My Car Quest

June 2, 2020

The Sad Story Of The Slab-Sided Bentley And The Norwegian Who Thunk It Up….

by Wallace Wyss –

Now it is every car buff’s dream to design a car right? And this particular Bentley is really a classic for the Ages. One of the last true Bentleys, I contend.

But the sad part is that the guy that designed it came into Rolls to be a designer, designed just two cars for them and left the business out of frustration. In his view, it took too long to design a car.

Some feel that the Last True Bentley was built before Rolls Royce bought out Bentley when the original W.O. Bentley couldn’t make a profit.

But my contention is that the Continental S3 was the last true Bentley because it was the last coachbuilt one where you still could order a car somewhat modified to your taste. (though in modern days both Bentley and Rolls have bespoke services again).

Bentley S3

This particular model is called the “slab side” Bentley and I remember when I first saw one I was fascinated by the DeSoto like tailfins with three tailights on each side.

There was also a model with a single headlight per side, the 1962 S2 version.

Bentley

The one I found was an S2 single headlight like this one.

The coachbuilder was Park Ward, a once independent coachbuilder who had been under the Rolls-Royce wing since 1939. Another coachbuilder, H. J. Mulliner & Co.– was brought in house as well, so it was a creation that is mostly attributed to Mulliner rather than Park Ward.

So the foundation was set for something spectacular.

Everybody knows the common four door sedan shape of the Silver Cloud and Bentley S series. They made their debut in 1955. At some point Rolls revived the prewar name “Continental” for the coachbuilt Bentleys, to remind one of the days when you toured the continent in your luxury car.

Bentley

From the movie Blow Up

Now it happens that some Rolls officials were at an auto show and took a liking to a one off Alfa designed by a Norwegian, Vilhelm Koren. In 1959, they invited him, on the strength of that one car, to join up, and ink out for them a variation on the S2 for Rolls that would be sold as a Bentley. They wanted it out by 1960 so he had to work extremely quickly. As soon as it was approved he went over to Park Ward to supervise the construction of his baby.

The car he designed was completely different than the rising fender lines of the regular Silver Cloud and Bentley S cars. It was one line from front to back. And the instruments were all grouped together in a cluster, not spread out all over the dash to hell and yonder.

Bentley

Virgil Exner, Chrysler designer, would have loved the tailfins.

The engine was your normal V8, estimated at just over 200 horsepower from 6.2-liters of cast aluminum.

The most interesting version is the quad headlight one, which came in 1962, the same time Rolls was rolling out the four headlamp Silver Cloud III. I can’t say the headlights on the Koren Bentley were totally original, Tom Tjaarda designed something similar for the Ferrari 330GT 2 plus 2 and Giugiaro did those headlights for the Gordon Keeble, a short lived British car, but I don’t know who had the design first.

One website says that only 26 slab sided S3 Continentals were built in total, maybe referring only to the slanted headlamp versions. They came in both dropheads and coupes. Rolls Royce customers must have complained because they got the chance to buy a Roller variant and it really doesn’t work there as the Bentley grille is rounded at the top meeting a rounded set of hood panels (hinged in the middle to lift up longitudinally) and the Rolls grille is flat lined in imitation of the Pathenon (for some strange reason).

According to the website rrab.com these are the production figures:

1286 – Bentley S3 (1 was fitted was fitted with a drophead coupé
body by H.J. Mulliner)
32 – Bentley S3 long wheelbase (7 were fitted with coachbuilt bodies
by James Young )
312 – Bentley S3 Continental
1630 – Bentley S3 altogether

After Koren designed the S2 and S3 Continental slabsides, he was given another assignment for a two door coupe but that car was cancelled. At which time, he left RR to teach architecture at the Royal College of Art. Walked away from the car biz, as it were.

MY BARN FIND

I bought one once, one of the rare single headlamp per side versions, when a carpenter told me he saw an odd Bentley in an underground garage in Venice Beach. I went to the address and peeked through the gate. I recognized the model from the opening sequence of Blow Up where the film’s protagonist is driving one around London.

But you had to have a electronic opener to open the gate. I paid a vagrant $20 a day for three days to ask everyone who drove in whose car it was and on the third day he found a Texas cowboy that laid claim.

The cowboy was a day trader in the stock market and only too glad to sell it, the car covered in dust, parked top down for the last several years. I had to sell the car to a client (I was a barn finder) for $60,000 but the good news was, when he got it to New York City he had only to change the battery and oil and it started right up! Today I think they are worth more than $160,000 depending on if they had a famous owner.

Koren? He died Dec. 20, 2016 in London at the ripe old age of 95. I don’t even know if he ever got to own a slab-sided Bentley but if there is any justice in the world, I hope he did. It must be a designer’s dream, to drive around the car he championed….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

UPDATE – photos from Wayne Watkins in Sydney Australia

Bentley

Bentley

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
 
 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss’ barn finding tales are told in the Incredible Barn Finds books available from Enthusiast Books, Hudson, WI.

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

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Summary
The Sad Story Of The Slab-Sided Bentley And The Norwegian Who Thunk It Up….
Article Name
The Sad Story Of The Slab-Sided Bentley And The Norwegian Who Thunk It Up….
Description
One of the last of the coachbuilt Bentleys.
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Comments

  1. I don’t recall ever seeing the term slab-sided used to describe these Bentleys before. However, if you put “Chinese Eye Bentley” into Google, you will see that this term is quite widely used.

    I’m a Brit. Hope it’s not another variation in US-English vs UK-English automotive term usage!

  2. The vagrant gambit is a hoot!

  3. wallace wyss says

    Yes American words can be hard on the ears compared to British Oxfordian English but calling
    convertibles “dropheads” never fails to convey the image of a guillotine to me so let’s blame the French there…

  4. Wayne Watkins says

    We call them Chinese eye convertibles or drop tops in Australia . I just sent Mike Gulett via email a couple of pics of a lovely one in Sydney as do not know how to send them in this section .

  5. Eivind Borrelly Hansen says

    A beautyful car. One of the best Rolls Royce and Bentley designs.

    Greetings from a norwegian.

    Now someone have designed a electric car called Fresco Reverie. Has design DNA from this Rolls Royce and Bentleys + from Maserati and Bugatti, in my opinion.

  6. Eivind Borrelly Hansen says
  7. Thank you for providing the link. It looks to be a very eye-catching car. Let’s hope that it does well. Having used Google Translate for the accompanying narrative, the following phrase caught my eye “it is very exciting for a Norwegian actor to get pregnant with an electric car”.

    • Eivind Borrelly Hansen says

      Hello, thank you for your answer.

      Maybe you know that Norway have the highest percentage electric car in the world pr. capita ?
      And we have CO2-free clean hydro-power to fuel them.

      In northern Sweden the Swedes are building a big battery factory now. Based on minerals in northern
      Sweden and northern Finland. Norway are good in producing Aluminium. Norway created back in time
      the electric car THINK. And the city of Trondheim, is the engineering capitol of Norway.

      • Wayne Watkins says

        Eivind Hansen , Norway is a Socialist country and its Government was elected on the basic promise of ” you vote for me and I will give you other people’s money ” They have put huge taxes on petroleum and diesel powered vehicles and have put no tax or VAT or GST or road tax or road tolls , ferry fees or city emission charges on EV’s and even offers free parking and the ability to drive in most bus lanes . So naturally more Norwegians are buying EV’s and Mr Tesla is laughing all the way to the bank . But if Norway’s original plan to ban all non EV vehicles by 2025 happens , your rapidly expanding Government will become more aggressive in chasing more things to tax and will introduce a GPS based taxation system for road usage . You are lucky it is such a small country unlike USA , Canada or Australia , however you will still need charging stations in your mountains plus thousands more city ones and some form of tax to pay for your roads and infrastructure and massive Government pensions . These new taxes will affect everyone and not only the rich .Massively taxing the rich only does not work as they will simply leave . The rich through their massive investments create jobs . Finally , when these vehicles become obsolete who is going to take all of your lethal lithium batteries ?

        • Eivind Borrelly Hansen says

          Hello,

          I think you have misunderstood things here. Norway are now governed by a right-middle conservatives. We are not a sosialist state. But we have no peopleapproved electionlaw. But that have no country in the world either. We have to get that done. So we live not on other peoples money. We live on our own money. But the states spending is to high. That must come down. But the outlook for Norway is good. Can be very good also.
          With regard to electric car, we have given that advantages. I my self was one of the most early promoters of this politics.To bring forward this new environmentally friendly technology. Its recognized as a success in Norway. But in some years we will draw a bit down on this advantages. We have
          electricity all over the country. Its better for us to operate the country good. We are building out now infrastructure. We have money and income. Government is not very many people. We will try to bring taxes down. And we build highspeed railway (250 km/h). To Stockholm and Gothenburg 300 km/h. We have excellent airport network. The best in the world pr. capita. And with ships we have more than 1200 years experience. (We are going
          to overtake Greenland together with Trump. Our old island). All the rich norwegians know, that it is with base in Norway you do the money. No one will leave. That is just words. All the money is created with roots to Norway. We have a good buisness environment. And a high degree of confidence. We can trust each other. A word is a word. Its paradise little to pay for the rich in Norway. Actually to little in my opinion. Batteries are going to be recirculated I think. But this Fresco Motors project you must take a littlebit easy. Its not easy to build up a car manifacturer. But lets try. Sweden managed with Volvo and Saab. And Coenigsegg. Sweden build now a big battery factory, Northvolt. Norway have aluminium. We have delivered different parts to european car manufactering.
          Are You from Australia ?

          • Wayne Watkins says

            Yes I am from Australia and must apologise as we have both deviated from the original subject of what a beautiful design this slab sided Bentley is . Unfortunately Sweden no longer makes Volvo or Saab and Australia no longer makes any mass produced cars . It is a pity that almost all cars these days have lost any personality they once had and all look like clones of each other I also apologise for incorrectly saying your Government was Socialist.

  8. Eivind Borrelly Hansen says

    44,3 % of new registered cars in Norway in January, was electric cars. And 34,2 % was hybrid.

    Only 21,5 % was diesel and petroleum cars.

    https://www.dn.no/motor/elbiler-sto-for-over-40-prosent-av-nyregistreringene-i-januar/2-1-749472

  9. Eivind Borrelly Hansen says

    Thank you. Nice to meet you. I agree with you on lost personality. The cracy thing is that the Tesla stock increased 20 % only TODAY !!!
    The marketcap of Tesla is now 1305 billion norwegian crowns. 1 $ = 9,28 crowns. Or over 200 billion australian dollars. Or more than
    the marketvalue of VW and BMW combined. Volvo is still developed and produced in Sweden. But owned by China. Maybe the chinese
    will allow some swedes buying back. For example by putting the company on the stock exchange. Volvo Trucks (Lastvagnar) are still Swedish.
    And they have Koenigsegg. Norway have some ownership in Volvo trucks. We will not allow selling it. We will now help our neighbor Sweden
    to keep and develop their industrial companies.
    Tesla will become a digital car. Like Apple ? And with TeslaStore like AppleStore ? We are neighbors in Antarctica Australia. Lets be friends.
    And together with the commonwealth states. Maybe Norway will draw itself out of the EEC, because of Brexit. Saab makes still aeroplanes.
    Norway lives on energy, maritime(shipping and so on), seafood, and different other things. Investments, minerals, knowledge, wood, increasing
    tourism and so on. And industry that uses hydroelectric power. Its lots of good harbors in Norway. Deep and quite. The northeast passage
    will come into regular traffic soon. And that can be interesting for us.

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