Cars of 1998
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An interesting aspect of classic motor cars is to check details of a coachwork design’s history. As regards Rolls-Royce Corniche and Bentley Continental it is not widely known that their outward appearance can be traced back to the mid 1960s, i.e. several years before these variants were separated with model-designations of their own.
The highlight among the creations of designer Bill Allen (from 1935 till 1977 a member of the staff at Rolls-Royce) has been the 2-door coachwork that was developed from the basic lines of the Silver Shadow. During a period when head of design J.P. Blatchley had fallen ill it had been Bill Allen who did arrange for a downsized model (no idea at that time to make life-size models) of a 2-door body. After Blatchley's return he did accept that proposal without altering a single detail. Quite to Allen’s surprise who previously had joked in talks with colleagues he had doubts his "Coke-Bottle-Design" would met with acclaim. From 1967 onward the open 2-seater was offered by the English motor car manufacturer as Bentley Convertible.
The 2-door variant in 1971, with the engine's power increased by some 10 % compared with that of the basic model, became up-dated as a separate model – that was listed as Bentley Corniche and Rolls-Royce Corniche respectively. Bill Allen had achieved the equivalent of a 'Grand Slam' because the Corniche remained in production evene after in 1980 the Mainstream-Models Silver Shadow II and Bentley T2 had been substituted by the new Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit and Bentley Mulsanne. The revival of the designation "Bentley Continental" is part of the history of Allen's creation, too. To elevate the product with the Bentley-radiator to a higher degree of independence from 1982 onward the Convertible no longer was marketed as "Bentley Corniche" but instead as "Bentley Continental".
Bill Allen had worked for Rolls-Royce at Derby even prior to World War II. Following an apprenticeship to become a coachbuilder, that he started 1928 at age 16 with coachbuilders Arthur Mulliner at Northampton he joined the staff of Rolls-Royce in 1935. At that time the motor car company did not yet have their own styling-department because they merely supplied "running chassis", i.e. chassis completed with drivetrain and certain components, to independent coachbuilders where those became finished with individual bodies. Before World War II Bill Allen’s work did concentrate on chassis-design.
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In conjunction with Ivan Evernden (who had worked in direct contact with Sir F. Henry Royce) and with John Polwhele Blatchley, who came from Gurney Nutting, over the following decades Bill Allen did participate in work on all models built by Rolls-Royce after World War II as complete motor cars (Silver Dawn/Mark VI, Silver Cloud/S-Series, Silver Shadow/T-Series). In addition he delivered input to various coachwork by Park Ward (a 100 % subsidiary of Rolls-Royce Motors). In the era of the new chief-stylist Fritz Feller during infant stages of the future model generation Silver Spirit certain influence was executed by Bill Allen before in 1977 he retired.
An impressive certificate of incredible talent: The Coachwork-design by Bill Allen from the 1960s some 20 years later did impress undiminished as desirably attractive on this Bentley Continental. Indeed the Bentley Continental held a position in the production program well into the 1990s. Together with its sister-model Rolls-Royce Corniche it is one of immortal successes of the English car maker.
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