1953 Bentley R Type Continental: A Legacy of Luxury and Performance

1953 Bentley R Type Continental: A Legacy of Luxury and Performance

The 1953 Bentley R Type Continental stands as a testament to luxury, performance, and timeless design. With only 208 examples built, this remarkable vehicle has left an indelible mark on automotive history. Conceived by Chief Projects Engineer Ivan Evernden and Chief Stylist John Blatchley, the R Type Continental set a standard that continues to inspire Bentley designers to this day. Autocar magazine described it as “a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances,” a fitting tribute to what was the fastest four-seat luxury saloon of its era.

The Vision Behind the R Type Continental
Drawing inspiration from the aerodynamic advancements seen in pre-war coachbuilt specials like the ‘Embiricos’ Bentley and Corniche, Ivan Evernden envisioned a sleek coupé based on the R Type Bentley saloon. The R Type Continental boasted an upgraded 4,566cc, six-cylinder in-line engine, delivering an increased power output from 140 to 153bhp. The prototype, affectionately nicknamed “Olga,” demonstrated its capabilities by averaging 118.75 mph over five laps at the Montlhèry track near Paris, with a best lap just shy of 120 mph.

Overcoming Engineering Challenges
Achieving the target weight required meticulous engineering. HJ Mulliner, renowned coachbuilders, crafted the bodywork, window frames, windscreen surround, backlight, seat frames, and bumpers from aluminium. Despite the weight reduction, the tyre choice was crucial; no standard road tyre could support a two-ton car at speeds exceeding 115 mph. As a result, Dunlop Medium Distance Track tyres were specified to meet these demands.

The R-Type Continental in Production
The first production model was delivered in June 1952. By the end of production in 1955, 208 R Type Continentals had been made, with 193 bodied by HJ Mulliner. Other coachbuilders included Park Ward, Franay, Graber, and Farina, contributing unique variations to the limited production run.

A Closer Look at JAS 949
One notable example, chassis BC16C, was built in 1953 and delivered to Dr. Rowland Guenin of Switzerland in December of the same year. Known as JAS 949, this vehicle was ordered in Ivory with a Red interior and featured a manual gearbox—a specification it maintains today. Bentley Motors acquired JAS 949 in 2001, ensuring it remains in excellent mechanical condition while preserving its original patina.

Specifications at a Glance

  • Date Produced: 1953
  • Number Built: 208
  • Body: Two-door, four-seat grand tourer by HJ Mulliner, aluminium over steel frame
  • Engine: 4566 cc 6-cylinder in-line, 153 bhp (114 kW) @ 4,000 rpm
  • Transmission: Rear wheel drive, 4-speed close-ratio gearbox
  • Chassis: Steel channel section x-braced riveted frame, independent front suspension, live axle rear suspension
  • Dimensions: Wheelbase 304.8 cm (120 in), Length 524.51 cm (206.5 in), Width 181.61 cm (71.5 in)
  • Weight: 1,700 kg (3,739 lb)
  • Performance: Top speed 115 mph, 0-62 mph in 13.6 sec

The 1953 R Type Continental remains a celebrated icon of automotive design and engineering, embodying the spirit of Bentley’s commitment to luxury and performance.

Source: Bentley
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