Bentley customers. The steel-body was replaced with aluminum, thus reducing the overall weight of the vehicle.

By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006
When Bentley was purchased by the Volkswagen conglomerate in 1998, many fans of the marque feared the brand would lose its identity. With long time brother Rolls-Royce getting sold off to a different parent company, though, those worries were unwarranted.

Prior to the 1930's, Rolls-Royce and Bentley were serious competitors. Both firms offered their unique interpretations on the English gentleman's car theme. Walter Owen Bentley was a better car builder than businessman, though, and his company was facing serious financial hardships by the early 1930's.

Rolls-Royce Ltd. bought the troubled Bentley facilities in 1931. The first Roll-Royce-produced Bentley, the 3½ Litre, debuted for 1933. From this point until Volkswagen's purchase of the works in 1998, Bentley produced near twins of Rolls-Royce cars, with an occasional special vehicle of its own. Bentley and Rolls produced some of the finest four-wheeled machines in the world during their partnership, but the Bentley brand retained little identity of its own. Bentleys were essentially badge-engineered cars. They were the slightly sportier counterparts of contemporary Rollers.

Proof of this can be found throughout the histories of the two companies, but the Bentley S1 is a great place to start. Produced from 1955 through 1959, the S1 was mechanically and visually (in standard coachwork, at least) identical to the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I in most ways. We've all seen Silver Clouds patiently waiting outside churches on wedding days, clad in white with dignified grilles gleaming. The Bentley, though, was a stronger seller despite its relative lack of fame.

A total of 3,538 Bentley S1's were produced. Of these, 3,072 were of the standard S1 variety on standard chassis. There were 35 made with long-wheelbase chassis. The remaining 431 were S1 Continentals.

The ancient F-series engine, a straight six design, powered the S1 and displaced 4,887cc. It had an iron block with an alloy head. Twin SU carburetors were employed in good British taste, and an automatic transmission was standard fare with an available 4-speed manual offered upon request.

The most impressive S1, in terms of both presence and performance, was the Continental. Rolls-Royce and Bentley were not in the habit of announcing such pedestrian numbers as horsepower ratings during S1 production, so it's unknown how much more power the Continental had over the standard S1. Other improvements were obvious, though, and the Continental's intentions were made clear regardless of its hazy power output figures.

Braking, steering, and suspension systems were all reworked to give Continentals a more controllable feel. They were not available with standard coachwork. The H.J. Mulliner Fastback Saloon body seen on many S1 Continentals resembles that of the supremely expensive R Continental which preceded it. An imposing and handsome design, a mammoth grille of the traditionally curved Bentley style stood upright at the nose of the vehicle. A long hood bridged the expansive gap between the radiator grille's top and the rakish windshield's bottom, and from there all body lines flowed downward and back in a sweeping motion to create an impression of speed even at standstill.

The S1 with standard coachwork was, as stated, a Silver Cloud I twin with a revised grille and new badging. It took the Continental version of the S1 to provide Bentley with a unique car that was in the honest spirit of the maker.

If you walk into a Bentley dealer today, you will notice, amongst other cars, a wonderfully styled fastback named Continental. It has a unique design and an engine with astounding grunt. It was designed to go, stop, and handle with aplomb, and bears no resemblance to any modern Rolls-Royce. So the next time you mistake a standard S1 for a Silver Cloud, ask yourself just how much of Bentley's innate identity was lost to Volkswagen.


Kinney, Dave. 'Bentley S1 Continental.' Sports Car Market Apr 2005 21 Mar 2009

'Bentley S1 and Bentley S1 Continental; Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I: Bentley 3 1/2 Litre.' Rolls Royce and Bentley 21 Mar 2009

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