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After 80 years, the 1939 Bentley Corniche has been recreated. Centenary celebrations would be incomplete without a car from their past which provides an important link between the history of their most important models.

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The build of the 1939 Bentley Corniche was started from scratch and highlights Bentley Mulliner’s unique design and technological innovation. It marks the link between the 1938 Embiricos 4.25 litre and the 1952 R Type Continental. Thanks to the skills of Mulliner, Bentley’s in-house bespoke and coachbuilding division, the car will be the only one of its type. The Bentley Corniche was conceived to be a high-performance version of the Mk V saloon that was due to be launched a year later.

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The styling of the 1939 Bentley Corniche was a revolutionary step forward from the Bentleys of the 1920s and the ’30s and introduced ‘Streamlining’, which helped deliver greater speed and performance and heavily influenced post-war models from the R Type Continental right through to the current Continental GT. The original car was heavily damaged while it was undergoing road tests France in 1939, during World War II. Ahead of being sent for repairs, the body was sent to France and the chassis to Crewe. However, while the chassis made it home to the Bentley plant in Derby but the bodywork was destroyed in a bombing raid on Dieppe later in 1939 and was never seen, until now.

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Using only the original drawings, Mulliner have recreated the Corniche with original mechanical components from the Corniche and the Mk V and remade the body identical to the 1939 Corniche. Many parts were kept until the early 1970s before they were sold off to enthusiasts. In 2001, former Bentley Director, Ken Lea, decided to try to use original parts as the basis for a recreation of the Corniche. The team of four that led the build of the Corniche were Ken Lea, Robin Peel, Head of Heritage, Ian Broomhall, Mulliner Operations Manager, and Glyn Davies, Mulliner Special Projects leader.

The project was based in Derby, with volunteers gathering information and parts to assemble the chassis. In 2008, with the project out of money, Bentley Motors provided an injection of funds, and work started on the ash frame and aluminium bodywork. It continued to make slow progress until it was brought in-house to Mulliner at Bentley Motors at the request of new Chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark. Many of the team members from Mulliner dedicated personal time to the project and staff from the other divisions joined in too.

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Every aspect of the project received Mulliner attention. From the special paint mixes – named Imperial Maroon and Heather Grey – to the unique interior trim, the accessories such as the tool tray and even the Mulliner tread plates on the door shuts were created from scratch.

The “new” 1939 Bentley Corniche will make its first public appearance at Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace in September and will join Bentley’s Heritage fleet, which already includes WO Bentley’s 8 Litre and the Birkin Team Blower, to be used and exhibited at events around the world.

Story: Azaman Chothia


About the author: Online Car India



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