Rolls-Royce and Bentley cars - a brief history

by Alan Lenton


Many manufactured products today claim to be the 'Rolls-Royce' of their class. To the uninitiated, this suggests that they are very highly priced, but to the connoisseur this means that they have been produced with a quality which surpasses that of other similar products. Such is the quality of the Rolls-Royce product, that the name has come to symbolise 'the highest manufactured quality available'.

The Rolls-Royce car is not necessarily the most expensive, for the price of today's other specialist cars can often far exceed that of a Rolls-Royce. In purchasing a Rolls-Royce, be it an older model or a brand new one, the buyer is purchasing a quality of manufacture, backed by some ninety years of tradition, in addition to one of the finest cars available.

Frederic Henry Royce was born in 1863 at Alwalton, Lincolnshire. Moving with his family to London when he was four years old, his younger years were spent in virtual poverty. His first job was delivering newspapers in Clapham. It was a fortunate chance that he spent a holiday with an aunt near Peterborough when he was fourteen years old. She had a small income and arranged for Henry Royce to become an apprentice at the Great Northern Railway works, paying £20 a year for the apprenticeship, board and lodging. In 1879, when he reached the age of seventeen, his aunt could no longer afford to keep him and he was forced to abandon his apprenticeship. He set out on foot for Leeds, where he was fortunate to find employment as a tool-maker, earning eleven shillings (around 50p in today's money) for a 54-hour week. He studied the new science of electricity and later obtained a position with an electrical power and light company in London. Finally, in 1884, at the age of twenty-one, he was able to form a company with a friend in Cooke Street, Manchester. Here, F.H. Royce and Company manufactured small electrical fittings, such as door bells and lamp holders. Often working into the early hours of the morning, Henry Royce developed, in 1891, a dynamo which was far superior to anything else obtainable at the time. These were soon selling well and subsequently started to earn the company a reputation for reliability, high-quality and longevity, which was to remain the characteristic of all Royce products for years to come. The company then moved on to manufacture electric cranes and in the early part of the new century, Henry Royce became interested in motor cars. It is said that he was unable to accept the crude engineering of the early motor cars and that their noise and vibration offended his engineering principles. He turned, therefore, to designing his own motor car.

Charles Stuart Rolls was born in 1877, the third son of Lord Llangattock. Whilst an undergraduate at Cambridge, he became interested in motoring and then, in 1986, imported a 3 1/2hp Peugeot from France. During the following years, he became a prominent figure in motoring activities in England and by 1904, he had opened his own offices and showrooms in Brook Street, in Mayfair.

Henry Royce was introduced to The Hon. Charles Rolls during a meeting arranged at the Grand Central Hotel in Manchester in the summer of 1904, with a view to merging their two companies. An agreement was signed on December 23rd of that year, in which was stipulated that the cars should be called 'Rolls-Royce'.

1904 to 1914

In 1904, the first Royce, designed and built by Henry Royce, took to the road in Cook Street in Manchester. A '10hp', 2 cylinder engine of 1.8 litres gave the car smooth performance and reliability unheard of at that time. The car cost £395, fitted with a Tonneau body (although other body styles were also available).

During the period 1904 - 1906, the company also manufactured a '15hp', 3-cylinder car, with a capacity of 3 litres, costing £595.

The range was completed by a '20hp' which had a 4-cylinder engine of 4 litres capacity and was offered in 'Light' and ŚLong' versions, the latter having a chassis 8 inches longer. The price of either model was £755.

Speed limits in force at the time were the reasons for the introduction of the 'Legalimit', which had a V-8 engine, of 3.5 litres capacity, fitted under a bonnet, and cost £1,120. A second model was offered, this time in Landaulette form, with the V-8 engine fitted under the floor, costing £1,140. None of the 'Legalimit' cars have survived.

This period in the history of the Rolls-Royce car was completed by the introduction of a '30hp', 6-cylinder car, whose engine had a capacity of 6 litres. Again, two models were offered in 'Short' and 'Long' versions, the former costing £965 and the latter (with a chassis 6 inches longer) £980.

Retail prices are shown for these early cars as a matter of interest and will enable an idea of their relative values to be calculated, for the average weekly wage in the early part of the century was barely more than £1 a week.

In late 1906, a '40/50hp' car was introduced, with a 6-cylinder side-valve engine of 7,036 cc capacity (increased to 7,428 cc in 1909). It was this car upon which the Company's reputation for superb workmanship and reliability was formed. The car was produced from late 1906 until 1925, making one of the longest production runs in the history of the motor car (19 years).

Many of the early models were given names such as 'White Knave', 'Silent Rogue', 'Silver Knight', etc. One car carried a name plate with 'Silver Ghost' engraved upon it. It was this particular car which was used by the Company for long-distance reliability runs and became well known to the motoring public. 'Silver Ghost' became the generic name for the '40/50hp' model in later years.

A very early car can easily be recognised by its low bonnet and radiator. Variations of the 'Silver Ghost' included the 'London-Edinburgh' model (1911) offering increased performance, and the 'Alpine Eagle' (1913) based upon a successful Alpine Rally car.

A 'Silver Ghost' is a beautiful car on the road, and with almost direct steering it offers a driving experience never to be forgotten. The early cars were fitted with a foot-brake which operated on the transmission, aided by a hand brake on the rear wheels. Later cars were fitted with 4-wheel brakes. Like all cars of this period, most of the driving is done in top gear, for the massive engine allows the car to move along at 5mph in top gear, without snatching, and to accelerate away smoothly.

1918 to 1939

In 1925, the 'Silver Ghost' was replaced by the 'New Phantom' (later known as the 'Phantom I'. The also had a 6-cylinder engine, with a capacity of 7,668 cc, but this time with overhead valves. Most chassis were fitted with heavy, enclosed bodies which did nothing to help performance.

In 1929, the 'Phantom II' replaced the earlier Phantom. Again with a 6-cylinder engine of 7,668 cc capacity, the car had all the refinement which the earlier model lacked. Its success was such that it continued in production until 1935. The 'Phantom II' is a superb motor car which gives exceptional driving pleasure. A more sporty 'Continental' model was introduced, using the short chassis, different gear and back axle ratios and smaller wheels.

Going backwards in time, late 1922 saw the introduction of a smaller Rolls-Royce to meet demand for a car more suitable for the Owner/Driver (as opposed to the usual Chauffeur-driven car). This model was the '20hp' and had a 6-cylinder engine of 3,127 cc capacity. Production was continued until 1929. A small car, which could be quite desirable when fitted with a Coup» body. The early 20hp cars are easily identified by horizontal radiator slats and with a three-speed gearbox with a centre change lever. An attractive body style used on these smaller cars was a 'Doctor's Coup»'.

Introduced in the same year as the 'Phantom II' (1929), was the replacement of the 20hp, the '20/25hp'. The design was similar to the '20hp', although slightly larger. The engine was also a 6-cylinder with a capacity of 3,669 cc and endowed the car with a reasonable performance for the period. This car continued in production until 1936, when it was replaced by the '25/30hp'. This car was very similar to the '20/25hp', but had a larger capacity engine of 4,257 cc. Production continued until 1938. These cars represent the typical owner/driver car of the late 20's and early 30's.

1936 saw a radical change in Rolls-Royce's technical design, with the introduction of the 'Phantom III'. The engine was a V-12 of 7,340 cc capacity and the chassis was the first Rolls-Royce to be fitted with independent front suspension. The engine gave the car good performance, coupled with exceptional smoothness and low noise levels. The engine design, however, was very advanced and problems were experienced with the innovative self-adjusting tappets and with the in-built engine oil cooler. The 'Phantom III' is an interesting car and a good example of advanced technical design for the period. A recognition feature was a horizontal bar, supporting the headlamps, either side of the radiator.

The '25/30hp', as already mentioned, ceased production in 1938, and was replaced by the 'Wraith' in 1939. With a similar-sized 6-cylinder engine (4,257 cc), this car had a similar chassis to the 'Phantom III', also having independent front wheel suspension. Fairly heavy bodies were fitted, which did nothing to enhance the cars performance. This car also had horizontal bars, supporting the headlamps, either side of the radiator, which occasionally meant that the car could be mistaken for a 'Phantom III', although the well-informed would recognise that the car was a 'Wraith' from the wheel hub nuts which no longer had the traditional Rolls-Royce locking mechanism (as did the 'Phantom III', as well as all other earlier models).

This, then, was the model range from the time the first car was introduced, right up to the outbreak of the Second World War, in September 1939.

Of the two individuals who gave their names to the Rolls-Royce motor car, the Hon. Charles Rolls was killed in a flying accident in Bournemouth, on July 11th, 1910, when his Wright Biplane crashed from little more than 20 feet. Henry Royce died on April 22nd, 1933, after a long period of ill-health.

1947 to the present day

After hostilities ceased in 1945, Rolls-Royce introduced the 'Silver Wraith' two years later, in 1947. A 6-cylinder engine was used with an unusual valve layout (overhead inlet valves and side exhaust valve) with a capacity of 4,257 cc, being increased to 4,887 cc in 1955. A very smooth, comfortable car, with reasonable performance and bearing all the hallmarks of the Rolls-Royce tradition (smoothness, low noise levels, etc.) For the first time, Rolls-Royce were able to offer , in 1952, an optional 4-speed automatic transmission, based upon General Motor's 'Hydramatic'. Also, around the time the automatic transmission was introduced, the chassis was lengthened by six inches. This model continued until 1959 and was only fitted with bodies made by the specialist coachbuilders. Left-hand drive cars, with a manual gearbox, were fitted with a clumsy steering column-mounted gear change which invariably resulted in skinned knuckles when attempting to change gear!

The success of the Bentley 'Mk.VI' encouraged Rolls-Royce Ltd. to introduce the 'Silver Dawn' in 1949. This car carried the same pressed steel body as the Bentley 'Mark VI' and had the same mechanicals. The engine was the same, i.e. a 6-cylinder of 4,257 cc with the usual overhead inlet and side exhaust valves, but employed a different carburation system. In 1951, the capacity was increased to 4,566 cc and a year later, in 1952, the rear of the body was re-styled. The later cars are usually referred to as 'Big Boot' Silver Dawns. Also, in 1952, the 4-speed automatic transmission, became available as an option. Left-hand drive cars, with a manual gearbox, also had the Śclumsy' steering column-mounted gear change.

Although the 'Silver Wraith' met most of the demand for large limousines, there was still a requirement for a larger car for use by Royalty and Heads of State. Rolls-Royce therefore introduced the 'Phantom IV' for this exclusive clientele in 1950. An engine of similar design to that of the 'Silver Wraith' powered the car, except that it had eight cylinders instead of six, with a capacity of 5,675 cc. No automatic transmissions were fitted to any of the eighteen cars produced between the period 1950 to 1956, when production of this model ceased.

1955 saw the start of the 'Silver Cloud' range, The first model, the 'Silver Cloud', later known as the 'Silver Cloud I' as extra models were introduced in the series, was fitted with a 6-cylinder engine, with a capacity of 4,887 cc. The car was produced with a factory-built four-door saloon body. The body was in steel, with non-stressed panels in aluminium (doors and boot lid). A customer could also choose to have one built by a specialist coach builder. This car continued, with no major changes apart from improved braking, until 1959. Optional power-assisted steering was introduced in 1956 and the compression ratio was increased to 8:1 in 1958. Two chassis lengths were available, the 'Long wheel base' version being four inches longer than the standard version.

In 1959, the model was changed to the 'Silver Cloud II' which, although identical in most respects, was fitted with a V-8 engine of 6,230 cc capacity and had power-assisted steering as a standard feature, as well as being available in two chassis lengths.

In 1962, the model appeared in its final version, the 'Silver Cloud III', which was really a more refined version of the earlier car, plus engine and carburation modifications which increased power by 5-7%. Distinguishing features of this model are the four headlamps and an increased slope to the bonnet. As with the earlier models of the 'Silver Cloud' range, two chassis lengths were available. Production of this model ceased in 1965, although the 'Silver Cloud III Coachbuilt' was continued until March, 1966.

It should be noted that certain 'Silver Cloud III' cars were fitted with bodies built by specialist coachbuilders and are sometimes referred to as 'Silver Cloud III Continentals', which is incorrect. The correct designation for these cars is 'Silver Cloud III Coachbuilt'.

It was a logical step to offer a larger car as a replacement of the 'Silver Wraith' in 1959 and the 'Phantom V' was therefore introduced. Based upon the mechanicals and running gear of the 'Silver Cloud' range, but with a longer chassis, the car had a similar engine (V-8, 6,230 cc capacity) and was only fitted with bodies made by the specialist coachbuilders (as with the 'Silver Wraith').

In 1968, the 'Phantom V' was replaced by the 'Phantom VI' which used the mechanicals and running gear of the 'Silver Cloud III' but had the 'Silver Shadow' engine which gave better performance than the engine fitted to the 'Phantom V'.

The 'Silver Shadow' was introduced in 1965 and was the first example of monocoque construction (i.e. chassis and body combined) produced by Rolls-Royce. Fitted with a V-8 engine of 6,230 cc capacity and with almost every conceivable extra fitted as standard, this car set a new standard for luxury cars. The General Motors 3-speed automatic transmission replaced the 4-speed unit in 1968. Two chassis lengths were available from 1969, the 'Long wheel base' version being four inches longer than the standard version. In 1970, the engine capacity was increased to 6,750 cc. A major change was announced in 1972, when 'compliant suspension' was fitted, giving the car improved road-holding.

Then, in 1977, the 'Silver Shadow II' was introduced, the main difference being the fitting of rack-and-pinion steering, suspension improvements and an automatic air conditioning system. This model is identified by the rubber-protected bumpers which replaced the chromium-plated ones.

The 'Silver Wraith II' was the name given to the long wheel base version of the 'Silver Shadow II'.

The monocoque construction paved the way for a Fixedhead and Drophead version of the 'Silver Shadow'. H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward produced a very delightful, well-balanced Drophead with a power-operated hood. Introduced in 1966, this car became the 'Corniche Convertible' in 1971 and later, in 1977, the 'Corniche II'. Likewise, the Fixedhead car followed the same route. The 'Camargue' was a 2-door saloon designed by Pinin Farina and was first shown in 1975. It was a lush, overpowering body which did not match the lightness and elegance of design which one had come to expect from the traditional English coachbuilders.

In 1980, the current range of cars was introduced - the 'Silver Spirit' in 1980, becoming the 'Silver Spirit II' in 1989 and then the 'Silver Spirit III' in 1993. The long wheel base version 'Silver Spur II' was also introduced in 1989 and Mulliner Park Ward were responsible for the 'Silver Spur II Touring Limousine' in 1991. This car is 24 inches longer than the 'Silver Spur II' from which it is derived and has a 2 inch higher roof panel. Finally, the 'Silver Dawn' was introduced in 1996

'The Spirit of Ecstasy'

The Rolls-Royce radiator mascot was designed by Charles Sykes in 1910, as 'an expression of the motion which he felt when riding in the car' and has, probably, become the best-known car mascot in the world.

Rolls-Royce in America

One should not compile a brief history of the Rolls-Royce car without some reference to the cars produced in the United States of America.

In early 1920, a factory was opened in Springfield, Massachusetts, where some fifty-three foremen and supervisors arrived from the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby to start the operation. The company was named 'Rolls-Royce of America' and in 1925, the company obtained an acquisition of control of Brewster, a leading American coachbuilder. Financial problems mounted and in 1934 the name of the company was changed to the 'Springfield Manufacturing Company'. Liquidation began in 1936 and that of Brewster in 1937. The 'Springfield Silver Ghost' was produced between 1921 and 1926. All the cars had right-hand drive until 1925. The 'Springfield Phantom I' was produced between 1927 and 1931. The specification of the cars was virtually the same as the cars built at Derby. A small number of left-hand drive 'Phantom II' chassis were built at Derby and exported to Rolls-Royce of America during the period 1931-1935.


Walter Owen Bentley (always referred to as 'W.O.') was born on September 16th, 1888 in London, near Regent's Park. Like Henry Royce, he was also trained on the railways, as a premium apprentice with the Great Northern Railway at their works in Doncaster. The similarity continues, only this time with the Hon. Charles Rolls, for W.O. became interested in motor sport (motorcycles this time) and was a successful competitor. Later his interest turned to four wheels and in 1912, in company with his brother, he obtained the agency for a French car, the 'DFP'. His engineering training and the knowledge which he gained by experimenting with the DFP's aluminium pistons (cast iron pistons were virtually standard for all other manufacturers) culminated in his being appointed a Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Air Service in 1915. Here, he was involved in developing rotary engines for fighter aircraft and went on to design his own rotary engine (firstly the 'BR 1' and then the 'BR 2'). As a matter of interest, a rotary engine is one in which the crankshaft is fixed and the rest of the engine revolves around it, the propellor being bolted to the engine. When the war finished, returning to selling 'DFP' cars seemed a rather limited field, so W.O. formed his own company to design and build motor cars.

1919 to 1931 - Bentley Motors Limited

The first car was introduced in October, 1919 and had a 4-cylinder engine, with an overhead camshaft, four valves per cylinder, a capacity of 2,996 cc and was known as the '3 Litre'. Production continued until 1929, and this car was produced in several versions ('Speed Model', 'TT Replica', 'Supersports', etc.). Many lessons were learnt on the rough roads and racing circuits of the time and the design was modified annually as a result of this experience.

Although the '3 Litre' was a success, customer demand for large, enclosed bodies resulted in the car's performance being badly reduced. A much larger chassis, with a more powerful engine was obviously required and in 1926, the first '6 1/2 Litre' was produced.

The '6 1/2 Litre' had a 6-cylinder engine, with a capacity of 6,597 cc and, like the smaller cars, also featured an overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder. 1928 saw the introduction of the 'Speed Six', probably one of the finest vintage cars of all. This was a Ś6 1/2 Litre' with improved performance. Production ceased early in 1930.

A similar car to the '3 Litre' was introduced in 1927, with a 4-cylinder engine, but now with an increased capacity of 4,398 cc, and known as the '4 1/2 Litre'. A supercharged version was also produced.

In 1930, the magnificent '8 Litre' was announced, with a 6-cylinder engine, again with an overhead camshaft and four valves per cylinder, and with a capacity of 7,983 cc. The camshaft was driven by a unique triple-throw eccentric mechanism from the rear of the crankshaft. Introduced at the time of severe economic problems, this car probably sounded the death-knell for Bentley Motors Ltd.

The '4 Litre' was introduced in 1931, being the last model offered by the company. The engine was, in some ways, similar to the engine designed by Rolls-Royce Ltd. shortly after the end of World War Two inasmuch that it featured overhead inlet and side exhaust valves. It had 6 cylinders and a capacity of 3,915 cc.

Forced into liquidation by the effects of the economic depression, Bentley Motors Limited was purchased by Rolls-Royce Ltd. in 1931 and then became known as 'Bentley Motors (1931) Limited'.

It is, perhaps, a great pity that the success of Bentley cars at Le Mans has created a mental picture that every vintage Bentley had stone guards over the radiator and headlamps, leather straps over the bonnet, racing-type mudguards, a gigantic petrol tank with a quick-release filler cap and Union Jacks painted on the body. Over the years, many delightful and gracious open (and closed) bodies have been either modified, or replaced, by replica racing bodies, painted the obligatory Racing Green

The earlier Bentley cars were noisy, heavy and built like lorries. It is, perhaps, not for nothing that Andr» Citroőn referred to them as 'the fastest lorries in the world' at the time of their Le Mans successes. But one has to remember that the roads at that time were not billiard-table smooth as they are today. Surfaces were loose and flying stones were forever a hazard. If one has occasion to see film footage of car racing in the 1920's, the cars can be seen sliding around bends, throwing up clouds of dust and hurling stones in all directions. Cars of that period were fitted with under-shields to protect the underside of the car from damage. A Bentley, used for racing, would have a full length under-shield. (The fitting of under-shields was carried on well into the 1960's on both Bentley and Rolls-Royce cars.)

The cars produced by Bentley Motors Ltd. typify all that is best in vintage sports cars. They are fast, require a certain degree of physical strength to drive and emit a combined engine, exhaust and transmission noise which can only be termed as 'music to the ears'. To drive such a car is a wonderful experience.

W.O. was associated with Rolls-Royce Ltd. from 1931 until 1935. He died on August 13th, 1971.

1933 to 1939 - Bentley Motors (1931) Limited

It was not until 1933 that the first Bentley motor car, produced by Rolls-Royce Ltd. under the name of the new company, was introduced. This was the '3 1/2 Litre' and the engine was a more powerful version of the Rolls-Royce '25/30 hp' engine (a 6-cylinder with a capacity of 3,669 cc), but fitted with twin S.U. carburettors, a different camshaft, a different cylinder head and with a higher compression ratio.

In 1936, the engine capacity was increased to 4,257 cc and the model was known as the '4 1/4 Litre' and this continued virtually unchanged until 1938, when an overdrive gearbox was fitted, in company with a lower back axle ratio. On the overdrive cars, the only external distinguishing feature was the fixed radiator shutters (previous models had thermostatically-controlled shutters).

The '4 1/4 Litre' overdrive car was really only lacking independent front suspension to cope with high average speeds over Continental roads and in 1939 the 'Mark V' was announced. This car had the existing power unit, but had special pistons, giving a higher compression ratio and a different flywheel. The front suspension was independent and the chassis frame was much stronger. The car is easily identified by horizontal bars, supporting the headlamps, either side of the radiator (similar to the Rolls-Royce 'Phantom III' and 'Wraith').

1946 to the present day
Bentley Motors (1931) Limited

After the Second World War, Bentley car production was re-started in 1946 with the 'Mark VI'. The engine was a fresh design based upon the B60 engine developed during the war (where it was used in four- six- and eight-cylinder form). With six cylinders and with a capacity of 4,257 cc, it had overhead inlet and side exhaust valves. This car was the first Bentley to be manufactured with a body assembled entirely at the Rolls-Royce factory at Crewe. The body panels themselves were manufactured by the Pressed Steel Company to drawings supplied by the Rolls-Royce design team. Being made of all steel panels, this body eventually became known as the 'Standard Steel Saloon'. As the car still had its own chassis, specialist coachbuilders also made bodies for the 'Mark VI'.

In 1951, the engine capacity was increased to 4.566 cc and the car fitted with a twin exhaust system.

In June, 1952, the 'R-Type' was announced. Its name stemmed from the fact that by this time, the 'Mark VI' chassis lettering had reached the letter 'R'. The main change, apart from an all-welded chassis frame (the previous ones were riveted) was the re-designed rear end of the body, giving a much larger boot and a more elegant body line. In October of that year, the 4-speed automatic transmission became available as an optional extra.

1952 also saw the introduction of the 'R-Type Continental'. The existing power unit was tuned and a special exhaust system fitted. The latter gave two distinct advantages - the first was a gain of 25 BHP and the second was a superb, 'ringing' exhaust note which must be heard to be appreciated.

The prototype cars made extensive use of alloy for the body, this also being used for seat frames, window frames and bumpers, with the body weighing-in at 330 kg. The bulk of the 'R-Type Continental' bodies were built by H.J. Mulliner, with another five coachbuilders supplying the remainder.

In July, 1954, the engine capacity was increased to 4,887 cc, this being the final development of the 6-cylinder engine.

The 'R-Type Continental' is a superb motor car and was, at the time, the fastest production 4-seater car in the world.

In April, 1955, the 'S-Type' was introduced, now known as the 'S1' as it was followed by two more models in the same series. The car was fitted with the 6-cylinder engine, with a capacity of 4,887 cc and was produced with a factory-built four-door saloon body, until 1959. The body was in steel, with unstressed panels in aluminium. Optional power-assisted steering was introduced in 1956 and the engine compression ratio was increased to 8.0:1 in 1958. Two chassis lengths were available, the 'Long wheel base' version being four inches longer than the standard version. It is interesting to note that the 'S1' was the first Bentley to be produced without a filler cap on the radiator (even if the ones on the 'Mark VI' and 'R-Type' were dummies).

Such had been the success of the 'R-Type Continental', that some six months after the introduction of the 'S-Type', the 'S1 Continental' was announced. This had a high-compression engine (7.25:1 against the standard car's 6.6:1) and which was later increased to 8.0:1 with larger inlet valves, a higher rear axle ratio and smaller-section tyre equipment. Most cars were built with a 4-speed automatic transmission, although a few were fitted with a synchromesh gearbox.

The two major coachbuilders were H.J. Mulliner and Park Ward. The former retained the familiar 'fast back' body style which had graced the 'R-Type Continental'. Park Ward designed a superb Drophead (accompanied by a Fixedhead version). In May, 1957, The 'Flying Spur' made its debut, being a four-door saloon with delightful styling.

In 1959, the model changed to the 'S2' and was fitted with a V-8 engine of 6,230 cc capacity and had power-assisted steering as a standard feature, as well as being available in two chassis lengths. As with the earlier model in the series, the 'S2 Continental' was introduced with only small differences when compared with the 'S2'. These were mainly a higher rear axle ratio and different tyre equipment, as well as 4-shoe front brakes.

The superb H.J. Mulliner 'Fastback' body was not continued on the 'S2 Continental', nor were the delightful Park Ward Drophead and Fixedhead bodies. H.J. Mulliner continued with the 'Flying Spur', plus a two door saloon (not a very attractive body due to its wrap-round windscreen). Park Ward designed a rather heavy-looking Drophead, with a Fixedhead version.

In 1962, the model appeared in its final version, the 'S3', which was really a more refined version of the earlier car, plus engine and carburation modifications which increased power by 5-7%. Distinguishing features of this model are the four headlamps and an increased slope to the bonnet. As with the earlier models of the 'S-Type' range, two chassis lengths were available. Production of this model ceased in 1965.

The 'S3 Continental', introduced at the same time as the standard car, had no mechanical differences. The same bodies were offered by H.J. Mulliner and Park Ward, using the 4-head lamp system. With the Park Ward body, the headlamps were not aligned horizontally, but were slightly staggered, with the outer lamps higher than the inner ones. This resulted in this particular body style becoming known as a 'Chinese eye'

The 'T-Series' was introduced in 1965 sharing the same body shell as the Rolls-Royce 'Silver Shadow', and fitted with the V-8 engine of 6,230 cc capacity. In 1968, the General Motors 3-speed automatic transmission replaced the 4-speed unit. Two chassis lengths were available from 1969, the 'Long wheel base' version being four inches longer than the standard version. In 1970, the engine capacity was increased to 6,750 cc and in 1972 'compliant suspension' was fitted, giving improved road-holding.

The 'T2' was introduced in 1977, the main differences being rack-and-pinion steering, suspension improvements and an automatic air conditioning system.

H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward produced a very delightful, well-balanced Drophead with a power-operated hood. Introduced in 1966, this car became the 'Corniche Convertible' and later, in 1977, the 'Corniche II'. Likewise, the Fixedhead version of the car followed the same route.

In 1980, the 'Mulsanne', was introduced, followed by the 'Mulsanne S' in 1987. A turbo-charged engine was then used to power the 'Mulsanne Turbo' in 1982.

The 'Turbo R' (1985) gave superior road-holding (the 'R' in the model name refers to 'Road-holding'). This model was developed into the 'Turbo S' (1994), then the 'Turbo R Sport' (1996) and in 1997 the 'Turbo RT'.

An Śentry model' was announced in 1984 - the 'Bentley 8'. 1993 saw the introduction of the 'Brooklands' and later the 'Brooklands Trophy Special'

The 'Corniche II' continued until 1984, when it became the 'Continental' and then the 'Azure' (1995).

The 'Continental R' was announced in 1991, being a 2-door saloon, which then became the 'Continental T' in 1996.


There have been hundreds of coachbuilders whose designs have graced Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis over the years. Of those who were regular suppliers to the two companies, several names stand out:

H.J.Mulliner: Emerged in 1900, in London, following the joining of various coachbuilding companies. It was taken over by Rolls-Royce Ltd. in 1959. Their 'Fastback', and 'Flying Spur' (both 4- and 6-light bodies) are prime examples of classic body design.

Park Ward: Founded in 1919 and built their first body on a Rolls-Royce chassis in 1920. By 1930, 90% of their output was on Rolls-Royce chassis. In 1936 they patented the all-steel body framework. Purchased by Rolls-Royce Ltd. in 1939.

In 1961, the firm of H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward Ltd. was formed.

Freestone and Webb: Formed in 1923 and concentrated on bodies for Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis. One of the styles which they helped develop was that known as 'Razor-Edge' (i.e. very sharp, angular lines). The company was taken over by H.R. Owen Ltd. in 1955 and only continued body manufacture for another three years.

Gurney Nutting: Founded in 1919, the company made its first body on a Rolls-Royce chassis in 1925. Sir Malcom Campbell's world land speed record-breaking 'Bluebirds' had bodies made by Gurney Nutting. In 1945, the company was acquired by Jack Barclay Ltd. but only a few bodies were produced (and these in conjunction with James Young).

Hooper: Established in 1805, the company had considerable Royal patronage. One of their first motor bodies was commissioned by King Edward VII in 1904 and by this time their factory in Chelsea was one of the largest in London. The company ceased manufacturing in 1959.

James Young: After acquiring another coach building company in 1863, James Young became well known for the 'Bromley Brougham'. The first motor body was built in 1908. The company was acquired by Jack Barclay Ltd. in 1937. James Young produced some of the most beautiful bodies ever to be fitted to Rolls-Royce cars. Their coach building operation ceased in 1967.

Vanden Plas: The original English company was the branch of a Belgian firm (Carrosserie Vanden Plas) and was formed in 1912. In 1923, the English company experienced financial difficulties and was purchased, from the Receiver and re-started under the name of Vanden Plas (England) 1923 Ltd. Their works were situated next door to Bentley Motors Ltd. and they made most of the open sporting bodies for the Bentley chassis. When Bentley Motors Ltd. became part of Rolls-Royce Ltd, Vanden Plas produced bodies for the Ś3 1/2 Litre' and '4 1/2 Litre' chassis.

Weymann: Formed in 1925, this company was, like Vanden Plas, the English branch of a European coach builder (Carrosserie Weymann, of Paris). They are well known for the unusual body construction methods used. No two pieces of wood in the body frame were allowed to touch; being joined by a metal plate to leave a gap between the two wooden members, thus avoiding creaking. The framework was mounted onto the chassis, using rubber. The body was covered with a supple leather cloth and became known as a 'Fabric Body'. The company closed down in 1965.