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Car of the Month

More on Bentley in these books:

Bentley - On the road 

Bentley - 50 Years of the Marque


Car of the Month - October 2017
Bentley R-Type, 1954, #B136TN
'Lightweight' All Metal Sedan by H.J. Mulliner

Bentley R-Tpye

In their company’s "Body Book" H.J. Mulliner erroneously entered this car as a Bentley Mark VI – although indeed it was delivered as an R-Type Bentley. The chassis is showing a rare obscurity: It had been ordered to be supplied with featuring fixtures for both manual gearbox and automatic gearbox, too. A fair guess might be that H.J. Mulliner when placing their order had not yet decided whether this car they planned to exhibit at the 1954 Earls Court Motor Show should be finished with either manual or automatic gearbox. However such a conclusion is entirely incorrect!

Fact is the coachbuilder H.J. Mulliner was alert as regards a problem which the car manufacturer had caused 'in-house', when Rolls-Royce had decided no longer to become supplied with Hydramatics "ex-shelf from General Motors in the USA" and use such – with a shaft operating the brake-servo added. With the start of production at the Rolls-Royce factory of automatic gearboxes under license from General Motors the well-proven tradition to insist on exceptional quality ignited what was considered an improvement. Certain components no longer were accepted "as pressed by a machine" (which was General Motors production-standard). Instead additional labour was invested and such plates became polished prior to installation. However thus the plates no longer were rough enough to provide sufficient adhesion to remain immersed in an oil-film entirely. A prompt result was that automatic gearboxes made with such components didn’t guarantee accurate shifts up and down. The problem was such a serious one it forced the company to order an additional batch of Hydramatics from the USA (despite an enormous toll for transport and import-duties!) to meet the demand for cars fitted with automatic gearboxes. – H.J. Mulliner had heard alarm bells ringing, of course, and as per "belt and tracers mentality" wanted the option for their Earls Court exhibit to have that fitted with a manual gearbox eventually…

Bentley R-Type

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The term "all metal sedan" is correct. The coachwork was not entirely made from aluminium but as a composite of elements from steel- (e.g. in area of the bottom of the tail) and aluminium-panels. At this stage of the post-war-period H.J. Mulliner had found to a technique which substituted a standard rooting in the era of horse-drawn coaches, i.e. no longer a wooden skeleton was clad with coachwork panels but such were fixed to a combination of Reynolds-tubes and precision casting made from aluminium. Hence "all metal saloon" means the entire body, i.e. coachwork panels plus the structure underneath, was made from metal. Thus the body became considerably lighter with the added bonus of increased stability. A windfall profit of the alteration was that the 'skeleton' – opposite to one made from wood – was resistant to ageing. Only in the case of permanent influence of humidity there remained the chance for rust spots on steel parts or electrolytic corrosion in places where aluminium and iron were in contact.

Bentley R-Type
This lefthand-drive 2-door variant by H.J. Mulliner to this design was a one-off.

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