The Original 1939 Bentley Corniche – A Lost Icon Reborn

Bentley Motors has masterfully re-created a crucial link in its storied history: the only 1939 Corniche ever made. This ground-up rebuild, spearheaded by the skilled artisans at Mulliner, highlights Bentley’s legacy of design and technological innovation. The Corniche serves as a bridge between the famed Embiricos 4¼ Litre and the iconic R Type Continental, underscoring Bentley’s continuous evolution in automotive excellence.

A Radical Design for Its Time

The 1939 Corniche was envisioned as a high-performance version of the then-new MkV saloon, which itself was a technological marvel poised for an October 1939 launch. The Corniche introduced streamlined styling, a significant departure from the traditional designs of Bentleys from the 1920s and 1930s. This aerodynamic approach not only enhanced the car’s speed and performance but also influenced post-war models, including the R Type Continental and the modern Continental GT.

The Tragic Loss

Despite its groundbreaking design, the original Corniche met an unfortunate fate. During road tests in France in August 1939, the car was extensively damaged in a traffic accident. While the chassis made it back to Bentley’s Derby plant, the bodywork was lost in a bombing raid on Dieppe later that year, disappearing into the annals of history.

Resurrection of a Legend

Thanks to the dedication and expertise of Bentley’s Mulliner division, the Corniche has been resurrected. The project began with volunteers from the WO Bentley Memorial Foundation and the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation. It was later brought in-house in February 2018 under the leadership of Chairman and Chief Executive Adrian Hallmark, aiming for completion in 2019 to celebrate Bentley’s centenary.

Using original technical drawings and a blend of Corniche and MkV mechanical components, the car was meticulously rebuilt in Crewe. Mulliner’s craftsmen re-created every detail of the original body, while modern techniques ensured the restoration met contemporary standards of quality and precision.

Public Debut and Heritage

The re-created Corniche made its first public appearance at the Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace in September 2019 and has since joined Bentley’s Heritage fleet. It will be exhibited at events worldwide, showcasing the rich history and craftsmanship of Bentley Motors.

The painstaking rebuild of the 1939 Corniche not only honors a pivotal model in Bentley’s history but also demonstrates the unparalleled skills within Mulliner, Bentley’s bespoke coachbuilding division. This remarkable project celebrates the brand’s past achievements while looking forward to future innovations, ensuring Bentley’s legacy continues to inspire generations of automotive enthusiasts.

Source: Bentley
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