During development it was referred to as the Bentley Mark VII; the chassis cards for these cars describe them as Bentley 7. The R Type name which is now usually applied stems from chassis series RT. The front of the saloon model was identical to the Mark VI, but the boot (trunk) was almost doubled in capacity. The engine displacement was approximately 4½ litres, as fitted to later versions of the Mark VI. An automatic choke was fitted to the R-type’s carburettor. The attachment of the rear springs to the chassis was altered in detail between the Mark VI and the R Type.
For buyers looking for a more distinctive car, a decreasing number had custom coachwork available from the dwindling number of UK coachbuilders. These ranged from the grand flowing lines of Freestone and Webb’s conservative, almost prewar shapes, to the practical conversions of Harold Radford which including a clamshell style tailgate and folding rear seats.
All R Type models use an iron-block/aluminium-head straight-six engine fed by twin SU Type H6 carburettors. The basic engine displaced 4,566 cc (278.6 cu in) with a 92 mm (3.62 in) bore and 114.3 mm (4.50 in) stroke. A four-speed manual transmission was standard with a four-speed automatic option becoming standard on later cars.
As of 2017, it remains the last car by Bentley to be sold with a manual transmission.
Brakes and suspension
The suspension was independent at the front using coil springs with semi elliptic leaf springs at the rear. The brakes used 12.25 in (311 mm) drums all round and were operated hydraulically at the front and mechanically at the rear via a gearbox driven servo.
The first example is the standard steel saloon built by Bentley, but a number of customers opted for a bare chassis which was taken to a coachbuilder of their choice.
- Culshaw, David; Horrobin, Peter (2013) . «Bentley». The Complete Catalogue of British Cars 1895 — 1975 (e-book ed.). Poundbury, Dorchester, UK: Veloce Publishing. p. 81. ISBN 978-1-845845-83-4.
- King, Bernard L. (2006). Bentley R Type. Coulsdon, England: Complete Classics. ISBN 0-9530451-6-1.
Bentley timeline, 1920s–present
|Ownership||Bentley Motors Limited(1919–1931)||Rolls-RoyceBentley Motors (1931) Limited(1931–1980)||Vickers plcRolls-RoyceBentley Motors (1931) Limited(1980–1998)||Volkswagen Group(1998–)|
|Coachbuilder’sopen2/4 seater||3 L||4½ L6½ LSpeed Six|
|Coachbuilder’slarge salooncoupé orconvertible||6½ LSpeed Six8 L||4L3½ 4¼LMark V||Mark VI||R||S1S2S3||T|
|Cont||Continental S1Continental S2Continental S3|
|Cars with Bentley own-factory coachwork|
|Bentleys on the Volkswagen platform|
Continental coupé by H. J. Mulliner
Continental coupé by H. J. Mulliner
Interior of red Continental coupé by H. J. Mulliner above
The R-Type Continental was a high-performance version of the R-Type. It was the fastest four-seat car in production at the time.
The prototype was developed by a team of designers and engineers from Rolls-Royce Ltd. and coachbuilder H. J. Mulliner & Co. led by Rolls-Royce’s Chief Project Engineer, Ivan Evernden. Rolls-Royce worked with H. J. Mulliner instead of their own coachbuilding subsidiary Park Ward because the former had developed a lightweight body construction system using metal throughout instead of the traditional ash-framed bodies.
The styling, finalised by Stanley Watts of H. J. Mulliner, was influenced by aerodynamic testing conducted at Rolls-Royce’s wind tunnel by Evernden’s assistant, Milford Read. The rear fins stabilised the car at speed and made it resistant to changes in direction due to crosswinds.
A maximum kerb weight of 34 long hundredweight (1,700 kg) was specified to keep the tyres within a safe load limit at a top speed of 120 mph (190 km/h).
The prototype, with chassis number 9-B-VI and registration number OLG-490, which earned it the nickname «Olga», was on the road by August 1951. Olga and the first series of production Continentals were based on the Mark VI chassis, and used a manual mixture control on the steering wheel boss, as these versions did not have an automatic choke.
The early R Type Continental has essentially the same engine as the standard R Type, but with modified carburation, induction and exhaust manifolds along with higher gear ratios. The compression ratio was raised to 7.25:1 from the standard 6.75:1, while the final gear ratio was raised (lowered numerically) from 3.41 to 3.07.
Continental coupé by Park Ward
Despite its name, the two-door Continental was produced principally for the domestic home market, most of the 207 cars produced were right-hand drive, with 43 left-hand drive examples produced for use abroad. The chassis was produced at the Rolls-Royce Crewe factory and shared many components with the standard R type. R-Type Continentals were delivered as rolling chassis to the coachbuilder of choice. Coachwork for most of these cars was completed by H. J. Mulliner & Co. who mainly built them in fastback coupe form. Other coachwork came from Park Ward (London) who built six, later including a drophead coupe version. Franay (Paris) built five, Graber (Wichtrach, Switzerland) built three, one of them later altered by Köng (Basel, Switzerland), and Pininfarina made one. James Young (London) built in 1954 a Sports Saloon for the owner of the company, James Barclay.
Continental drophead coupé by Park Ward
After July 1954, the car was fitted with an engine with a larger bore of 94.62 mm (3.7 in), giving a total displacement of 4.9 L (4887 cc/298 in³).
The rarity of the R Type Continental has made the car valuable to car collectors. In 2015 a 1952 R Type Continental, in unrestored condition, sold for over US$1 million.