Cohort Pic(k) of the Day: 1959-1962 Bentley S2 Continental Flying Spur – The Beautiful Beginning Of The Longest Produced V8 Engine Ever

Not surprisingly, this caught my attention as soon as I paid a visit to the Cohort. The superb Bentley Continental S2 Flying Spur 4-Door Saloon by H.J. Mulliner was shot and posted by J.C. And although there’s plenty to admire about this elegant Bentley, it’s also an opportunity to pay tribute to its new engine under the hood, the Rolls-Royce—Bentley L-series V8, which was built and installed in various Bentleys continuously until June 2020, or 61 years, a record for any V8 engine.

That’s really worth a moment of admiration, or even veneration.

There was also a two-door version of the Flying Spur, both of which were of course sportier alternatives to the staid “regular” S2 sedan shared with Rolls-Royce. At the risk of incurring the wrath of linguistic purists, the four door might well be considered a four-door coupe, given that it has a decidedly lower and different roof than the standard sedan. But either way is fine with me.

Let’s consider what’s under the hood. But before we do that, we’d better address those that might protest about the L-Series being the longest running installed production V8: what about the Chevy small block? Although it’s still being made as a crate engine, it has been some time since (2003) it was installed in a production vehicle. Hence the Bentley V8 gets the honors.

The RR-Bentley V8 was developed during the 1950s as a rather long-overdue successor to the 4.56 L F-head six, deemed to be increasingly insufficient in its power output. It arrived in 1959 in 6.23 L form, and it has been determined that it had some 172 (real) hp and 295 lb.ft. of torque, even though such vulgar numbers were never publicized. “Sufficient” is what was used. Which is a lovely term, one I’d like to see used more often.

Contrary to what some might assume, the L-410 (named after its 4.10″ bore) was not an imitation of American V8s. RR had a deep history in engine design and building, and had actually built the world’s second V8 engine back in 1905. Although the L-410 shares certain inevitable similarities to American V8s, there are a number of differences too, that reflect RR tradition. Its block is aluminum with wet cylinder liners, for starters, something never seen in the US V8s. Even its firing order of 1-5-4-8-6-3-7-2 is a bit out of the ordinary, although the Ford flathead, Y-Block and Coyote V8s also share that. And obviously, no American V8 ever had a twin SU carburetors feeding its intakes.

Fast forward to 2020 (sorry, I’m a bit too swamped to do a full history of this engine tonight), and the same basic engine in 6.75 L form was making 530 hp and 811 lb.ft. of torque in the Bentley Mulsanne Speed. Of course, there was a bit of development over the centuries, but it really is fundamentally the same engine, fed by twin turbochargers and sanitized thanks to the usual technological solutions.

But no more; all things must end.

The Mulsanne has been replaced by the latest generation (3) of the Flying Spur, which is powered by VW-based engines, either a twin-turbo 4.0 L V8, or the 6.0 L W12, also with twin turbos.

Who could have imagined a VW powered Flying Spur back in 1959, when a VW made all of 30 (net) hp?

And of course, the VW-engined Bentleys are not long for this world either, having been deemed “insufficient” in their environmental compatibility. Bentley’s first EV is due in 2025, and the last gas-powered Bentley will be gone before 2030. All things must change…