RE: Mulliner restores one-off 1939 Bentley Corniche

RE: Mulliner restores one-off 1939 Bentley Corniche

Thursday 8th August

Mulliner restores one-off 1939 Bentley Corniche

A 100mph luxury saloon that was crashed twice and then damaged by a WW2 bomb has been given an 18-year makeover



Possibly the unluckiest Bentley ever has been completely restored by bespoke division Mulliner in a project that took nearly two decades to come to fruition. The once ground-breaking Corniche had endured more than its fair share of misfortune back in 1939, including two major crashes and damage caused by a World War 2 bomb, but a rebuild first thought up by former Bentley director Ken Lea has seen it returned to the road after 18 painstaking years of restoration.

Itโ€™s a mark of the carโ€™s unfortunate early existence that its story is at least as remarkable as the intricate work done to bring it back to original condition. The story begins conventionally enough: the car was born in 1939 as a prototype for a lighter, faster version of the then forthcoming MkV, with a chassis made from thinner-grade steel and an uprated 4.5-litre straight-six with an overdrive gearbox mounted at the front. Its body was designed by French car designer Georges Paulin and hand made by Parisian firm Carrosserie Vanvooren, providing it with a shape slippery enough to surpass 100mph at Brooklands.


But itโ€™s here that the carโ€™s good fortune ended. Times a million. During testing in France that July the one-off Corniche was hit by a bus, requiring it to be rebuilt before it could return to the road. Unseen forces must have wanted it off the road because upon returning to France a month later its driver crashed it into a tree in a bid to avoid another impact with a vehicle, rolling it onto its side. Bentley set out to repair the damaged saloon again, shipping the chassis back to Blighty and the body back to its French builder. But the sections would not meet again thanks to a World War 2 bomb, which flattened the storage facility the body was being kept at after its delivery was delayed by an administration error. You couldnโ€™t make it up.

You might have assumed at this point that the Corniche was cursed and beyond saving, but such was its significance โ€“ the streamlined body inspired several later Bentley models and the benchmarks for performance it set werenโ€™t matched for several more years, to name but two accolades โ€“ that its return to life began again in the noughties. Initially the work was handled in Derby by volunteers and enthusiasts, including some employees of Bentley who worked out of hours, before the firm provided official backing from 2008.


From then onwards, the process of restoration set out to recreate each and every missing component as it would have been, using historical documents and the original sketches for basis. That it took a further 11 years to complete the Corniche, despite its relative technological simplicity and the involvement of Mulliner experts with the very latest computer aided design on hand, emphasises just how exquisitely detailed the hand-made work is. Even the door hinges and boot-located tool box were tirelessly matched to the originals.

The finished car, painted in the original shade of Imperial Maroon, has rather conveniently been completed in Bentleyโ€™s centenary year and it will now join the firmโ€™s heritage fleet, meaning itโ€™ll actually be used and taken to events all over the world. Which is brilliant news and a wonderful return to life for a car that has only ever known bad luck. Letโ€™s hope it wonโ€™t be going near any bus lanes anytime soon.


Inspired? Find a used Bentley here










Author
Discussion

Iamnotkloot

Original Poster:

279 posts

91 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Such a good story and a lovely looking thing.

TWPC

632 posts

105 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
What a great story. It's an amazing-looking car.
I wonder what 11 years of labour at Bentley's rates costs... (to say nothing of the previous 7 years of voluntary effort!)

Pericoloso

40,292 posts

107 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Best they don't take it to France to visit old ground.
Nice story ,good to see it completed .

Pothole

27,153 posts

226 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Lovely story. Gopping from the front.

rjfp1962

23 posts

17 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
What a lovely story and such a beautiful car.

A money no object / time no object restoration, and will turn it's wheels, not just languish under cover somewhere out of sight!
A treat for the eyes as it graces events around the globe.


Ex Expat

41 posts

19 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Fantastic story! I remember reading about this car in my teens and the common wisdom was that it was lost forever! I recall it was inspired by or a partner of the Embiricos Bentley that was at Goodwood Members Meeting.

Snubs

813 posts

83 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Pothole said:
Lovely story. Gopping from the front.
Agreed. The bird beak and 3rd light don't like right at all. Shame as it's stunning from all other angles.

cookie1600

1,235 posts

105 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Another article where I'm completely bemused as to what is the actual situation.

It's claimed in the title that this vehicle has been restored, i.e. there was enough of the basic original for it to have new parts added and it would therefore be a restoration of that original.

Meanwhile, Autocar insist this is a continuation car (popular currently) with only parts included that were also made at the same time as the original, where these were used to recreate another, completely different car that is featured in the pictures above:

https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/bentle...

It might be seen as pedantic (I'm sure a flurry of replies will tell me that), but in a world where continuations are sprouting out of every manufacturers back catalogue, it's important to get the detail right.

So is it a restored original (that crashed twice and I believe had chassis number 14B.V) or is it completely new, continuation car that has no historical link or basic parts from GRA 270??

Edited by cookie1600 on Thursday 8th August 15:10

alorotom

6,651 posts

131 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
TWPC said:
What a great story. It's an amazing-looking car.
I wonder what 11 years of labour at Bentley's rates costs... (to say nothing of the previous 7 years of voluntary effort!)
I’d love to know this too...bet it’s a pretty hefty sum!

theturbs

943 posts

180 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Superb story. Does anyone know if the Corniche will be on display at Salon Prive next month?


LotusOmega375D

4,296 posts

97 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Needs to enter and win Best in Show at Pebble Beach Concours this month.

Ex Expat

41 posts

19 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
cookie1600 said:
Another article where I'm completely bemused as to what is the actual situation.

It's claimed in the title that this vehicle has been restored, i.e. there was enough of the basic original for it to have new parts added and it would therefore be a restoration of that original.

Meanwhile, Autocar insist this is a continuation car (popular currently) with only parts included that were also made at the same time as the original, where these were used to recreate another, completely different car that is featured in the pictures above:

https://www.autocar.co.uk/car-news/new-cars/bentle...

It might be seen as pedantic (I'm sure a flurry of replies will tell me that), but in a world where continuations are sprouting out of every manufacturers back catalogue, it's important to get the detail right.

So is it a restored original (that crashed twice and I believe had chassis number 14B.V) or is it completely new, continuation car that has no historical link or basic parts from GRA 270??

Edited by cookie1600 on Thursday 8th August 15:10
Really interesting. The Autocar article is the story that I remember, "the Corniche was damaged in an accident on French roads, and subsequently destroyed completely during a German bombing raid on the Dieppe port where it was being stored"
On this basis it's not a restoration at all but a recreation/continuation!

wag2

35 posts

175 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Great to see it restored but its no where near as pretty as the Embiricos Bentley which is a similar concept.

cookie1600

1,235 posts

105 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Ex Expat said:
Really interesting. The Autocar article is the story that I remember, "the Corniche was damaged in an accident on French roads, and subsequently destroyed completely during a German bombing raid on the Dieppe port where it was being stored"
On this basis it's not a restoration at all but a recreation/continuation!
Yep, that's the conclusion I'd come to as well. Four chassis/engines were built, one got the Van Vooren body designed by Georges Paulin (GRA 270) with that destroyed in Dieppe and the bent chassis going back to Rolls/Bentley where it subsequently disappeared (scraped?).



"Using only the original technical drawings and the skills of the men and women of Mulliner, Bentley's in-house bespoke and coachbuilding division, this unique Corniche has been rebuilt in Crewe using original Corniche and MkV mechanical components and a completely re-made body, identical in every detail to the original."

"Many of the parts that had been produced to make further Corniche models were kept until the early 1970s before being sold off to specialists and enthusiasts. Then, in 2001, automotive historian and former Bentley director Ken Lea decided to try to use original parts as the basis for a recreation of the Corniche.

The project was based in Derby, with volunteers gathering information and parts to assemble the chassis. In 2008, with the project out of money, Bentley Motors provided an injection of funds, and work started on the ash frame and aluminium bodywork with coachbuilders Ashley & James in Lymington, Hampshire. The body was created from the outline drawings given to the project by the family of the car's original designer, George Paulin.

The project continued to make slow progress until it was brought in-house to Mulliner at Bentley Motors at the request of new Chairman and CEO Adrian Hallmark.2"

https://www.netcarshow.com/bentley/1939-corniche/

Come on PH, have we got to research this stuff for you! I guess the headline and article needs correcting now as this is a recreation, a continuation model built from the ground up.

bobberz

1,830 posts

143 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
The front strikes me as very American. Unfortunately, the least pleasant part of an otherwise attractive design. Very interesting story! Hopefully it will make its way to the 'States at some point during its tour.

Ex Expat

41 posts

19 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
cookie1600 said:
Come on PH, have we got to research this stuff for you! I guess the headline and article needs correcting now as this is a recreation, a continuation model built from the ground up.
Exactly! Not pedantic at all and the story is just as cool (if not cooler) as a recreation of a long lost car!

Ex Expat

41 posts

19 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Much more detailed background and description here https://www.netcarshow.com/bentley/1939-corniche/ including the Corniche's relationship with the Embiricos car.

Ex Expat

41 posts

19 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all
Some research of Haymarket’s archives would have helped too! This is the article I remembered from 1980 (Old Motor became Classic & Sportscar)

Ex Expat

41 posts

19 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all

Ex Expat

41 posts

19 months

Thursday 8th August
quotequote all