Bentley builds tribute to its doomed 1939 race car
In 1939, Bentley released its Mark V and, based on that model, built a high-performance prototype called the Corniche for a Greek race car driver.
The Corniche boasted radical styling, a lightweight chassis and thinner-than-standard gauge steel. Under the hood, it got a tuned version of the Bentley MkV's straight six-cylinder, 4.5-liter engine.
The project was completed in May 1939 and tested at the Brooklands race circuit in Surrey, England. There, on the steeply banked track, the Corniche accelerated to over 100 mph. The car's next stop was to France, where it would undergo additional road testing. That plan was cut short by a collision with a bus. So the Corniche was rushed to Paris-based coachbuilder, Vanvooren, to get repaired.
The damage was fixed and on Aug. 8, 1939, the vehicle was picked up by a Bentley test driver. He motored to the Bentley depot at Chateauroux, some 170 miles south of Paris, where testing was to be conducted. But before he could arrive, disaster struck again.
A car darted in front of the vehicle, causing the driver to swerve into a tree, rolling the Corniche onto its side. Beyond the testing, the vehicle had a scheduled appearance at a motor show in Paris later that year. Without a second to lose, the Bentley crew got right to work, removing the body from the chassis.
The chassis returned to the company's Crewe headquarters, while the body was sent to a local repair shop in France. There, work was completed, and the body was then transported to the coastal city of Dieppe where it was supposed to be shipped back to Bentley and reunited with the chassis. Unfortunately, an administration mix-up occurred at the docks, delaying the shipment and causing the body to be stored.
The Corniche never was able to be reunited and race again because the body was soon caught in the crossfire of World War II. The building it was stored in was destroyed in a bombing raid of the city.
While the original is long gone, Bentley has re-created that special Corniche. The project got started in 2008 by passionate volunteers and then brought in-house under the brand's Mulliner division, which handles one-off creations like this. The team used original technical drawings and original Corniche and MkV mechanical components.
The frame is built out of ash wood while the aluminum bodywork was completed by using outline drawings that came from the family of the car's original designer, George Paulin. The paint laboratory perfected the exterior colors, which are Imperial Maroon and Heather Gray. The interior uses correct Connolly Vaumol leather, West of England cloth, and vintage carpet found on a hidden roll. Many Mulliner and Bentley staff used personal time to work on the Corniche.
The tribute, which will remain in Bentley's Heritage fleet, will be shown for the first time at the Salon Prive Concours d'Elegance held at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England, in September.
From there, it'll travel the world to attend other exhibits.
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- Courtesy of Acura
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Courtesy of InfinitiInfiniti's 2020 Edition 30 trims will feature unique exterior design treatments for its line of luxury vehicles.
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