It's the only example ever made, and it's back after 80 years off the road.
Bentley has completed a ground-up restoration of a special 80-year-old car thought lost in a WW2 bombing raid.
The only car of its type ever built, the 1939 Bentley Corniche has been described as a “missing link” in Bentley’s history, having bridged the gap between the Embiricos 4¼ Litre and R Type Continental. The car was essentially a high performance version of the then-new MkV saloon, and the first Bentley to use streamlining in a bid to improve speed and performance. It was a design philosophy that went on to influence post-war models such as the R Type Continental.
However, the sole example was destroyed as the Second World War broke out. While undergoing road tests in France during the August of 1939, it was “extensively damaged” in a traffic accident. The stricken car’s chassis went back to Bentley’s Derby HQ, but the bodywork was destroyed in a bombing raid on Dieppe later that year, never to be seen again.
Now, though, the car has been restored to as-new condition under the watchful eye of Bentley chief executive Adrian Hallmark. The project was originally started several years ago by volunteers from the WO Bentley Memorial Foundation and the Sir Henry Royce Memorial Foundation, but Hallmark brought it in-house in February 2018 to get the car ready for Bentley’s centenary.
The task was handed over to Mulliner, Bentley’s in-house bespoke and coachbuilding division. Using only the original technical drawings, the Corniche was totally rebuilt at Bentley’s factory in Crewe. The car was reconstructed with original Corniche and MkV mechanical components and a completely re-made body that is completely identical to the original.
The resurrected Corniche will make its first public appearance at Salon Privé at Blenheim Palace in September, before joining Bentley’s Heritage fleet. That group of special cars, which already includes WO Bentley’s 8 Litre and the Birkin Team Blower, will be used and exhibited at events around the world.
“The 1939 Corniche was a clear step in Bentley’s design language which is evident when set aside the later and now iconic R Type Continental. It is a pivotal car in the history of Bentley, demonstrating that even then, this great British marque was at the cutting edge of design and technology,” said Hallmark. “Mulliner’s stunning recreation of the Corniche clearly demonstrates our skill in restoring the greats from Bentley’s back catalogue as well as making beautiful personalised modern Bentleys.”