Bentley announces Speed Six Continuation Series

It seems that with modern engineering techniques almost any vehicle can be brought back to life. That, and a substantial bank balance. We have seen a rash of recreations and continuations in recent years, some by the original manufacturers, some by specialists making recreations (definitely not copies they will tell you).

Now Bentley Mulliner is to bring the iconic Speed Six back to life with a new and highly exclusive Continuation Series of 12 cars, each mechanically and aesthetically authentic to the Bentley racers that won Le Mans in 1929 and 1930. Created to honour the achievements of the original cars and while continuing to develop and preserve Mulliner’s heritage skills, the new Speed Sixes will become the second pre-war continuation project in the world after the Blower – both created by Bentley Mulliner.

The most successful Bentley racing car of its era, the Speed Six is regarded as one of the most important Bentleys in history, also proving the concept of the Grand Tourer – a fast car that remained comfortable and luxurious, and capable of covering huge distances with ease.

The 12-car series has been designed, and will be developed and built, by the same team of Mulliner specialists that have created the Blower Continuation Series – the first pre-war continuation project in the world. This acclaimed run of 12 new 4½ litre ‘Blower’ Bentleys was based on the company’s own 1929 Team Car #2 – the most famous and valuable Bentley in the world, which raced alongside the Speed Six in 1930 – and sold out instantly. The same is true of the new Speed Six continuations, with all 12 cars already reserved by customers around the world.

The Speed Six
A high-performance version of the 6½ Litre, the Speed Six became the most successful racing Bentley, winning Le Mans in 1929 and 1930 at the hands of Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin and Glen Kidston.

The Speed Six was an improved version of the 1926 6½ Litre Bentley. W.O. Bentley believed that the best way to increase power was to increase capacity, as opposed to Tim Birkin’s faith in supercharging. He therefore developed a new, larger engine to succeed the 4½-litre. With a bore of 100 mm and a stroke of 140 mm, his new straight six had a capacity of almost 6.6 litres. In base form, with a single Smiths five-jet carburettor, twin magnetos and a compression ratio of 4.4:1, the 6½ Litre delivered 147 bhp at 3500 rpm. 362 examples were built at Bentley’s factory in Cricklewood, north London, on a variety of chassis of different lengths depending on the body style requirements of individual customers.

The Speed Six chassis was introduced in 1928 as a more sporting version of the 6½ Litre. The engine was modified to liberate more power, with twin SU carburettors, a higher compression ratio and a high-performance camshaft, responsible for an increase to 180 bhp. The Speed Six chassis was available to customers with wheelbases of 138 inches (3,505 mm), 140.5 inches (3,569 mm), and 152.5 inches (3,874 mm), with the short chassis being the most popular. 182 Speed Six models were built between 1928 and 1930.

The racing version of the Speed Six had a wheelbase of 11 feet (132 in; 3,353 mm) and a further-developed engine running a compression ratio of 6.1:1 and developing 200 bhp. Two wins at Le Mans in 1929 and 1930 cemented the Speed Six’s place in Bentley history, with the 1929 victory setting a new benchmark for dominance at the race. Driven by Woolf Barnato and Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin, a Speed Six led from the first lap until the chequered flag, followed by a procession of three other Bentleys. A new lap record of 7:21 had been set by Birkin, taking 46 seconds off the previous best and requiring an average speed of 83 mph, and in covering 2,844 km a distance record was also attained. Such a dominant performance by one manufacturer was not seen again at Le Mans for nearly 30 years.

Recreating an Icon
To deliver 12 new Speed Sixes that are authentic to the design of the racers of 1929 and 1930, the Mulliner team has first created a complete 3D CAD model of the car, from both the original blueprints and detailed analysis of original cars. Two cars have been referenced for this process.

“Old Number 3” was the third of three Speed Sixes entered by Bentley into Le Mans in 1930. Despite a difficult race it survived the ordeal, and has been immaculately preserved since. Still fully road legal and actively raced by its owner today, Old Number 3 has been a valuable source of design details and reference points for the creation of the new cars.

Alongside Old Number 3, Bentley’s own Speed Six (GU409) – part of Bentley’s expanding Heritage Collection – is a 1929 road car wearing an identical four-seat Vanden Plas body to the original racers and restored to the same specification. GU409 will provide benchmark performance and handling data for the continuation cars, including a full power and torque curve for the 12 new engines to match – or beat.

The price? believed to be £1.5m each.

Yorkshire Modified Car Show

I know what you are thinking. What is a respectable classic car publication doing at a modified car show. Surely they are all modern cars wrapped in metallic colours with big speakers pumping out beats with obscene lyrics. Well if that’s what you think then …….. you would be right.

But there is an interesting thought behind this visit. You will recall that we recently reported on the Haggerty research into the state of the classic car industry. For those of you who didn’t read the report I can summarise it quite quickly. The classic car industry is thriving, but its customer base is mostly white, male and getting older. If we don’t attract fresh blood into the hobby and the industry it will start to whither.

So where will this fresh blood come from? Is it possible that we could tempt some people away from the modified car scene to the classic car scene. And if we could would we want them? So, wearing a knock off Armani T-shirt and a baseball cap I went to investigate.

The cars on show are predominantly from the 1990’s and range from Vauxhall Corsa’s through to Mitsubishi EVO’s and Subaru Impreza’s. These cars are on the threshold of being legitimate classics and within a decade they will be the most collected cars.

If you sift through the dross, and there was a lot of it, then you can find some interesting cars. Many of the cars are run of the mill but covered in the regurgitated contents of an on line accessory shop, finished off with a shiny wrap. In the words of Shania, that don’t impress me much.

But search deeper and you will find some gems. Properly engineered and well put together cars where the modifications were subtle but highly effective. As we queued to get in, a Volvo Estate slammed so low it was touching the ground, rose silently to a drivable height. In side were plenty of mods to the stereo and seats, subtle but distinctive.

20 of the best modified cars were displayed in a tent and these cars showed potential. Good build quality, nice paint and accomplished engine improvements. These are the cars that offer some potential for a transfer into the classic car movement. In fact some of these cars were already classics, including a Hillman Sunbeam, a VW Karmen Ghia and Nissan Skyline.

It goes without saying that they have the Youth market sewn up. But there is also a whole area of girls cars drawing inspiration from Manga and the Fast and furious franchise. Pink cars and heart shaped steering wheels.

It seems to me that there are some prospects for luring some of the modified car enthusiasts across from the dark side. Especially as they get older and more experienced. Perhaps if we really want to ensure the future of the classic car community we should don our earplugs and show them an alternative future.

Just for the record I am not from the classic car school of originality. I like a Hot Rod, a race prepared car, an engine swap and slammed VW. In fact VW seem to embrace all car life with modified’s, classics, rat rods and appeal to a very wide range ages. I wonder if that is because they aren’t just about cars, but lifestyles.

Food for thought.

Yorkshire Rover rally returns

By Classic Yorkshire correspondent Tony Lofthouse

As a self confessed Rover enthusiast it was a treat to pop along to the return of the Yorkshire Rover Club show at Oakwell Hall, near Birstall.

Around 50 Rovers lined up on the front lawn of the 16th century manor house – everything from a P4 series Rover 100 from the early 60s to a more modern Rover 75 V6 SE.

After a Covid enforced break, it was great to see crowds enjoy classic examples from the iconic Midlands-based car maker.

They were joined by other vintage British cars including MG, Triumph and a locally-made Jowett.

There were many highlights of the Rovers on display and seeing some fine examples of the P5 series made from 1958 until 1973 was very special.

In their day these three litre and 3.5 litre models oozed elegance with interiors of buckskin leather and wood trim. Under the bonnet the cars came with a six cylinder or Buick V8 engine. This was a car enjoyed by the Queen, the Queen Mother, Prime Ministers and many Cabinet Ministers.

I was particularly struck by a 1967 P5 coupe with full length chrome trim strip incorporating Mark III badging, silver birch roof, original leather upholstery and just 39,500 miles on the clock!

The P5 is a car that is becoming very sought after but prices are yet to rocket.

Moving up a series, a 1975 Rover P6 2200 SC with only two previous owners caught the eye. The artic white model came with velour upholstery and the original factory covers to add to its pristine condition. It was joined by equally impressive 1974 Rover 3500 V8.

The P6 was a complete ‘clean sheet’ design for Rover and notched up huge sales from day one.

Representing the 80s was a SDI 2600 SE, one of two SDIs on show. The SDI was made European Car of the Year in 1977 and by 1986 had passed over 300,000 sales. It would prove the last British Rover badged car to come out of the Solihull plant. Future Rover models would be built at Longbridge and Cowley.

A Rover 216 GTI 16v coupe twin-cam was a good example of the car makers new partnership with Honda. These affordable models are attracting growing interest from collectors. Look out for a convertible for some summer time fun.

Capping off a great day out was seeing a 2002 Rover 75 V6 Connoisseur in zircon silver. Launched in 1999 when BMW were running the Rover Group, the 75 was described in the Italian media as ‘the most beautiful car ever made’.

That may be a bold statement but the 75 is a fabulous car and pre-2004 facelift versions, I’m told, are preferred for their build quality. If you’re in the market for more room look out for a Tourer, described by Auto Express as a ‘stylist load carrier’. Sadly, by the Spring of 2005 the game would be up for the 75 and Rover.

Whisper it, but the 75 range could be a real future classic.

If you’d like to see hundreds more Rovers, make a date to go to the Roverfest 2022 at Weston Underwood, near Milton Keynes on 5-7th August. For more information visit

Special discount for Classic Yorkshire readers.

Yorkshire Elegance 19th-21st July

The Fast Lane Club have have created Yorkshire Elegance, which will be a right good, fancy car event… here in Yorkshire! To give you an extra benefit from being a Classic Yorkshire reader we have arranged for all our supporters to get a 10% discount on tickets.

It combines driving experiences with great cars, excellent food and good company, using some of the best facilities in Yorkshire.

19th July: Harewood Hillclimb: England’s longest hill climb where up to 70 classic cars will be able to take to the hill with everyone getting 4-5 runs. Day tickets are available for those who want to watch the action and mingle with the cars and their owners in the pits. 10% discount for Classic Yorkshire readers.

20th July: Bowcliffe Hall Celebration Day – the main feature will be a magnificent display of classic Jaguars to celebrate 100 Years off SS/Jaguar.  Also on display will be classic Porsche, Aston Martin, Ferrari, Bentley and Austin Healey’s. 

The most special cars will take part in a run through the grounds around Bowcliffe Hall during the afternoon so all guests get to see and hear the cars. The parade will start from a red carpet with a brief interview with the owner of each car as they set off. Some very special Jaguars, Bentleys Aston Martin’s and Austin Healey’s will join the parade. VIP guests will enjoy a lunch and complimentary Yorkshire sparkling wine from the Dunsforde Vinyard.

Join the fun with a day ticket with a 10% discount as a Classic Yorkshire reader.

21st July: Yorkshire Dales Driving Tour – starting from Bowcliffe Hall guests will take a tour of the Yorkshire Dales.  The route will include the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, Ribblehead viaduct, and Buttertubs Pass. The tour ends at Yorkshires finest hotel, Grantley hall with afternoon tea and a finale dinner with overnight stay. The tour is reserved for VIP guests. If you would like to join the event there are still a couple places left. Full details can be found at :-

Day Guest tickets available for the Harewood Hillclimb day and the Bowcliffe Hall Celebration Day.

All information and booking available at

(and please don’t forget the discount code: SPECIAL10 to get 10% off)

Brad Pitt to star in Formula One Racing Film by Joseph Kosinski

By Classic Yorkshires Film and Media correspondent Bill Lawrence.

Apple has closed a deal to acquire an untitled Formula One racing movie that has Top Gun: Maverick filmmaker Joseph Kosinski directing and Brad Pitt starring.

The project reunites Kosinski with many of his Maverick team, including writer Ehren Kruger and producers Jerry Bruckheimer and Chad Oman of Jerry Bruckheimer Films. All are back in the same capacity for the racing project and are being joined by Sir Lewis Hamilton, the seven-time F1 world champion, who will produce along with Pitt’s Plan B banner.

Part of the appeal is Pitt and F1 racing. While not having the box office record of Maverick’s Tom Cruise, Pitt is as big of a name on a worldwide scale. F1 is a growing and sexy sport that embodies an enviable lifestyle. The other bet is the theatrical experience that will take audiences to a place most have never been to before: inside a single-seat racer. Just as Maverick and Kosinski are generating kudos for real-world practical effects that put audiences in the cockpit of an F-14, the goal is to put the viewer behind the wheel of an F1 car.

The idea for the project originated with Kosinski, who had met Hamilton briefly through Cruise during the making of Maverick. A search for a writer ensued and Kosinski convinced the Brad Pitt to join the racing crew for the story’s seasoned driver who comes out of retirement in order to mentor a promising rookie.

Big crowds turn out for Race the Waves ‘A Theatre of Automotion’

Big crowds turned out for this year’s Race the Waves on Bridlington seafront.   In one of my favourite events visitors were treated to one of the most unusual car and motorcycle events in the calendar.

Featuring predominantly 1920’s and 1930’s hot rodded cars it is a complete antidote to the traditional field based classic car show.  As the tide recedes the race against the waves begins as the team lay out a track on the drying sand along with a holding bay for the cars.  Then as the tide turns the organisers must clear the course and ensure that everyone and their vehicles makes it safely to the cliff side rendezvous.

I caught up with Paul Garbutt of Backfire Promotions who put the event together.   

Paul said:

The people who take part are not so much taking part in an event, but living a lifestyle. Everyone here is a racer (at least in their own head).  They may or may not be quick but here they can turn the clock back to a less complicated era and have a great time with their vehicle on the beach.   The participants are great fun and join in all aspects of the weekend including the cruises, exhibitions and press day.  They are fully consumed by what they are doing for the whole weekend.

Now in its third year Paul told me that he was originally asked to host a motorcycle show in Bridlington.  But he was concerned this seaside town tended to be a Scooter orientated destination and attracting the desired attendance was going to be a real challenge.  Also sitting in a field behind a classic car had less of an appeal too. He wanted to put on a show that truly involved the participants so he decided to put on the kind of show that he would want to attend.   So that’s what he did and in only 3 years it has become firmly established in the Vintage and Hot Rod car scene.   He was also anxious to point out the support he received from the local East Riding of Yorkshire Council and the Yorkshire Coast Bid, who not only enthusiastically promoted the event but also facilitated the use of various public spaces and the beach.

Friday is Press day and scrutineering and members of the public can wander round the cars and talk to the owners on the Church Green, in the Bridlington old town (where the recent Dads Army movie was filmed).   Many of the drivers have turned up in appropriate dress (mainly denim, T-shirts and overalls).  This is not an event where being too fancy pays off.   The atmosphere is relaxed and drivers and their teams are very friendly.  

The first day of the event proper is Saturday and from 8am cars and motorcycles of every description start to gather on a cliff top car park.  By 10.30 they are ready to head for the beach and by 11.00 the sea has receded sufficiently to head for the track.   

What happens next is difficult to describe to the uninitiated but it is a feast for the eyes and the ears.  First the motorcycles are waved away and they slowly gather traction, go too fast and the rear wheel will spin and you will make no progress.  Once away some will wave, others cling tightly to their steeds to maintain control.

Then the cars join in.  All manner of vehicles, many from the 20’s and 30’s but many decades are represented, the most recent being an MG Midget fitted with a Rover V8.   The sight of these cars, against the yellow sand and blue sky was a thing of beauty.   You could have been in California just as easily as Bridlington.  

The cars and bikes posed on the beach for photographs before making their way to a holding area.   The cars are then brought forward in small groups to run the straight 200yard track two at a time.   There is no timing, this is not a competition and performance is measured by the smile on the faces of those who take part.

A large crowd has gathered on the promenade to watch.   It is one of the best free shows you will see and I haven’t seen Bridlington so busy for a long time.  It seems the investment by the council has paid off.

After about 4 hours the tide starts to turn.  The last few runs are completed and the cars and bikes head back to the cliff top rendezvous point.   Everyone packs up and heads to their accommodation, a few will be working on their cars to fix anything that broke.   But they will all be back on Sunday morning to do it all again.

When it comes to the Hot Rod scene, I am a complete novice.  However, I was delighted by how they embraced me and shared their thoughts and their vehicles.   The cars and bikes are dramatic and they shine in the visual splendour of the British Seaside.   I’d like congratulate Paul and his team at Backfire Promotions for organising such a great event.  And if the local tourist board are reading this, then they should be entering this event for an award.

Panel business proving a big ‘hit’ with classic owners

By Classic Yorkshire correspondent Tony Lofthouse

A classic car specialist that makes replacement body panels for a range of models is expanding its West Yorkshire operation. See below for a special offer for Classic Yorkshire subscribers.

Ex-Pressed Steel Panels run a unique press process that is able to produce high-quality panels from its own moulds ready for eager car enthusiasts, clubs and businesses who would otherwise struggle to find the parts.

In 2021, the Keighley-based company moved into a former manufacturing unit in the town to accommodate its panel finishing, storage and logistics operations.

The move was in response to a growing order book from local, national and European customers as well as US, Australian and New Zealand classic car owners.

The company pride themselves on making made-to-measure body parts from unobtainable original panels they hold. The process starts at its ‘press’ workshop in Cowling, from there skilled craft workers at its Keighley base complete the production. The finished items are then delivered to UK-wide customers or shipped to overseas clients.

The team at Ex-Pressed are constantly working hard to source original classic car panels to ensure they always carry a wide range of stock ready to meet customers needs.

Their hand-finished panels end up fitted to scores of cars from classic Fords such as Capri, Escort and Cortina to Peugeot, Jaguar, Lancia, Triumph, Hillman and BMC models.

The company are also keen to meet the needs of the growing market of ‘young timers’ who own emerging classics such as Ford Sierra Cosworth, Subaru Impreza, Jaguar XK and BMW models.

Managing Director Mike McColgan at Ex-Pressed said: “These are really exciting times for the business.

“We are proud to be producing the very best in replica panels for car restoration enthusiast, whether it’s for the owner of a 50 year old Mini or to fit on an up and coming classic such as the Honda S2000.

“We want to ensure that whatever your car we’re here to help you keep it in ‘tip top’ shape and make quality memories.

“Expanding into Keighley gives us the space and opportunity to really grow and keep giving our customers the best service possible.

“It also means we are always on the look out for skilled workers who want to be part of the Ex-Pressed team and build a career in the automotive business.”

Typical customer feedback on social media reflects the team’s great work, comments such as:
‘I am very impressed with your service and quality of the panel you made. It will certainly add value to the restoration of my Lotus Cortina Mk2.’

‘I am doing a complete rebuild of a Morris 1100 and I bought a number of panels (from Ex-Pressed) – have to say ‘perfect’.

And from New Zealand:
‘I have received my Cortina panels today. Thank you … the panels look fantastic.’

In celebration of the company’s move, Ex-Pressed are offering current subscribers to the Classic Yorkshire website a 5% discount on panel orders. The offer lasts until 31 August 2022.

To find out more about the company’s work visit or ring 01535 632721.

DeclarationI can confirm that Classic Yorkshire received no payment or benefit for this article.

A tiptoe through the tulips.

A guide to rally navigation using tulip diagrams.

If you want to have a go at rallying but don’t know where to start then there are many options. Rallying comes in many forms from simple navigational tours where the emphasis is on the social side of the event to full on historic stage rallying as seen on the Roger Albert Clark Rally.

We recently took part in the Mintex Rally recreation which is a non competitive event with rally stages. This is a relatively low impact event and within the reach of most classic car enthusiasts, though I would recommend some rally preparation such as sump guards, trip meters, competition seats and a roll cage.

A good entry into the sport is as a rally navigator. Good navigators are always in demand and your financial contribution is often limited to sharing the event costs without the costs of the car and any damage it may incur. Another good piece of advice is to join an appropriate club. I would recommend a local car club that organises the kind of events you are interested in, plus a specialist club that organises suitable events.

At the local club you should get lots of help and opportunities to get involved before making a big financial commitment. The specialist club will give you access to major events and often, training days where you can hone your skills.

This article concentrates on our experience of the rally tour where tulips are the most popular form of navigation. To learn more about rally navigation go to the Historic Rally Register where their excellent website provides a lot more detail. They also produce guides in PDF form and contact information is available at the end of this article.

We were issued with the Rally Route book at sign on along with a number of alterations that had to be transferred to the book. There will also be some notes perhaps relating to speed limits that may need highlighting. Tulips are so called because they look like Tulips in a simple graphic form.

To start with we will look at the route from Harrogate Rugby Club to the first stage at Dunscombe Park. It helps if you have a specialist trip meter so that you can measure mileage but if not you will be able to use the one in the car. However you will need to position seat so that you can see it without obstruction from the driver.

If we take the first instruction then your car is the round dot at the bottom of the graphic. The line is the direction of travel and the arrow is the next turn you have to take. In this case you travel along the road for 0.1 miles and turn left. On the right some additional information is included, in this case you are turning onto the A658. The note, 4 runs is to remind us that we complete the stage 4 times before exiting to the road.

From that turn you drive 1.5 miles and go through the roundabout taking the second exit. After each turn you move to the next graphic starting at the dot. It is worth saying that these directions are generally intended to get you to the next stage. They are not competitive and usually not tricky as the emphasis on you enjoying the event, not spending the day getting lost.

On the second page the diagrams look a little more complicated but the same principle applies. After travelling 0.3 miles you come to a major roundabout above a dual carriageway or motorway and take the first left.

As you complete each instruction put a large tick through it so that you don’t miss an instruction. If you follow the route twice add another line to make a cross. If you have time you can take the mileage of the car and add the distance travelled to give you the cars mileage when you need to turn.

As a back up I would also include the postcode of any destinations such as hotels, stages in country houses etc. This way, if you get hopeless lost or behind time, you can head straight for the next stage using your phone and then pick up the route again on exit.

I appreciate that this is a brief canter through the Tulip system but I hope it is enough to give you enogh confidence to consider a rally tour as a way to enhance your classic car enjoyment.

Top of the cops

The burgundy Jaguar Mark 2 driven by Inspector Morse in the TV show Morse has been voted the most iconic TV cop-car of all time, in a new poll commissioned by the world’s biggest motoring entertainment show, Top Gear.

The classic British-made model was declared top of the cops by over half (53%) of those surveyed, closely followed by Gene Hunt’s Audi Quattro from Ashes to Ashes (43%), and the Ferrari 308 GTS that starred in Magnum, PI.

The survey of 1000 British adults comes ahead of this Sunday’s second episode of the new series, where the presenters put several legendary TV crime-fighting cars through their paces, with hilarious results. 

The episode celebrates an era when telly police cars were as famous and recognisable as the actors who drove them.

The nation’s 10 best loved TV cop and detective cars were as follows:

  1. Jaguar Mark 2 – Inspector Morse, Morse (53%)
  2. Audi Quattro – Gene Hunt, Ashes to Ashes (43%)
  3. Ferrari 308 GTS – Thomas Magnum, Magnum PI (41%)
  4. Ford Capri – Ray Doyle, The Professionals (41%)
  5. Ford Gran Torino – Dave Starsky, Starsky and Hutch (40%)
  6. Ferrari Testarossa – Sonny Crockett, Miami Vice (37%)
  7. Land Rover Defender – Vera Stanhope, Vera (33%)
  8. Ford Consul GT – Inspector Jack Regan, The Sweeney (28%)
  9. Ford Cortina – Gene Hunt, Life on Mars (27%)
  10. Mercedes SL and Ford Escort XR3i cabriolet – Harriet and Jim, Dempsey and Makepeace (27%)

The Ford Sierra Cosworth driven by Freddie Spender (24%), Jim Bergerac’s Triumph Roadster 2000 (24%) and the Ford Zephyr from Z Cars (21%) just missed out on a placing in the poll coming in at 11, 12 and 13th positions respectively.

The Mark 2 epitomised Jaguar’s motto of ‘grace, pace and space’, with almost a third of respondents identifying Morse’s chosen crime-fighting vehicle as the ultimate TV cop car in terms of classic style and design.

Seven in ten of those polled declared the 1960s as the greatest era of iconic car designs. Though the Mark 2 actually launched in 1959, it was sold throughout the Sixties, with over 80,000 built in Coventry.

Freddie Flintoff, Chris Harris and Paddy McGuinness are back for their sixth series at the wheel – Top Gear airs this Sunday at 8pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer.

Event reminder: Race the waves

I’m really looking forward to this event. Taking place over the fathers day weekend it is an ideal place to take your dad. A run to the coast, interesting cars racing on the beach and a large vintage fair in the nearby pavilion. Finish off with a fish and chip supper and it has all the makings of a perfect day out. Best of all, the cars are free to watch.

Bentley celebrates 70 years of the R-Type Continental

Bentley is celebrating 70 years since the start of production of the R-Type Continental – one of the most celebrated cars in the company’s 103-year history, and the first Bentley to wear the Continental name. With only 208 examples produced, the R-Type Continental was as rare a sight in the 1950s as it is today – but it went down in history as a benchmark Bentley, and the embodiment of the brand’s grand touring DNA. Its ethos and its exterior design were the inspiration for the first Continental GT in 2003, and it has inspired Bentley Design teams ever since.

While the first prototype R-Type Continental (known as ‘Olga’ thanks to its OLG490 registration) was on the road in August 1951, it wasn’t until May 1952 that the car went into production, with customer deliveries starting in June. At the time, it was the fastest four-seat car in the world – a mantle that was picked-up by the modern-day Continental GT in 2003. It was also the most expensive, at £6,928 – nearly four times the 1952 average UK house price.

The brainchild of Chief Projects Engineer, Ivan Evernden and Chief Stylist, John Blatchley, the R-Type Continental was described in period by Autocar magazine as ‘a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances.’

Two pre-war coachbuilt specials, the ‘Embiricos’ Bentley and Mk V Corniche, had shown the advantages of improved aerodynamics. In the early 1950s, Ivan Evernden took inspiration from these one-off creations to create a sleek coupé based on the R-Type Bentley saloon. The power of the 4,566cc, six-cylinder in-line engine was raised from 140 to 153 bhp, and the transmission featured a higher final drive ratio. The prototype averaged 118.75 mph over five laps (with a best lap of just under 120mph) at the banked Montlhèry track near Paris.

To keep down to the target weight, coachbuilders HJ Mulliner crafted the bodywork, window frames, windscreen surround, backlight, seat frames and bumpers in aluminium. Even at a pared-down weight, tyre choice was critical; no standard road tyre existed which could carry a two-ton car at speeds in excess of 115 mph, and Dunlop Medium Distance Track tyres were specified.

The first production model was delivered to its owner in June 1952 and by the time production ended in 1955, 208 R-Type Continentals had been made. Of these, 193 were bodied by HJ Mulliner. Others included Park Ward (four dropheads and two coupés), Franay (five), Graber (three) and Farina (one).

JAS 949
The Bentley Heritage Collection is the proud owner of R-Type Continental chassis BC16C, registration JAS 949. ‘JAS’ was built in 1953 and delivered to its first owner, Dr Rowland Guenin of Switzerland in December 1953. It was ordered in Ivory with Red interior and a manual gearbox, a specification it retains today along with the original 4.6-litre engine. Bentley Motors acquired JAS 949 in 2001 and has maintained it in excellent mechanical order while sympathetically preserving its patina. The car is driven regularly and appears frequently on display at the Bentley campus and at events around the world.

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The NSU Ro80 – a classic that left a lasting legacy

By Classic Yorkshire correspondent Tony Lofthouse

A vivid memory of my school days in Leeds was seeing a stunning NSU Ro80 going out on its daily run. It was a car that broke the mould!

The German manufacturer NSU, renowned for making small cars and motorbikes, really turned ‘left field’ in 1967 with the launch of a sedan-style car that combined aerodynamic styling with a technologically advanced twin-rotor Wankel engine.

The four-door Ro80 was designed by Claus Luthe who would go on to build a successful career with Audi and BMW.

It was quite a car and would redefine the executive car market (briefly!). The industry quickly lauded the German beauty, voting it the European Car of the Year with months of its launch.

Other technological features were its clutch-less semi-automatic transmission reducing driver effort and adding to the cars smooth drive.

Autocar praised its superb road holding, fine visibility and described the Ro80 as ‘very advanced and pleasant drive’

In a 1968 road test, Motor magazine even claimed it could be ‘the car of the decade’.

The car seemed destined to be a Europe wide success story for NSU but soon its fortunes took a wrong turn! By the turn of the decade, the company were inundated with reports of engine problems, some occurring with over revving the rotary and also complaints of high fuel consumption.

Complete engine rebuilds were sometimes needed after just 30,000 miles and reports were coming back of dealerships and mechanics struggling to get to grips with the rotary engine.

Sticking with a generous warranty policy and investing heavily in improving the cars reliability would leave NSU staring at financial ruin. From a high point of sales of 7,800 in 1969 annual production tailed off to around 2,000 cars in the mid 70s.

Soon the German giants VW, in the guise of Audi, would take over. They would keep the Ro80 in production until 1977. In ten years, sales would total over 37,000.

Despite its problems the Ro80 would leave a lasting legacy. Its wedge-shaped design gave an amazing drag coefficient of just 0.355 – low for many of today’s saloons – and its sleek lines ending in a distinctive boot would influence the thinking of future car makers.

There is certainly a nod to the Ro80 in the proportions of some of the ‘executive’ Audis of the 80s and more recent models.

If you’re thinking about buying an Ro80, parts can be expensive and it would be worth finding an expert in the Wankel engine as a rebuild could be expensive. But, a well restored car can be extremely durable and great to drive.

Prices tend to start at around £3,500 for a car needing restoration, whilst a fully rebuilt model can go for five times this figure.

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