Automotive History: Who Actually Styled the 1952 Bentley Continental?

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Yesterday I brought you an overview of the career of Rolls-Royce stylist John Blatchley. In that article I made mention of his posited involvement with the 1952 Bentley Continental. Today I’m going to take a closer look at the origins and development of this iconic shape.

supercars

Every so often, the European automobile industry produces a car that lifts its head above its peers. Not necessarily for being the fastest, nor the prettiest; certainly one that sits in the upper echelon of those categories but comes to market with an extra hint of the exotic. I hesitate to use the term ‘supercar’, but it serves its purpose here.

The 1952 Bentley Continental was one such car.

It had long been stated, whether assumed or otherwise, that the shape of the Continental was the work of Ivan Evernden and John Blatchley.

In 2003, Blatchley disclaimed credit for the shape.

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A Long Tradition

In 1913 a factory team of specially-prepared Rolls-Royce Silver Ghosts was entered in the Austrian Alpine Trials, and distinguished themselves winning seven awards, including the Archduke Leopold Cup. Replicas of the team cars were produced by Rolls-Royce for the public and these models were called ‘Continental’.

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Bentley Motors was established by Wilfred Owen Bentley and his brother in 1919 and by 1921 they had built their first car in a small premises in Cricklewood. With the company motto “To build a good car, a fast car, the best in class.” In 1924, Bentley entered a team of cars in the Le Mans 24 hours race and won. An attempt to emulate this win in 1925 proved financially disastrous for the business.

Bentley cars were particularly admired by a prominent but small coterie of wealthy and adventurous types, who became known as the ‘Bentley Boys’. One of these gentlemen, diamond fortune heir Woolf Barnato (pictured here with his Gurney Nutting bodied Bentley Speed Six) bailed the company out, and Bentley was able to achieve four more wins at Le Mans between 1927 and 1930.

In 1931, however,  Bentley Motors went into receivership and was purchased by Rolls-Royce.

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H Ivan F Evernden joined Rolls Royce in 1916 and by 1922 was working in the design department as a protegé of Sir Henry Royce. In 1930, Royce had him prepare a special version of the Phantom II then in production. The wheelbase was shortened and a Barker body was fitted to  experimental chassis 26EX to produce the prototype of the Phantom II ‘Continental’ models (top).

The lower picture shows a 1933 3 1/2 litre Bentley with Park Ward body, prepared by Evernden in order to demonstrate the advantages of weight saving and streamlining to his colleagues. It would appear to have no chassis rails, but I suspect that was a mistake by the artist contouring the actual photo before placing it against a new background.

I note the term ‘design’ is used here and in this article to denote the drawings for the fabrication of componentry and the configuration of a car, whereas ‘styling’ denotes the shaping of the car’s body. The sketch of 26EX is by Evernden, showing he was clearly capable at styling.

gurneysketch

In 1935, a young man named John Blatchley was taken on by coachbuilder J Gurney Nutting & Co. as a car stylist under AF McNeil. Blatchley appears to have excelled at his tasks , and when when McNeil left Gurney Nutting for James Young in 1936, Blatchey was appointed chief stylist at the age of 23. Blatchley was to remain with Gurney Nutting until 1940, when orders dried out with the onset of the war. These undated sketches by Blatchley are from this period in his career.

In his authoritative book ‘Bodies Beautiful. A history of car styling and craftsmanship.’, John McLellan notes this: ‘Certain houses, Gurney Nutting prominently among them, had a name for sporting bodies…’(1)

pescara

The 1935 or 1936 Alfa Romeo 6C 2300 Pescara Berlinetta Aerodynamica was one of a series of ‘Pescara’ body styles produced by Pinin Farina in that period. Named after a win by an Alfa 2300 in the Pescara 24 hours race, this particular body does not appear to have a race history. It was a one-off built for Count Theo Rossi of Montelera and displayed at the Milan Motor Show. Although its image was used by Pinin Farina in their press advertising, it was to be quickly overshadowed by their even more avant-garde 1936 Lancia Aprilia Berlinetta Aerodynamica.

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The French concessionaires for Rolls-Royce and Bentley was a company named Franco-Brittanic Autos, run by Walter Sleator, a good friend of RR. In 1938 and facing declining sales, Sleator proposed a special Bentley model to RR management and offered to handle the project in order to protect RR from any possible fallout.

A wealthy financier, André Embiricos, was to fund the first example. Stylist Georges Paulin took stock of his influences and provided the shape. A wooden model was subjected to aerodynamic tests before Pourtout of Paris produced the car’s lightweight body in aluminium. Under the skin was a relatively standard 4 1/4 litre Bentley. Embiricos raced the car, yet it was composed enough for him to use it as a road car as well. It achieved a lap run at 115.5 mph in the hands of George Eyston at Brooklands and was to go on to finish 6th at the 1949 Le Mans as an eleven year-old machine.

This Embiricos Bentley was a cause célébre, but alas generated no further orders for Walter Sleator. In its track capability, road docility, and general shape outline, this car would serve as the template for the 1952 Bentley Continental.

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The 1939 ‘Corniche’ 4-door saloon. It was another initiative of Sleator’s. Georges Paulin was again to style the vehicle, this time in conjunction with Ivan Evernden. The coachwork was built by Van Vooren of Paris but the project faltered with the onset of war. It was to lend its name to the Continental project during development.

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The 1946 Bentley Mark VI Standard Steel saloon. This body-on-frame car was to provide the basis for a variety of specials from many coachbuilders, as well as donate its underpinnings to the running prototype of the 1952 Bentley Continental.

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In 1948, Pinin Farina accepted a commission from Walter Sleator and prepared the Bentley Mark VI Berlina (above). In collaboration with Facel Metallon, a small series of these cars were produced for customers. They were named ‘Cresta’ and differed primarily from the above model in featuring a narrower grille. Modifications to certain internal components from the donor Bentley Mark VI used on the Cresta were to be incorporated into the Continental.

Caddy

The General Motors fastback was magnificently expressed in the Cadillac V-16 Aero-Dynamic concept car shown at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago. By 1942 there was a fastback for each of the car marques owned by GM, and in 1948 a new interpretation of the concept was released as the Cadillac Series 61 and 62 Club Coupe (top) and Oldsmobile 98 Club Sedan. In 1949, this new look made its way down through the rest of the GM car marques to the Chevrolet Fleetline range (bottom).

bentley blizzard

The Bentley Blizzard. There is scant information on this car; some sources state this was being developed as a US-focused sportscar in the vein of the Jaguar XK120, initiated in late 1949 and cancelled with the success of the Jag. Another source states that it was cancelled with the arrival of the Jag, which would place it closer to 1948. Either way, this sketch with its accompanying profile view by Cecily Jenner and line drawing suggests the Blizzard was in serious consideration immediately prior to the Continental project.

In yesterday’s profile I made note of Blatchley’s seniority within this small team. Ivan Evernden, by now Chief Projects Engineer at Rolls-Royce Car Division and head of the Styling Department, clearly had an aesthetic appreciation and capability. I would suggest that by this time he was leaving the shaping to his team; providing general instructions mostly, specific instructions occasionally and approving work. I note the numberplate, which is sometimes used as an informal code for the project’s lead. In this case they appear to refer to Evernden.

The Blizzard is most likely the work of John Blatchley guiding Cecily Jenner and Bill Allen, under the authority of Ivan Evernden.

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Coachbuilder HJ Mulliner was held in high regard by Rolls-Royce. Established in 1900, by the 1920s Mulliner had established a reputation for bodying Bentley cars. In that decade alone they clothed over 240 Bentley chassis. This reputation continued after WW2, however with diminishing orders Mulliner was eventually purchased by Rolls-Royce in 1959.

This 1949 Bentley Mark VI fastback was the one of the first to be built by Mulliner in their all steel coachwork and body framing construction developed by their Technical Director Stanley Watts. This technique involved using ‘Reynold’s’ metal alloy extrusions for the framework and aluminium panels for the body panels.

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In 1950 a wealthy Milanese, Signor Luigi Bressani, commissioned a one-off Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn Sport Coupe from Pinin Farina. In late August 1950, a Rolls-Royce chassis was delivered to Pinin Farina, and by April 1951 the car was on display at the Turin Motor Show.

At some point, this car’s shape went from being a ‘three-box’ shape to a fastback. Pinin Farina had been working with this fastback roofline/side-window aperture configuration beginning with a Fiat 1100 shown in March 1949 at the Geneva Motor Show and encompassing a series of different bodies before finding its most famous expression in the Lancia Aurelia B20 GT of 1951 (bottom right). It’s not clear whether the change was at the request S. Bressani, or the decision of Battista ‘Pinin’ Farina.

This body is believed to have led to discussions between Rolls-Royce and Pinin Farina on the possibility of putting it into production. The idea was not pursued as the cost to produce this body was said to be prohibitive. I can’t find a date for those discussions.

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A Most Important Project

Early in 1950 Ivan Evernden was called into a meeting and emerged with the brief for the project known initially as ‘Corniche II’. He was to develop a car that was to “not only look beautiful, but possess a high maximum speed coupled with a correspondingly high rate of acceleration, together with excellent handling qualities and roadibility.” (2)

Evernden had a lot to do.

The engine for the Corniche II was to be based on an enlarged 4,566cc version of that used in the Mark VI. This upgrade, still in its experimental stage, required further modification but needed to retain the attributes of smoothness and slience as was required for the Bentley marque. Other mechanical compoenents needed to be fabricated or adapted.

This shape of this car was to be aerodynamically tested. Rolls-Royce Aero Division had wind-tunnel facilities at Hucknall, Nottinghamshire, not far from where the Car Division Experimental Department was housed at Belper, Derby.

A lighter body was decided upon in an effort to further enhance the car’s performance. Evernden had direct access to Park Ward, a coachbuilder purchased by Rolls-Royce in 1939, but chose Mulliner on the basis of their new lightweight frame and body construction technique.

Evernden (pictured above at a later date with the project’s running prototype) had been tasked with a project of considerable prestige and importance, and required the best of what Rolls-Royce could muster. The Company’s very reputation was at stake.

jenner corniche

Evernden’s brief to his senior stylist John Blatchley was to use the Embiricos Bentley as the starting point for a four-seater two-door body.

‘In his retirement, however, (Blatchley) disclaimed any credit for this project and recalled that his contribution was confined to some very early drawings of the basic concept required by Ev, from which Miss Cecily Jenner produced a water colour perspective…’ (3)

This perspective is shown above.

Jenner draw

This is an undated, un-numbered and unsigned set of drawings. They appear to be Rolls-Royce drawings rendered in a style very similar to that of Cecily Jenner (see notes).

The slope of the grille, length of the bonnet, side window aperture, rear fenders and sloping rear appear little changed from the watercolour. Significantly, though, the front end treatment is not as was proposed in the watercolour. It appears that these drawings were prepared with the recent ‘Blizzard’ car as a reference for the front end. The front fenders bear the crease-at-the-crown style used on the Mark VI standard saloon that also appears on the Blizzard sketch. The headlights have been repositioned inset from the watercolour and lower than the Mark VI and Blizzard, and turning lights have been repositioned as well.

Author Malcolm Bobbitt writes of a set he has sighted; ‘After some compromise the definitive design was arrived at and drawings were finalized, showing the side, plan, front and rear views. These are dated 11 September 1950 and are in 1/16th scale, having been signed by Ev (Ivan Evernden), Aln (Bill Allen) and CKJ (Cecily Jenner).’ (4)

Slightly later he states; ‘A look, however, at the original drawings of the car would show a much lower rear wing line than that eventually designed. Stability tests had proved that a raised wing line was ultimately more successful than the deeply curved shape that dropped gently down to meet the tail at bumper height.’ (5)

RR draw

The Definitive Expression

This is a set of Rolls-Royce drawings signed by Bill Allen dated 27/2/51, and numbered RBS 1287. The car is still refered to as ‘Corniche II’ but from hereon I will refer to it as the ‘Continental’.

The roof has been flattened with a more distinct juncture to a flattened sloping rear. The front fender top contour falls lower as it continues along the side of the body, and a side accent that begins ahead of the wheels and stops half-way along the door as seen on the Blizzard renderings has been included. The grille appears vertical and the bonnet flatter. In plan view, the sides are flatter with less variation in body width. The windscreen is more curved in plan view, and the side window aperture less pointed at the lower trailing edge.

Of much significance is the revised tail. The rear fenders are taller at the trailing edge in elevation. The trailing edge of the body when seen in plan view does not feature the same amount of tapering seen in the undated drawings. The crease along the top of the rear fenders now follows the fore-aft line of the car more closely. The tailfins are not as substantial as they would appear on the full-size prototype.

I note captions on RBS 1287 state; ‘This is drawing is a revision to RBS 1270’ and ‘For seating data see RBS 1270’.

In the absence of the 11 September 1950 set, RBS 1270, any clear images of the scale model and considering other images I can locate, these mark the first visual evidence of the ‘definitive expression’ of the Continental shape as it was to appear on the running prototype.

Olga

The running prototype for the project delivered to Rolls-Royce by Mulliner by August 1951. It was known affectionately as ‘Olga’ due to her road registration plate ‘OLG 490’. Very little differs between the RBS 1287 drawings and this final form.

The grille is again sloped, but the most significant change appears in the rear fenders, which bear the same crown crease as the RBS 1287 but are now taller at their trailing edge.

I have not been able to ascertain when construction of this body started. I note this, it would take Gurney Nutting 6 weeks to build and finish a wood-framed metal-covered body from Blatchley’s working drawings during his tenure there. I would suggest it took longer for Mulliner with the all-metal Continental prototype, but how much longer I cannot say.

In September 1951, Olga was handed to Walter Sleator to conduct some road testing. It was partly a gesture of thanks for the efforts he had made in encouraging this project.

mullseatdraw

This is an undated, un-numbered and unsigned set of drawings from Mulliner. Author Martin Bennett captions this image thus; ‘Plan and seating layout of the early Bentley Continental, actually based on the prototype’s shape and dimensions…’ (6)

It’s unclear when these drawings were prepared, Bennett’s text suggests they might have been for the production Continental prior to the decision to lower the roofline slightly.

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This is a set of drawings prepared by Mulliner draftsman Herbert Nye. The date of the drawing is indistinct, but Bennett’s accompanying text states that this has been prepared for the ‘production’ Continental, which would date these after the other drawings presented above. It follows the same general shape of RBS 1287, albeit with deeper rear fins and slanted grille.

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The Wind Tunnel

For this project Evernden’s assistant, Milford Read, conducted wind-tunnel tests at Rolls-Royce Aero Division facilities at Hucknall. A quarter-scale model of the Continental was to be used in these tests. I cannot confirm a date for these tests.

At this time aerodynamics for road cars was still an inexact science, and although it is suggested Rolls-Royce were involved in wind-testing for the Embiricos Bentley, testing the aerodynamics of the Continental in the wind-tunnel would have been an unfamiliar practice to the Car Division.

Without making too light of things, this above Silver Cloud prepared by the Experimental Department for later unrelated wind tests shows what an aerodynamicist might come to when left to their own devices.

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Certainly, at this crucial phase of the body’s development, the aerodynamics of the shape needed to be determined alongside aesthetic considerations. Bearing in mind that the Continental had to ‘look beautiful’, a stylist was most likely present with Milford Read to shape and refine the amendments to the model as testing progressed.

Although the above picture appears posed for the camera, sculpting models was a requirement of the job as a stylist. These scale models needed to be expertly crafted, detailed and finished in order to ascertain how effective the shape might be ‘in the round’. It was John Blatchley (centre) who introduced ‘malleable material’ modelling to Rolls-Royce with plasticine, which would ultimately be replaced with modelling clay. Blatchley was certainly known for his manual crafting dexterity, and Jenner and Allen would also have had those skills.

More importantly, at the wind-tunnel phase the shape was most likely still being determined. With all due respect to Cecily Jenner and Bill Allen, their task at Rolls-Royce was to take a shape that had already been decided upon and render it either in technical drawing, general impression drawing or as a scale model from drawings. No source I can find credits them with determining any final shape for Rolls-Royce.

RRwind

In January 1954, an article appeared in ‘The Rolls-Royce Bulletin’ entitled ‘The Continental’. The article was an overview of the Continental from the early Rolls-Royce models, but most of its text refers to the 1952 model. The article featured the above image with the caption;

‘Aerodynamics in car design. Testing a model of the Bentley Continental in the wind tunnel of the Rolls-Royce Flight Establishment at Hucknall.’ (7)

I have blown up the model being subject to the tests (inset) and it is hard to discern whether we are looking at its front or rear. It’s hard to tell whether this is the Continental model at all.

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This is an accompanying image in the article, following next in sequence. The caption reads;

‘The contour of the rear wings, which contributes to lateral stability at high speed, was decided upon as the result of wind tunnel testing.’ (8)

The fins and the rest of the rear appear to have had clay added to the original model. This addition has been smoothed and shaped in a most expert manner, and aesthetic issues appear to have been considered as well as aerodynamic ones.

You might note this four door model is not the Continental.

It is, in fact, a version of the Mk VIII – a model not mentioned in the article’s text.

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11-B-VIII

“I spent years working on one full-size mockup of ‘the new car’ only to be told when it was finished to put it on the bonfire. (…) It was too modern. So I was asked to do a quick sketch of something more traditional, more in keeping with the Rolls image, which I did in about 10 minutes. (…) It was taken into a board meeting and they decided to make it there and then. I suppose it did look very Rolls-Royce but it was pretty orthodox.” Blatchley would tell author Giles Chapman. (9)

The replacement for the Mk VI/R type 4 door saloon went through various phases. One phase was generally called Mk VIII and this particular stage of Mk VIII was known as 11-B-VIII. The top two images bear the letters JPB in the number plate. This stage appears to have been under Blatchley’s direct authority and also close to his heart.

Blatchley’s efforts to place the headlights in the fenders and to maintain a high top edge and relatively flat side to the front fenders as they trailed over the rear doors was clearly too modern for the Rolls-Royce board. His ‘10 minute’ drawing is pictured lower left, and this initial scale model is dated September 1951.

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This is Rolls-Royce drawing RBS 1054 signed by Cecily Jenner. The date shows the year ‘50’ clearly, but the number for the month is indistinct, but appears to be a ‘1’. When I factor in another Rolls-Royce drawing, RBS 1072, in which the month shown appears to be either a ‘3’ or a ‘5’ – and assuming a chronological progression of drawings – I would date this above set as prepared in the first half of 1950.

The wind-tunnel version of the 11-B-VIII was most likely prepared between early to mid 1950 and September 1951. Given Blatchley’s close attention to this stage of the Mk VIII’s development, I would suggest that it was he who was determining the tailfin amendments to the wind-tunnel 11-B-VIII shape.

I have also found the suggestion Blatchley was in the wind-tunnel for the Continental, although I cannot verify their sources. The relatively parallel timings of the two projects, however, would suggest Blatchley was present at this crucial stage of the Continental’s shaping.

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From whence came the tailfins?

Milford Read’s testing found that the tailfins contributed to lateral stability at speed as well as minimising the effect of crosswinds. It appears to be sometime between these two drawings that the tailfins became a functional element. In the absence of any other evidence, I would suggest the quarter-scale model was initially based on a shape approximating the first, and amended to come to a shape approximating the second.

The model itself was most likely a smoothed clay outer layer over a basic wooden buck. The outer layer would have been subtracted from or added to as testing progressed. The tailfins might have been added as ‘yaw control’ issues became apparent.

There is mention of a cowled radiator being considered, but rejected by Rolls-Royce who insisted upon the traditional Bentley grille being in place. They did ultimately allow a reduction in height of the grille of one and a half inches, and the grille was permitted to be inclined three degrees.

Olga’s fins were to be even deeper than RBS 1287. It’s possible that the revisions to RBS 1287 relative to RBS 1270 included setting the grille upright and reducing the size of the tailfins in order to to assuage elements within Rolls-Royce known to be vacillating over the project. It’s also possible further wind-tunnel tests were conducted beyond RBS 1287 to determine an optimum aerodynamic effect balanced against aesthetic considerations and corporate dictates.

Factoring in a relatively bluff front-end, I would suggest aerodynamic considerations would have been of paramount importance for the rest of the body; and that the tailfins were considered as functional elements first, with their aesthetic aspect following.

ContyFastback

“Viewed from almost any aspect except head-on, Olga’s two-door fastback body bore a rather unfortunate resemblance to one of the lower priced Chevrolets of the late Forties. This, however, must have been coincidental, for apart from the inconceivability of J. P. Blatchley drawing inspiration, consciously or otherwise, from such a source, his body owed its shape to exhaustive wind-tunnel testing and experimentation with quarter-scale models.” (10)

– Dennis May, ‘Genesis: R-Type Continental’, Automobile Quarterly, Spring 1968

“It was difficult not to be influenced by the American cars, and I was particularly amazed by the Cadillacs.” (11)

– John Blatchley, discussing American cars of the ‘40s and ‘50s with Giles Chapman.

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The rear fenders of the MkVIII bear some similarity in elevation to RBS 1287, but considerably more similarity in plan view; especially when compared against the plan view of the undated Continental drawing.

I must acknowledge similarities between the Continental trailing edge in plan view with that of the Mulliner Mark VI fastback, and similarities between the rear fin shape in side-view elevation with the rear fenders of the Pinin Farina Silver Dawn.

I must also acknowledge that correlation in itself does not imply causation, but when I consider the totality of the material I have found for this piece, I cannot help but form the impression that John Blatchley was involved with the Continental as its shape progressed.

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HJ Mulliner

“My contribution might have been the original concept, but I never did any of the working drawings. (…) Evernden designed the car in conjunction with Mulliner.”

“Evernden gave me some credit for it (the Continental), but I don’t feel it’s right. I had some early input, but it’s how you struggle with the realities, all the calculations, to make it work that counts.” (12)

– John Blatchley, quoted by Richard Feast. Quotes dated 2003.

According to Malcolm Bobbitt, the order from Rolls-Royce to HJ Mulliner for the supply of the prototype body was placed only after positive tests on the quarter-scale model had been obtained. At that stage Rolls-Royce were proving hesitant over the project and Evernden succeeded in his entreaties to continue to the prototype stage.

I cannot locate any evidence of Mulliner’s direct involvement with the shaping of the Continental prior to this point.

The decision by Rolls-Royce to favour HJ Mulliner was made early in this project. Discussions were most likely had between the two parties prior to the order being placed, but the timing or the extent of those discussions I cannot quantify. Sometime in 1950, Mulliner Managing Director Arthur Johnstone and Technical Director Stanley Watts travelled to Italy and visited with carrozzerie including Pinin Farina to consult on methodologies in bonding alloy panels to metal framework. I cannot say whether this visit was related to the Continental, but it suggests Mulliner were looking to refine their construction process.

I can find no mention of the quarter-scale model being sent to Mulliner. It would be more likely scale drawings were supplied by Rolls-Royce which would then have needed to be enlarged and extrapolated by Mulliner into frame and skin components for the construction of the full-size body.

It has been suggested that the final interpretation of the Continental shape was under the auspices of Stanley Watts. Watts himself produced the full-size drawing prior to construction, but with facets of the full-size body being determined by Rolls-Royce in single degrees of inclination and increments of an inch in height, it’s not clear how much scope was left for interpretation at this point.

George Moseley, who would go on to style the sublime Flying Spur Continentals for Mulliner, has also been suggested for this shaping; however his obituary in The Times states he joined in December 1951, after ‘Olga’ had been delivered. Perhaps he started earlier; the obituary does note that he worked from Blatchley’s sketches on the project but it’s more likely he was hired to extrapolate Watt’s full size drawing. His previous cars would suggest no special ability with either sporting cars or aerodynamics and I can’t see that he, or Herbert Nye, had any role within the wind-tunnel phase.

It would appear that the decision to use HJ Mulliner was based primarily on their ability to provide a superbly crafted lightweight body. Which they did, admirably.

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1952-1955 Bentley Continental Sports Saloon.

The first production Continentals were delivered to customers in June 1952. They differed from Olga in minor aesthetic aspects; the roof was lowered an inch and her split screen became a single curved piece of glass. The initial cars were in fact based on the Mark VI, with all subsequent models based on the Mark VI update, the R type. As the Continental progressed through A, B, C, D and E series, it would gradually move away from its purist lightweight origins.

otherconties

208 examples were built including Olga. The great majority were bodied by Mulliner, but a small selection received coachwork from other builders. Top left is the Park Ward fixed head – styled by John Blatchley. Top right is a body from Franay, who would also produce some fastback bodies. Bottom left is a one-off from Pinin Farina and bottom right is a body by Graber. Rolls-Royce would allow these alternative bodies on the proviso that they conformed to certain weight parameters. I consider none as beautiful as the Mulliner fastback.

Bentley-S1-Continental-Sports-Saloon-by-Mulliner-1955-1959-Photo-10-800x600

From 1955, the S series of Continentals replaced the previous models, which became known retrospectively as R type Continentals. For the Mulliner S1, the general silhouette was retained, but some of the tautness of the original shape was lost.

contyad

The 1952 Bentley Continental was Ivan Evernden’s masterpiece.

Evernden was evidently working with Cecily Jenner, Bill Allen and Milford Read on the shaping of this most beautiful body, and with HJ Mulliner on its full-size construction.

However, given the enormity of the task and the many facets of preparing and building this car that needed to be managed, I find it difficult to believe that Ivan Evernden was not also relying on the specific abilities, if not the aesthetic guidance, of John Blatchley – former chief stylist for sporting-body specialists Gurney Nutting and on the cusp of being appointed Chief Styling Engineer for Rolls-Royce – as this most important project progressed.

Blatchley was known to be reticent about self-publicity during his 24 years designing cars for Rolls-Royce. It would be another 27 years before he was persuaded to attend a gathering of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club and meet with his work colleagues Bill Allen and Martin Bourne for the first time since he retired in 1969. He was said to be firm in his views, but measured in expressing them. He was proud of his work, but did not seek recognition for it. His output included the very definition of classicism, yet his yearnings were for modernity.

Perhaps he felt a strong association with this ‘supercar’ was overshadowing the work for which he felt more directly responsible. Perhaps this car did not accord fully with the modernist aspirations he strove for in vain during this period.

Or perhaps I have come to the wrong conclusions.

Nevertheless, I find John Blatchley’s denials curious.

See Page 2 for Notes, Citations and References

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