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Car of the Month - October 2006
Bentley Bentley Mark VI, 1948, #B201CD
Standard Steel Sports Saloon


Bentley Mark VI

The Bentley Mark VI is celebrating its 60th Anniversary – the new model was launched in 1946. New in the true sense of the word was that the manufacturer for the first time offered a complete motor car. This was a clear break from the pre-war tradition when a chassis complete with drivetrain was delivered to be bodied by individual coachbuilders who offered their customers a choice from a variety of different designs or stood ready to create a unique body matching exactly the client’s demand. The Bentley Mark VI was produced in a newly equipped factory in Crewe, where previously aero-engines had been made. Indeed in 1939 that factory had been erected solely for aero-engine production. Motor cars had come from a facility in Derby; hence the often heard term “Derby-Bentleys” on cars from the pre-war period.

Bentley Mark VI

Rolls-Royce – under the wings of that parent company Bentley was from 1931 onward – had already decided to favour a standardised pressed steel body when during the last months of war return to “peace-production” was to be expected within the near future. Acting as careful as was a hallmark of the company there was no abrupt change that might have up-set their clientele because the Bentley Mark VI was offered as a “rolling chassis”, too. Some 20 % indeed were fitted with individual bodies. The fact that the lion’s share of some ca. 80% were Standard Steel Saloons is an indication that this appealed to the class of buyers at which it was aimed.

Bentley Mark VI, Innenraum
 

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Bentley Mark VI, InnenraumThe Bentley Mark VI’ standard coachwork was supplied by the Pressed Steel Company of Oxford, a company that was well established in the field of high-volume production. The design was conservative and almost austere – just appropriate for a United Kingdom still suffering from wartime. Some two years passed by before the outward appearance was enhanced by e.g. a chromium plated strip along the waistline and a chrome embellisher beneath the boot handle. At the same time the interior was up-dated with pleated and bolstered upholstery replacing the early plain style and folding picnic tables were built into the rear of the front-seats’ backrest. Various publications however state these innovations became standard “in late 1947”. This might not be entirely correct because the Bentley Mark VI shown here is from a 1948 series (as per documents not registered prior to 1949) and this one is made to the old pattern with no chromium waistline. Who knows if the factory for some time offered a choice between the old pattern and the new style? Another question might be added here: Why are the rear wheel spats (that were fitted as standard from late 1947, early 1948) missing on this car? Is this an indication the company complied with a client’s wish to get the old variant or had wheel spats been fitted originally and were abandoned by a later owner during the decades of this car’s lifetime?

   
Bentley Mark VI

Just some questions 60 years after the Bentley Mark VI Standard Steel Sports Saloon had its debut. Questions of minor interest perhaps because it is significant that this model of which some 4,200 were built (overall production including coachbuilt cars ca. 5.200) did give the impressive answer how the Bentley marque was firmly established again during the tremendously difficult period after WWII.

Bentley Mark VI



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