Introduced in 1946, the MkVI was Bentley’s the first postwar production car. This new car marked a major landmark and turning point for Bentley, as it was the first in the company’s history to be offered as a complete car with a standardized production body, built in house. Known as the Standard Steel Saloon, the panels were built by Pressed Steel Ltd, and assembled at the newly integrated Rolls Royce works in Crewe. While the practice of ordering custom coachbuilt bodies was falling out of favor and many of the traditional British firms were closing up shop, it was still possible to order a MkVI with a custom body from any number of builders such as Freestone and Webb, Radford, H.J. Mulliner and Park Ward. But the vast majority of customers opted for the elegant and handsome Standard Steel Saloon body, which helped make the MkVI Bentley’s most successful model to date. Mechanically, it was similar to the pre-war MkV, with independent front suspension on the substantial chassis and a 4.25 liter inline six. For the 1952 model year, it was updated to the “big bore” 4.5 liter specification and available with either an automatic or four-speed manual gearbox. When properly maintained, the MkVI is a reliable and robust motorcar with that exhibits the delightful over-engineered feeling of a classic Bentley. 4,946 examples were produced, the vast majority of which were sold with Standard Steel Saloon bodies. Yet a fraction of production did receive special coachwork, as our featured example wears.
From its foundation in 1919, Park Ward had maintained a very close relationship with Bentley. So much so, that in 1931 Bentley had planned a takeover of the coachbuilding firm, before Rolls Royce stepped in and took over Bentley. Park Ward coachwork has graced virtually every chassis made by Bentley, from the earliest 3-liter cars, through the 1990s when the name was used to denote specially equipped and limited edition models. For the MkVI, Park Ward offered an elegant five-passenger Drophead Coupe body. The gorgeous, flowing lines were minimally adorned with just a few flashes of chrome trim. Typically Park Ward, the Drophead Coupe was elegant, refined and restrained yet still capable of making a bold statement. Just 27 of its kind were produced before MkVI production shifted to the R-Type, making it one of the rarest of the coachbuilt post-war Bentleys.
Our fine example is a 1952 model, desirably configured in left-hand drive with four-speed manual transmission and the big-bore 4.5 liter engine. Just 8 cars were produced in this specification for 1952. B135LNY is finished in Sand over Sable with a tan top, and red coach stripes. The body is in very good order, straight and tidy with fair quality older paint that is attractive, yet showing some signs of use. It appears this Bentley has never had a full restoration, but rather, has been maintained and freshened as needed over the years. The result is a handsome and usable car with an appealing patina that encourages regular drives. Park Ward refined their design over the short production, so many of them wear different detailing, this example has full rear fender skirts that are cleverly hinged to access the wheels for service. A chrome strip follows the lower edge of the body, and repeats on the wheel skirt and the car looks equally appealing with the top up or folded.
In the cabin, light tan leather is piped in brown and presents in good condition, with fair carpets and good detailing. Smiths instruments are correct and in good working order. The door panels are executed in a lovely sunburst pattern and beautifully restored wood trim graces the door caps, dash and windscreen surround. The wood trim is certainly a highlight of the interior, restored to a high standard with gorgeous inlay banding and a deep, rich gloss.
This MkVI is mechanically sound and the engine bay is tidy though in driver-quality condition. This MkVI is quite suitable for driving and enjoyment and would make a fine companion for Bentley Driver’s Club events. Likewise, it would make a very fine and deserving candidate for a full restoration, as it is a very rare, desirable and collectible automobile built by one of the greatest coachbuilders of the period. It is sold with original handbooks and RROC records.