1988 Bentley Continental
“Nil fato relinquemus”
Grand tourers by Mulliner Park Ward are the pinnacle of sophisticated luxury. These are hand-crafted masterworks that grow more valuable as time progresses. Bentley earned thoroughbred status during the heat of the grueling LeMans 24 hour endurance races of the 1920s with the infamous Bentley Boys.
The concept of the grand tourer has undergone a startling metamorphosis yet the requirements of the sporting driver have not…the Bentley Continental drop head coupe was the grandest of the open grand tourers.
Built in the proud tradition, the Continental was the latest statement of the Bentley philosophy. Speed, road manners, and infinite attention to detail combined with silence and comfort were synthesized in this elite edition from a long and noble line.
The Bentley Corniche was renamed in 1984 to Bentley Continental available only as a drop head saloon. There were only 421 built from its production run from 1984 until 1994 making this a highly desirable collectible. There was very little difference between the Bentley and the Rolls Royce. The radiator grille and bonnet were the only exterior modifications. It took four to five months to create a Bentley Continental.
It was shaped mostly by hand alongside the Corniche. A Bentley was always tuned to be a tad more spirited. High revs at low rpm remains a Bentley hallmark. The Continental brought together decades of dedication to fine engineering and maintained the reputation of the Bentley as the symbol of a grand tourer in the classic European tradition.
Its graceful architecture was built as monocoque construction where the body and chassis are built as a single entity. This type of construction is stronger and refrains from squeaks and rattles. The curvaceous bodyshell was fashioned entirely by hand. Its body panels were carefully fashioned…at Mulliner Park Ward, only seasoned artisans carried out the magic transformation. The platform was delivered to MPW by Crewe, hand-crafted by MPW, then returned to Crewe for underpinnings and running gear. Then, back to MPW for completion involving more hand-crafting.
Mulliner Park Ward took painstaking attention to detail to coachbuild the ultimate grand tourer. No two Bentleys will ever be alike. The Bentley Continental is an elegant and completely bespoke automobile. All this and much more made the Bentley Continental the grand tourer par excellence…it was a four-seat two-door open saloon with coachwork of integral steel construction.
Its bonnet, doors, and boot lid are made of aluminium alloy. Wrap-around bumpers front and rear had body colored polyurethane impact inserts. The bumpers were energy-absorbing yielding upon minor impact to protect the sheet metal. The Continental rode upon a long 120.5” wheelbase. It was 204.6” in length and 72.3” in width.
Upholstery befitting a grand tourer was tastefully done in supple natural grain leather by Connolly Brothers. The ultimate embellishment of British coachwork is through the use of polished veneers, hand-crafted & polished to a glass-like shine. Each panel is mirror-matched to the opposite side of the cabin. Wilton 100% wool hand-tufted carpets with lambswool rugs added the touches of home. The Bentley Continental was really a Rolls Royce for the owner/driver that wanted to maintain a lower profile without sacrificing performance or luxury.
It took up to four days alone to build the frame of the power fully automatic hood. One man builds it. A hood trimmer hand cuts the materials. The wool headlining is West of England broadcloth. It is skillfully pre-tailored then carefully hand-stitched into place. The final grades of padding to achieve the desired shape are sewn in place, then crowned with weather-resistant Everflex. The trim is ‘tight’ and mocks the appearance of a hardtop. Inside, the wool headlining conceals all convertible hardware and insulation.
The hood is a very important component of any vehicle. It must be constructed in a manner enabling it to withstand wind and water during many years of service anywhere in the world. There was a harmony of purpose in the relationship between the eye and hand of the craftsmen working together at Mulliner Park Ward towards one common goal…and that goal was a satisfied customer, there was no room for compromise.
An engine is virtually the heart of the motorcar. The effortless Rolls Royce engine delivers a substantial amount of power and torque in an assured…refined…even-tempered manner. The 6.75 litre 412 CID 16-valve OHV V8 engine delivered 205 hp @ 4,200 rpm with 460 Nm of peak torque @ 1,500 rpm. Performance was rated as 0-60 mph in 11.6 seconds, 0-100 mph in 41.2 seconds with a top speed of 114 mph. It could do the ¼ mile @ 76 mph in 18.4 seconds. The engine was mated to GM’s Turbo Hydra-Matic THM-400 3-speed automatic transmission with torque converter.
The engine block was made from aluminium-silicon alloy. Its cylinder heads were made from aluminium silicon magnesium alloy with cast iron wet liners. It was equipped with self-adjusting hydraulic tappets and a crankshaft run in five main bearings. A Bosch KE-Jetronic fuel injection system and two mechanical fuel pumps made up the fuel delivery system.
The Bentley Continental had a four-wheel independent suspension. Its integral construction included front and rear subframes. This type of suspension contains and cancels negative energy such as road impact and road noise before it reaches the cabin. The front suspension used lower wishbones with upper stabilized lever, anti-roll bar, coil springs, and telescopic dampers.
The rear suspension was set-up to facilitate its self-leveling system. Independent semi-trailing arms, anti-roll bar, coil & auxiliary gas springs, and strut type shock absorbers dampened negative energy as it refined that luxurious Rolls Royce ride…into a Bentley touring saloon. The Bentley Continental was as graceful as a gazelle.
This elegant grand tourer had a high-pressure hydraulic system to operate its dual-circuit braking and self-leveling systems. The Continental’s braking system utilized a dual master cylinder with dedicated hydraulic lines and hardware to allow independent front and rear operation. Should one system fail, all four wheels will still halt each wheel individually.
Its sophisticated self-leveling system automatically maintained optimum ride height regardless of load. Today’s version has been converted to electronics to not only save weight but offer digital accuracy for both braking and suspension systems.
A Bentley Continental as you may see, was an exclusive Mulliner Park Ward custom-bodied drop head convertible coupe. Like its Rolls Royce counterpart the Corniche, the Bentley Continental was crafted mostly by hand. It was Mulliner Park Ward that custom-bodied most Rolls Royce and Bentley two-door saloons at a restricted pace. Only 421 Bentley Continentals were built from 1984 until 1994. This was the grandest of the open grand tourers, built in the proud Bentley tradition. High revs at low rpm were Bentley hallmarks that remain true to form today.
There were only slight variations between the Corniche and the Continental which were the radiator grille and bonnet and the only exterior modifications. The Bentley was always tuned a tad bit more spirited than its RR counterpart. Bentley earned its esteem in the 1920s with consecutive wins at the LeMans 24 hour endurance races. The Bentley Continental drop head coupe was every inch a thoroughbred as its illustrious predecessors. Combine the Mulliner Park Ward distinction and it has been transformed into a highly sought collectible…
The Bentley Continental drop head convertible coupe
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