When we saw the Austin A125 Sheerline last week, a few commentators asked about the other vintage Brit lurking in the background. There were in fact a few other rare luxury liners sharing the same berth as the Austin. Let’s take a look at them today.
Sitting right next to the Austin A125 is a Jaguar Mk VIII or IX with a few cosmetic customizations. The Jaguar Mk VIII and IX were large sporting saloons that shared their 3.4L inline six engine with the XK140 sports car. They inherited their ten foot wheelbase from the very similar looking Mk VII predecessor. The most visible exterior upgrade was the move to a one piece curved windshield rather than a split two piece one. For the MkVIII, Jaguar upped the quality of the interior fit and finish. This particular example shows off how well these cars look in a two tone paint scheme, but it has suffered a super fly style front end treatment at some point its life. The over sized head lamp covers give it a sort of bug eyed look, though I’d imagine the customizer was going for a Rolls Royce look.
The Jaguar Mk VIII or the early IX are almost identical from the outside except for a “Mk IX” badge on the rear of the Mk IX. This car doesn’t have one or any obvious holes where one might have been so I think we can tentatively label it as 1 of 6,227 Mk VIIIs made between 1956 and 1958. An automatic badge just above the rear bumpers notes that this car would have been built with a Borg Warner three-speed automatic. Apart from the questionable customization, this Jaguar looked to be in much better shape than the Austin.
Moving along we come to a a 1964 or 1965 Imperial. I couldn’t get a front shot which would have narrowed down exactly what year it is. These Elwood Engel designed Imperials offer an interesting and asymmetrical license plate mounting at the far left side of the bumper. The logo in the middle of the bumper is a fuel door cover. This one was in the best condition by far of all the cars. Not surprisingly, this car is now gone and the Brits still remain.
Next car along is a Bentley Mk VI which could be the most desirable car of the lot, but is sadly in the most rough condition. While the grill surround is still there, the inner mesh is missing along with the headlights, mirrors and part of the front bumper. Strongly related to the Rolls Royce Silver Dawn, the Bentley Mk VI was the first all steel bodied car delivered straight from the Rolls Royce factory with a standard, factory built body. A bare chassis could, of course, be supplied to your favorite coachbuilder as well.
Built from 1946 to 1952, these Bentleys featured a separate chassis with coil springs at the front and semi-elliptic leaf springs at the rear. Steering was handled with a cam and roller system. The drum brakes were hydraulic at the front and mechanical at the rear. Like many upper level cars of the day, the Bentley featured a centralized chassis lubrication system operated by a foot pedal. Good thing as the owner’s manual recommends lubrication once a day and again with every hundred miles driven. Interestingly, the Bentley has the exact same ten foot long wheelbase as the Jaguar above.
A 4,257 cc (4 1⁄4-litre as quoted by Bentley) inline six engine with a F-type head was the initial power plant for the Mk VI and in typical Bentley/Rolls Royce tradition, its power was rated as “sufficient.” In 1951, a slightly larger 4,566 cc version of this engine known as the 4 1⁄2-litre was fitted. Both engines were fitted with twin SU carburetors and an electric fuel pump. A four speed manual with syncromesh on 2nd, 3rd and 4th routed power to a live rear axle with a 3.73:1 ratio.
The interior is rough and the missing or open driver’s side window probably didn’t help. At least it looks complete but I’d imagine anything beyond the metal fixtures, gauges and steering wheel would be a total loss.
The rear displays the Bentley’s unusual door arrangement with suicide fronts and conventionally opening rears. The cars still wears the stock 16″ steel rims but the hubcaps are missing. Production of the Mk VI ended in 1952 with a total of 6,214 of all variations being produced. The similar looking R-Type took over with an extended trunk area among other improvements.
The last car in line is what I believe to be a 1929 Oldsmobile Six two-door sedan. The Oldsmobile would have featured a 62hp L-head inline six engine and would have offered a nice ride for the day with its hydraulic shocks.
There is a whole 1929 Oldsmobile brochure available for virtual perusing at the Old Brochures site. With its bright green paint, I suspect the 1929 Olds operates mostly as a sign or yard art for the denture clinic on whose property these once grand cars sit. The others will perhaps find new owners one day to breathe life back into them.
You found Mr. Drysdale’s Imperial!
The deteriorated state of the Bentley makes me sick. What a shame. Thank God someone saved the Imperial, because I’m partial to the 1964-66 Impys. I’m still hoping that another white knight adopts that Sheerline.
I’ve got to like Elwood Engel’s Imperials after the strange looking Exner models.
I have a full set of photos of a Bentley Type R that I’ve been meaning to write up, if life ever slows down a bit.
Out of that lot, I would take the Imperial too. 🙂
Is the pic of the Imperial digitally clear enough to enlarge the steering wheel? If you can see a shift lever, it’s a ’65.
A difficult car to restore, but dayum they’re nice when they’re right.
Another fan of the Imp here. Actually, I could get enthused over the Oldsmobile, but for the world’s worst paint job in the world’s ugliest color.
That Jag is very attractive.
When you saw how much wood was used in Olds bodies at the time, your interest would quickly vanish.
I saw that first as ‘varnish’ and had to go back and re-read it…
Or did you mean varnish? 🙂
No, I meant “vanish”. Why do you think you see so few of these cars today? They rotted away! Dodge began using Budd all-steel bodies as early as 1915. Hudson (Essex) was using all-steel coachwork on its sedans and charging the same as its open cars by 1921. By 1933 Olds was still touting the strength of its wood-framed bodies. Although not sales successes the Chrysler/DeSoto Airflows of 1934 pretty much signaled not only the end of “composite” coachwork, but the beginning of semi-monocoque carbody, and later, fully-unitized construction. Although the 1934 Citroen Avant was probably the first full-monocoque (assisted by the Budd Co.) in serial production (forget about Lancia) that finally proved the superiority of all-steel and monocoque construction.
Yes, there was certainly a lot of wood in those old bodies. Ford motor even owned its own forests, and made Kingsford charcoal from leftover scraps. Popular cars like Model As benefitted from easily available pre-fabricated wood pieces. Cars like the Oldsmobile require you to have some serious carpenty skills to make those many pieces yourself. And who wants to put that kind of effort into a ratty old sedan? Sad thing is that a car like this probably spent decades in a barn somewhere but is now rotting away like the rest did in the 40s. We are seriously spoiled by watertight one piece steel roofs.
I’ve always had mixed feelings about the Engel Imperial. Never cared for the airplane propeller bumper in back, including the huge emblem. The front and sides are much better. I’ve always thought the coupe version was the most attractive. Didn’t Exner also use asymmetrical styling cues? And Raymond Loewy with the Avanti. Nice finds.
Yes, Exner experimented with asymmetrical styling, at least on his concept cars. For his most well known example, do a google image search for “XNR concept”, his somewhat eponymously named styling exercise.
There are a couple other shown part-way through this article.
Yes, the Imperial is a 65. I have a 65 Imperial LeBaron (smaller rear window) with very low mileage that I have owned for 15 years. This is another example of a 60’s car that was vey dependable.
The Imperial is a ’64 (two giveaways: The script on the lower front fender and ’64’s had ribbed metal appliques on the dash. The Mark IX looks to be a ’60 or ‘[61, but the “Jaguar” badge is missing off of the trunk lid and the ‘automatic’ badge is in the wrong place. The whole faux Rolls/Super Fly light thing is horrible. Whoever did this to a beautiful English saloon should’ve been shot. Is this in the mid-west by chance?
It is located in Southern Alberta, Canada.
Yes, a 64. After enlarging the photo I see what you describe and the wheel covers are 64 as well. The “Imperial” script was dropped for the 65 model year and replaced with the Chrysler pentastar.
Yes, the owner of the Jaguar deserves a spanking.
Majestic but forlorn. If Keith’s looking for wire wheels for the XJ…
That Imp may be a 4 door but at least its a hardtop. A 2 door H/T or drop top Imperial is on my bucket list of cars to own. Gotta be dumped down low with mellow cherry bombs, lakes pipes and rocket spokes. Stock otherwise. These all deserve restoration though.
A minor correction: the Mark VI Bentley was replaced by the R-Type, not the Type-R as stated in the article. Mentioning it solely to stave off the legions of Honda enthusiasts who may be howling for blood as a result of that minor error.
Yes – thank you. I’ve corrected that.
Perhaps the Mark VI might become a donor for a roadster along the lines of the late 1920s Le Mans cars?
There were several special-bodied Mark VI roadsters produced at the time the car was current. My father owned one in the mid- to late-1980s; it was a 1949 (if I remember correctly) chassis with a two-seat convertible body. Rear wings were fixed and flowed into the body; front wings were motorcycle-type.
That was a very pretty car, dark blue over tan. I believe it’s now in Belgium or Holland.
What a shame .
My Father had a 1937 Bently Coupe in the late 1950’s through 1969 when my idiot brother left it in winter with water instead of coolant so the head blew out a 2″ hole , over my protests it was scrapped , in Rochester , NY if anyone ever wondered why the hell a cherry looking Bently was in the local two bit junkyard .