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Roßfeldt: From the dawn of the century ...

Car of the Month - April 2002
Bentley Mark VI "CRESTA", 1948, #B447CD
Fastback Saloon by Facel Métallon 
designed by Pinin Farina

When the first post-war Paris Salon opened in 1946, a result of World War II was that no manufacturers from the countries that had been enemies were permitted to exhibit. Despite the ban Battista Pinin Farina brought two of his creations to Paris and achieved some publicity by parking them outside the Grand Palais. However such a "trick" could be performed only once.

The way out was offered by an agreement with Frenchman Jean Daninos who did own Facel-Métallon; a group of companies that included coachbuilding premises. Daninos asked Pinin Farina to design a 2-door fastback saloon on the chassis of a Bentley Mark VI. Some input came from ideas by Walter Sleator, head of Franco Britannic, Rolls-Royce's agency in the French capital. He had been a driving force to create out-and-out performance Bentleys several years ago.
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This was an important order for Pinin Farina, because a body commissioned by a French customer wouldn't be excluded from exhibition at a future Paris Salon - and his company was in urgent need of cash, because in December 1946 a fire had destroyed their factory at Turin's Corso Tranpani completely. The most attractive coupé he created - code-named "Cresta" - met with much acclaim. When shown at the 1948 Paris Salon several prospective purchasers showed their interest and further orders followed when early in 1949 the car was exhibited at the Geneva Salon. Jean Daninos decided to arrange for a series to be built by his company Facel-Métallon. His decision was made much easier by the manufacturer at Crewe offering full support. Pinin Farina was asked to modify the radiator so that it was "nearer to series standard" - and Bentley delivered Mark VI in the form of chassis cum engine with a special steering rake suitable for coachwork with low roofline. 

The prototype (chassis number #B323CD) had been made completely by Pinin Farina in Turin. The series was produced by Facel-Métallon; the first car that became finished was #B447CD to the order of Count Manuel A. Matos. Reportedly 17 cars all in all were made, however only 10 (9 plus prototype) are identified beyond doubt by their chassis numbers. - It is somewhat surprising that little is known about this perfect result of Franco-Italian co-operation. Although there can be no doubt that this is "the missing link" between the pre-war Bentley Corniche and the post-war Bentley Continental

1948 Bentley Mark VI, #B323CD. Neither the right-side panels nor any screens had been finished when this photo was taken of the prototype "Cresta". The radiator shell was modified shortly afterwards. When exhibited at the 1948 Paris Salon it showed a smaller chrome surround. To check progress Jean Daninos and Walter Sleator had travelled to Turin on board a Bentley Mark VI - no Standard Saloon but one „coachbuilt by H.J. Mulliner". 
(Mono-Photo: Courtesy of Pininfarina Historical Office)


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