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Bentley R-Type
Bentley R Type
Bentley R-Type
Bentley R-Type

Total Production: 2,320 1952 - 1955
In 1931 Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley. From that point, the two marques began to show similarities, such as design and mechanics. By the mid 1950's, the marques were mostly the same except for badging and engine. The R-Type's are memorable because they were still their own distinct model.
In 1952 at the Earls Court Motor Show, Bentley displayed their R-Type model. Bodywork was mostly handled by H.J. Mulliner and was available as a two-door Continental or Saloon. The Continental's featured a 4566 cc engine which was later increased to 4887 cc. The inline-six cylinder engine had dual SU carburetors, cast-iron cylinder blocks and aluminum alloy cylinder heads. A four-speed manual gearbox was standard with a 4-speed automatic being offered as optional equipment. Servo-assisted drum brakes provided the stopping power.

The predecessor the R-Type was the Mark VI which had been produced from 1946 through 1952. The customers of the Mark VI complained that there was insufficient luggage space. In 1952, this issue was addressed and the cargo space was increased. Originally, the Mark VII name was to be used but Jaguar had already secured rights to the name. They were marketed as Bentley Sports Saloons and later were given the designation R-Type. This was because the vehicle that replaced this series was the S-Type, the next in the succession.

The Continental bodies were mostly two-doors, light aluminum alloy, and aerodynamic. A few of the R-Type Continentals received coachwork courtesy of Graber or Franay. Only one Continental was bodied by the famous Pininfarina. The body designs were tested in the Rolls-Royce aircraft engine wind tunnels to determine maximum aerodynamics. The gearbox was a close-ratio unit matted to a highly tuned engine. In 1955 the production of the R-Type ceased and was replaced by the S-Series.

The R-Type Continentals were sports sedans that were excellent for touring. Their aerodynamic and stylish bodies, coupled to a potent drive-train, and luxurious interior was the complete package. In modern times, these are highly sought after.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006Following WWII, the British faced a sobering time during the early 1950s. Commodities and luxuries that were once commonplace, were still subject to rationing. Taxes continued to be piled on the British people, and frozen wages kept inflation in a constant battle.

Following a decade of prolonged asceticism, the petrol rationing was finally lifted on May 26th 1950. The British motorist was once again given the option to drive his or her car as frequently as they liked. An all-time record, as described by the AA, the traffic packed a solid ten miles out of London following the lift of the rationing.

The director of Bentley's Experimental Department, Chief Project Engineer Ivan Everden began working on a top-secret project in 1950 known as Corniche II. His goal was to create a two door, four-seater grand touring vehicle that was speed-driven, yet refined. This vehicle would eventually become the famous R-Type Continental.

One of the most beautiful vehicles in British automobile history, the Bentley Continental R is considered to be the ultimate in post-war Bentleys. In 1939, a year before the WWII, a Parisian, Andre Embiricos, was interested in a special Bentley. Built by boutique French coachbuilder Pourtout and styled by Frenchman Georges Paulin, who was responsible for designing the streamlined bodywork with the extensive wind-tunnel testing, the Bentley and Rolls Royce engineers developed the experimental 'Continental'.

A phenomenally advanced vehicle, this was a revolutionary looking 4-liter Bentley, called the ‘Embiricos Bentley'. With it's mechanical advancements, stream0lined design and lightweight coachwork, it was considered to be a true ‘super-car' forty years before the term was even coined.

It wasn't until years later in 1951, when the actual production model of the Bentley Continental began development in cooperation with Mulliner coachbuilders. Considered to be worth the wait, it was more than 20 years after Rolls-Royce took over Bentley in 1931 before a new sporty model was introduced by the new owners. The R-type Bentley Continental was produced from 1952 until 1955 with only a total of 208 units ever being produced.

Establishing the pattern for which to build upon, Ivan Rvernden would use the earlier vehicle as a model when given the go-ahead to develop the R-Type Continental. At the time, the management was divided in the opinion of whether the market was ready for such an expensive and high-powered vehicle. The debut of the R-type was made in 1952, and the world experienced Bentley amazing achievement, a luxurious vehicle that would surpass the performance of many sports cars.

The look of the R-Type Continental was one of the most striking things about it. With raised front wings that swept across the doors, before tucking into the rear of the vehicle, curved windscreen, smooth fastback, and fin-like rear wings all-together made a breathtaking car.

Designed by coachbuilder H.J. Mulliner, who used only slightly modified versions of the existing Bentley Mk VI saloon car's chassis, the result was the extremely fast, expensive, and exclusive Continental R. 193 models were bodied by HJ Mulliner. Similar to all the best 1930's Bentleys, the Continental R came with two passenger doors and a full four-seater package that was superbly detailed. The bulky, yet sleek shell of the R-type contained the combination of high horsepower and remarkable aerodynamic performance.

With a weight of only 340 kilograms, the streamlined bodywork was composed fully of aluminum alloy. The Continental R had a very impressive stopping-power and was equipped with servo-assisted drum-brakes. With a capacity of 150 bhp, the first production series of the R-type was equipped with a 4566 cc. cast-iron six-cylinder engine, while the last series had an approximate 175 bhp as the engine was bored up to 4887 cc engine.

Everything was done to lessen the weight of the four-seater luxury car. By replacing the non-standard tires and bodywork with aluminum body panels transformed it to a revolutionary light alloy frame. Also, bucket seats now replaced the bulky armchairs of before. A radio was fitted only at the customer's request, as every ounce mattered on this vehicle. Performance modifications to the R-type included a specially modified exhaust, raised compression ratio and performance to an impressing high. Able to reach a quarter of a mile in 19.5 seconds was an amazing achievement in the fifties.

With a sharp tapering tail, the Continental R still carried the prestigious Bentley radiator grille and was considered to be a vehicle for the ‘sportsman' who enjoyed driving far and fast. The vehicle had a top speed between 115 and 118 mph, and was a front engine, rear-drive with a separate chassis. The engine was low-revving, the controls and steering was heavy, and the fuel consumption was fierce. Nothing was held back on this car, the interior was filled with leather, carpet and wood, and high performance was the most important factor. Every component of the Bentley Continental R, especially the interior trim, was of the finest quality.

In 1952 the Continental R was sold for £7,608 and all of the Bentley Continental R's were built for export. The price was part of the appeal, it was considered to be quite the rage to own, the ultimate automotive status symbol. The R-type Continental was a marvelous car by any standards, and not only looked good, but was also extremely fast.

These cars have long outlived their first owners, and the majority of them are raced highly competitively today in rallies. Remaining an automotive icon half a century later, the Bentley Continental R is considered to be on of few vehicles that can by truly called a design classic.

By Jessica Donaldson

Bentley Models


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