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1948 Bentley Mark VI

The Bentley Mark VI 4-door standard steel sports saloon was the first post-war luxury car from Bentley.

Announced in May 1946 and produced from 1946 to 1952 it was also both the first car from Rolls-Royce with all-steel coachwork and the first complete car assembled and finished at their factory. These very expensive cars were a genuine success, long-term their weakness lay in the inferior steels forced on them by government's post-war controls. Chassis continued to be supplied to independent coachbuilders.

This Bentley factory finished car was given the name Bentley Mark VI standard steel sports saloon. This shorter wheelbase chassis and engine was a variant of the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith of 1946 and, with the same standard steel body and a larger boot became the cautiously introduced Silver Dawn of 1949. The same extended-boot modification was made to the Mark VI body in 1952 and the result became known as the R type Bentley.

Mark VI engines and chassis were modified to provide higher performance and sold to be bodied by selected coachbuilders as the first Bentley Continentals, the most expensive production cars in the world and the world's fastest 4/5-seater saloons.

Engine

The Mark VI 4 14-litre used an F-head straight-6 engine 4.3 L (4257 cc/259 in3) in size. In 1951, a 4 12-litre, 4.6 L (4566 cc/278 in3) version of the engine was introduced and then referred to as the big bore engine. A four-speed syncromesh manual transmission was fitted with the change lever to the right of the driver on right hand drive cars and on the column on left hand drive versions. The 4.3 L was referred to as the 4 14 L with a single exhaust and the 4.6 L as the 4 12 L with a twin exhaust.

Chassis and running gear

The chassis used leaf springs at the rear and independent coil springing at the front with a control on the steering wheel centre to adjust the hardness of the rear springing by hydraulically adjusting the rear dampers. A pedal-operated central lubrication system allowing oil to be applied to moving parts of the suspension from a central reservoir was fitted. The 12.25 in (311 mm) drum brakes were assisted by the traditional Rolls-Royce mechanical servo.

The standard steel factory body

Towards the end of the war Car Division of Rolls-Royce prepared this postwar car to have its own factory-supplied bodywork, all-steel so it could be exported all over the world. The factory bodies with a Gurney-Nutting-Blatchley refined shape were made by Pressed Steel Ltd of Coventry and sent to the Bentley works at Crewe for painting and fitting out with traditional wood and leather. They featured rear hinged "suicide doors" at the front with concealed hinges, a sliding sunroof, a permanently closed windscreen with a defrosting and demisting unit hidden in the scuttle and an electrically controlled heater beneath the front passenger's seat. Twin screenwipers were fitted and provision was made for the fitting of a radio with a short and flexibly mounted aerial that could be swung up above the centre of the screen.

Road test

A 4.6-litre, factory bodied car tested by The Motor magazine in 1951 had a top speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 15.0 seconds. A fuel consumption of 16.5 miles per imperial gallon (17.1 L/100 km; 13.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £4,473 including taxes.

Commercial

The Mark VI was introduced at a time of steel shortage across Europe which translated into a serious shortage of new cars for sale on the UK market. A Used Car report in 1951 of a three year old example with 10,450 miles (16,815 kilometers) on the odometer noted that a car which had, when new, retailed for £4,038 including sales taxes, was now offered for sale at £5,335. This was seen as a comment on the quality of the car but also on the continuing shortage of cars for sale.

By the end of 1952 order-books had shrunk. The extended boot was the most obvious of modifications and new home-market options leading up to the introduction of the S series in 1955.

Production volumes:

  • 4 14 L: 4000 (including 832 with coachbuilt bodies)
  • 4 12 L: 1202 (including 180 with coachbuilt bodies)

Bentley Continental

A Mark VI chassis (at first referred to within the works as Corniche II) was developed by H I F Evernden and J P Blatchley in 1950 and 1951 carrying a larger engine with a higher compression ratio and modified fuel and exhaust systems, a close ratio gearbox and much higher final drive ratio.

By special arrangement with Bentley 2-door bodies were fitted having a lower frontal area and of significantly lighter construction, the first - made by H J Mulliner - developed in conjunction with Evernden and Blatchley. The first still luxurious car was more than 10% lighter than the standard car. They were the most expensive production cars in the world and the world's fastest 4/5-seater saloons.

These chassis were produced between June 1952 and April 1953 and bear the chassis numbers BC1A to BC26A, with the prototype, totalling 27 cars. The engine compression was reduced on the last 8 cars. The bulk of the chassis were clothed by H J Mulliner but some were bodied in Europe. Only the 27 cars were built before the R designation was added to the chassis series identification.

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Bentley vehicles

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