Following several years of Bentley Mk VI production when over 5,000 examples had been produced, orders began to wane, perhaps due to perceived shortcomings in the standard steel saloon’s design but more importantly, the likelihood of a totally new model becoming available. Development of the new model, was to say the least protracted and customers had to wait until Spring 1955 when the Mk VI replacement, in the form of the S-Type (and Silver Cloud when fitted with the Rolls-Royce grille), were launched to the expectant and well-heeled public around the world.
The Motor Division’s Management, in the meantime, proposed an interim model addressing their Mk VI customer’s prime complaint – the small space available for stowage of luggage whilst using as much of the original design as possible so keeping tooling costs to the absolute minimum.
John P. Blatchley’s – formerly of coachbuilder J. Gurney Nutting and now Chief Styling Engineer for Rolls-Royce and Bentley – solution to the conundrum was the Bentley Mk VII which to all intents and purposes, was a slightly extended Mk VI. The Mk VII, by gentleman’s agreement with rival Jaguar was eventually marketed as the R-Type, featured an extended boot with lift-up instead of drop-down lid and re-positioned spare wheel giving a very useful increase in boot space from 6 cubic feet to 10.5 cubic feet.
Not only was the major bugbear of the Mk VI resolved, but the R-Type undoubtedly offered a much better balance to the overall styling. However, the increased boot space and the more balanced appearance were not perceived as enough to enhance sales and it is clear that the manufacturer intended to offer their new model exclusively with automatic gearbox. Owing to running difficulties with the Rolls-Royce “improved” American designed boxes, this plan had to be placed into abeyance and manual type gearboxes were available right up to the end of production in Spring 1955.
2,323 R-Types were built in 30 months and like all the books in the Complete Classics series, within CC6 every car is listed with delivery date, original colour scheme (in the case of the standard steel cars), customer name, country of delivery, details of where they are now and information on photographs of individual cars have been previously published.
CC6 is now out of print but copies do appear on EBay and elsewhere from time to time.