Britain is known for producing a number of classic car manufacturers, ranging from Jaguar to Aston Martin. Another premier British marque is Bentley and the company is known for its prestigious vehicles. One of the most important cars that Bentley created was the R-Type Continental because it generated a design that Bentley used for decades. The R-Type Continental became the fastest four-seat production car of its day and we’re looking into the history of the model.
A total revamp
Before WW2, Bentley had already proven it could create fast cars with the one-off ‘Embricos’ model. The company looked to build on this with the help of chief projects engineer, Ivan Evernden and John Blatchley. Both men were inspired to recreate Bentley and set it apart from Rolls-Royce. They started developing a prototype that was tested in a wind tunnel for aerodynamic purposes.
Nicknamed ‘Olga,’ the prototype had a lithe, aerodynamic body that was based on the chassis of the Bentley R-Type. The 4566 cc six-cylinder in-line engine gave off 153 bhp. The Bentley R-Type Continental needed to be lighter than previous models in order to be faster. It weighed around 1750 kg, with a road test taking place in September 1951. The Bentley averaged 120 mph at the Montlhery track, becoming the fastest four-seat production car at the time.
A modern magic carpet
Some board members believed the Continental was ‘too sporty’ for a company that made limousines, but it didn’t stop Evernden from pressing ahead with the project. With the help of people within Bentley and overseas dealerships, Evernden convinced the board that there was a market for a grand tourer.
Orders came in from all over the world, with many customers asking for extras. This led to some changes being made to the Continental. They included a larger 4887 cc engine, lower roofline and one-piece windscreen. 208 Continentals were produced over a three year period, with most of them being right-hand drive models. The last cars came out in 1955.
The car received many accolades over its production period. Autocar described the appeal of the Continental. “Whatever memorable motoring experiences one may have had, this was something different…this Bentley is a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances and delivers the occupants well-nigh as fresh as when they started.”
Today, the Continental is highly prized among classic car collectors for its appearance, performance and heritage.