After the Second World War, there was a great period of upheaval in the car industry. The British market adopted the ‘export or die’ motto, branching out to foreign markets. Rolls-Royce had purchased Bentleys in the 1930s and they were no different. They created the Bentley Mark VI to appeal to an American audience. It was also the first car from Rolls-Royce with all-steel coachwork and it’s possible Rolls-Royce owes its survival to this model. The Mark V1 was the first post-war luxury car and it came out 1946.
In 1946, Rolls-Royce moved production from Derby to Crewe so they could build new cars. The Mark V1 was the first Bentley to come out of the factory and it was based on the 1939 Bentley V. It featured the same independent front suspension and valve six-cylinder engine 4257 cc. The engine was increased to 4566 cc in 1951. Each model was a four-door saloon that came with a sliding sunroof.
Unique to the car at the time, it had a steel body, which later became known as the ‘standard steel’ model. However, a small number of MK V1 chassis received custom work from coachbuilders like Park Ward, Freestone and Webb, Graber, James Young and Pininfarina.
The standard steel version was fitted with a traditional wood and leather interior. The car came with rear hinged suicide doors, twin windscreen wipers and a radio that had a flexibly mounted aerial.
The Mark V1 was introduced at a time when there was a steel shortage in Europe. This meant there was a shortage of new cars to sell in Britain. In the short term, the Mark V1 was a success because it captured the luxury and elegance the market was craving after the war. Ironically, the Mark V1 couldn’t be sustained because of the type of steels that was forced on it by government restrictions.
By 1952, the Mark V1 was replaced by the R-Type. However, the Mark V1 has enjoyed a resurgence in the modern day for classic car owners. It’s an elegant car that can be seen as a symbol of British resilience.