Celebrating 70 years of the Bentley Continental – The Ultimate Grand Tourer

The skill, passion and avant-garde thinking that Bentley’s Chief Projects Engineer, Ivan Evernden and Chief Stylist, John Blatchley poured into creating the R-Type Continental 70 years ago still reverberates among the Bentley business to this day.  

Bentley only built 208 examples of the R-Type Continental. At the time, it was the fastest four-seat car in the world – a mantle that was picked-up by the modern-day Continental GT in 2003. It was also the most expensive, at £6,928 – nearly four times the 1952 average UK house price.

To keep down to the target weight, coachbuilders HJ Mulliner crafted the bodywork, window frames, windscreen surround, backlight, seat frames and bumpers in aluminium. Even at a pared-down weight, tyre choice was critical; no standard road tyre existed which could carry a two-ton car at speeds in excess of 115 mph, and Dunlop Medium Distance Track tyres were specified. As a result of all of this extraordinary attention to detail, the car was described by Autocar magazine as ‘a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances.’ Its ethos and its exterior design were the inspiration for the first Continental GT in 2003, and it has galvanised Bentley Design teams ever since.

The elegant ‘power line’ that traces backwards from the front wheel arch, the muscular and defined rear haunch and the gracefully sloping roofline are all modern interpretations of the same features from the R-Type Continental, giving the modern Continental GT the same balance of grace, beauty, and powerful stance as its forebear.

Likewise, the ability of the modern Bentley to carry four adults with luggage at high speed over long distance in exceptional comfort has its roots in this now 70-year-old masterpiece. The very latest iteration, the Continental GT Speed, adds even sharper dynamic performance to the wide and unrivalled Continental blend of abilities.

Back in 1952, Chief Projects Engineer, Ivan Evernden and Chief Stylist, John Blatchley could never have guessed that their actions would have such a lasting effect on Bentley design and model philosophy seventy years later. And for their vision, we salute them.

You can explore our latest Continental GT range here or contact one of our H.R. Owen Bentley retailers in London, Surrey, Berkshire or Hatfield.