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Car of the Month

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Rossfeldt: Rolls-Royce and Bentley




Car of the Month - July 2021
Bentley Corniche, 1973, #CBX15369
Two-Door Saloon by Mulliner Park Ward

Bentley Corniche

In their issue from 4th March 1971 the English magazine 'AUTOCAR' heralded: "It was singularly appropriate that just when the overall fortunes of the company had suffered a devastating setback, Rolls-Royce should launch a new car". Indeed the managing director David Plastow (later Sir David Plastow) had taken the bold decision of introducing a new model when merely a few weeks had passed since news of Rolls-Royce having called in the receiver had been a nasty shock. Fashionable Nice in France had been chosen for the Grand Style debut of the new model. It was a cleverly chosen location with easy access to coast roads winding along Cote d'Azure offering breathtaking views. Such roads were well known by their name: Corniche – and that was the designation of the new model, too. Introduced in 1971 the year 2021 marks the 50th Anniversary of Rolls-Royce Corniche and Bentley Corniche.

Bentley Corniche

In hindsight it had been 'a calculated risk'. The Crewe manufacturer's team in 1971 didn't show an entirely new development. Management and engineers had re-fined the two door variants of Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow I and Bentley T1 with a 10% more powerful engine, up-dated interior and revised trim details.

Bentley Corniche

The designation wasn't entirely new either. The name Corniche had been registered by the company even prior to World War II. It should have been launched with a Bentley model sporting tremendously advanced streamline-coachwork to a design by Georges Paulin:

Bentley Corniche
The first ever Corniche with coachwork by Vanvooren, Paris, had suffered an accident during test drives in France in 1939. After having been repaired it made its way to Dieppe – after war had been declared – and while waiting at the quay to be shipped to England it fell victim to a an attack by German Luftwaffe (Air Force) and was destroyed.

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The model-name did appear again during initial stages of a sports car being planned after World War II; however only insiders know there exist several drawings of what was called Corniche II. It has been the new start from 1971 which gave ever-lasting glamour to this model name. Although considerably more expensive than the 4-door mainstream models the Corniche from start onward became a brilliant success. It even kept its place in the portfolio when in 1980 the new SZ-generation, i.e. Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit, Rolls-Royce Silver Spur and Bentley Mulsanne succeeded the SY-generation of Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow II and its sister models. The Corniche had been modified, of course, to offer the same technical layout as the modern generation. However for models with Bentley radiators and emblems there was a twist as regards their production history. From 1982 onward only Convertibles were offered (no more 2-Door Saloons) and such were christened Bentley Continental. Hence only for some 11 years Bentley Corniche have been available. That was during a period when the manufacturer didn’t show particular interest in marketing of that brand and one consequence has been the overall production figure of Bentley motor cars has been fairly low – not many Bentley Corniche have been made.

Bentley Corniche

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