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Car of the Month

More on Bentley  in these books:
Bentley Continental

The Complete Bentley


Car of the Month - July 2010
Bentley S2 Continental, 1961, #BC59LBY
H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward Drophead Coupé

Bentley S2 Continental

The Bentley S2 Continental was a variant for touring on the Continent, travelling at fairly high average speed. To cover long-distance tours with a minimum of fatigue to the driver it was propelled by a powerful engine and had an exquisite interior; all such advantages to be enjoyed, of course, by the passengers, too. All this was enclosed with a body that showed a styling so very modern– at least for that period of late 50s and early 60s – it was at the edge of avant garde. For the English sports car manufacturer Bentley almost revolutionary.

The radical change had been ignited by a new member of the design-team: Norwegian-born Vilhelm Koren had insisted on a radical break with the rather baroque styling that had been and still was en vogue elsewhere. His from was “reduced to the maximum” with an impeccable harmony of clear lines and balanced proportions. Opposite to the standard of the day, especially on the other side of the Atlantic, of applying immense chrome he had decidedly arranged for almost Spartan use of such elements. Koren’s design with the exciting tension of the bodywork signalled this was a sportscar almost vibrating with power. The styling perfectly hit the contemporary mode of that period. The company did list an enjoyable number of orders. Indeed this form was kept for the following model series, too, although modified to a front with twin headlamps. The Bentley S3 Continental was available as drophead and as fixed head coupé; and clients could also order such coachwork to be erected on the chassis of the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III.

Bentley S2 Continental

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The coachwork was made with a considerable amount of manual work by master craftsmen by H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward. This coachbuilding division was a result of the amalgamation of the coachbuilders H.J. Mulliner and Park Ward who formerly had been operating separately. Although this was no ‘downsized’ motor car, the V8-engine of 6 ¼ litres capacity wasn’t stressed by the body’s weight. Acceleration was impressive and the automatic gearbox did permit to change gears manually, too, should the driver opt to do so. The car was provided with a sort of mechanical “anti-locking brake system” with the major advantage that in critical situations the front wheels still responded to the slightest turn of the steering wheel.

Bentley S2 Continental

Such technical features had been finished by the engineers with a precision of the same level as everything that could be found in the car’s passenger cabin: the finest material that that money could buy. The instruments were arranged on a fascia separately mounted to the dashboard. Their arrangement had been dictated by the order to inform the driver at a quick glance. An example of an ergonomic idea turned into reality when such wasn’t considered imperative by other designers.

This was the only model ever for the English manufacturer by Vilhelm Koren. He was not too happy with what he considered unbearable long intervals before a new model was launched. It is true that never again he designed another motor car. Koren left the team and started new in an entirely different professional field – he became an architect; a highly successful one and remained in that area for the rest of his working life.

Bentley S2 Continental

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