A lot of automakers are looking back to their iconic models, offering the moneyed classes an opportunity to buy brand-new versions of cars they previously only saw in movies. Aston Martin’s DB4 GT and Jaguar’s D-Type projects come to mind. But Bentley wasn’t satisfied with a project that reintroduced a previous success. When they recreated a classic to celebrate the company’s centenary, they went one-of-a-kind.
The 1939 Bentley Corniche pictured here is only the second to be built, and the only one currently in existence. The first one was lost to bombing raids on Dieppe, France during World War II.
Built as part of an exercise to develop a sportier variant of the MkV sedan, the Corniche was a sort of proto-four door coupe, with a B-pillar-less greenhouse and reverse-opening rear doors.
Powered by the same 4.25 litre as the MkV, the Corniche was able to sustain speeds of over 161km/h at Brooklands, owing some of its success to a new streamlined grille design not seen before on Bentleys.
Unique in my mind is the central headlight beneath the grille. Not many cars have been designed with such a layout (early Tatras among the ones that were) but I have always been a fan of the style.
Like with other special Bentley projects, the construction of the new Corniche was undertaken by its special Mulliner division, the spiritual successor of the coachbuilder of the same name. Bentley says that Mulliner used as many period components and suppliers as they could, putting special care into the interior.
Similar projects restored W.O. Bentley’s 1931 8 Litre and the Birkin Team Blower with all three cars taking part in celebrations this year to commemorate 100 years of Bentley. I’d say rebuilding a one-off sports sedan is a lot cooler than trying to sell a $368,594 book. Why not do both, I guess?