With the world still reeling in the aftermath of World War II, Rolls-Royce and Bentley dusted off and set to work returning to the business of making motorcars. Automobile production stopped in 1940, while the aero-engine division sustained the company throughout the war. With much of the workforce and machinery relocated to the aero division in Crewe, management decided to move car production from the traditional home in Derby to the newer factory in Crewe. The move allowed for higher production volume and a greater quantity of precision machined parts to aid in standardizing the line; which Rolls-Royce saw as a necessary step toward long-term survival of the marque. Interestingly, the first product to roll out of the new works in 1946 was a Bentley: The all-new Mark VI.
This new model marked a significant milestone in the history of both of these legendary British marques. The Bentley Mark VI, (joined by the Rolls Royce Silver Dawn in 1949) was the company’s first postwar production car and the very first model offered with a complete all-steel production body, known rather unglamorously as the Standard Steel Saloon. Pressed Steel Ltd produced the panels, and the cars were then assembled in Crewe. Mechanically, it was similar to the aborted pre-war Mark V, with independent front suspension on a sturdy chassis and a 4.25-litre inline-six. The Standard Steel Saloon offered traditional understated and elegant styling with classic wood and leather interior appointments, and it quickly became a best-seller.
Despite the push for standardization, the art of coachbuilding was far from dead, and numerous independent firms made their mark on the versatile Mk VI chassis. At the forefront were the traditional English coachbuilders such as James Young, H.J. Mulliner, Hooper, and Park Ward. They offered a wide array of body styles that ranged from conservative to extravagant, many taking full advantage of the sporting potential of the Bentley chassis.
Chassis number B50MD is a fascinating coachbuilt Bentley Mk VI, bodied by H.J. Mulliner, with several unique distinguishing touches. This particular car is an “MD” series, putting it among the first cars to receive the improved, more powerful 4.5-litre inline-six. Records show it was commissioned by Captain R.G. McLeod, a noteworthy Bentley enthusiast who owned several bespoke, and sometimes challenging one-off Bentleys, most of which wore coachwork by H.J. Mulliner. The Australian-born engineer had a very particular and pragmatic style, preferring two-seat, closed cars with a wheel at each corner. McLeod had a particular distaste for open coachwork, but many of his motorcars featured Mulliner’s “High Vision” Perspex panel above the driver to flood the cabin with light.
The fourth of seven Bentleys McLeod had built, B50MD is perhaps the most conventional, yet still with several individual details. These include the Perspex High Vision panel, and the boot is made considerably shorter than the standard Mulliner Lightweight design. The powerful engine and alloy coachwork ensured snappy performance. The original UK registration booklet shows B50MD first wore McLeod’s cherished personal number plate “H1.” Upon trading it to Jack Barclay Motors in 1956, it was re-registered 9 EMX and sold to Leonard Weston. It passed through a series of British owners into the late 1970s, when Harry Crook of Baltimore, Maryland purchased it. The Bentley arrived stateside in December 1976, and it remained in the care of Mr. Crook for over 30 years. In the mid-1980s, he commissioned a bare metal respray in Mason’s Black, documented in a series of photographs and receipts. The extensive history file includes partial service records back to 1963, correspondence, Rolls-Royce Foundation build sheets, the original UK registration book, owner’s manual, and even the Smiths Radiomobile manual and H.J. Mulliner coachwork maintenance handbook.
Today, B50MD presents in lovely condition, with a subtly mellowed character to the restoration. The Mason’s Black paint in fine order, with deep gloss and crisply detailed feature lines. A few minor imperfections are found on close inspection, yet the overall appearance is quite attractive. Similarly, the brightwork is in good order, again with some minor blemishes evident, yet in keeping with this car’s well-maintained, cherished nature. Blackwall radial tires were fitted in 2015, along with correct full wheel covers keep the look understated, with just a hint of sporting appeal.
The interior features natural tan Connolly leather, dark walnut trim, and oatmeal carpets fitted in 2014. The leather has a pleasing character earned through regular use, and the various interior fittings are in excellent condition. Woodwork presents in superb condition on the dash, door caps, and rear picnic trays. At some point, the owners fitted a later vintage Blaupunkt radio, which blends well with into the fascia. In addition to the original handbooks, the sale also includes the factory jack, wheel tools, and tool kit.
Records show this lovely Mk VI has enjoyed continuous, meticulous maintenance in the hands of its previous owners. Photos and documents show an engine overhaul and valve job and all new gaskets and seals in approximately 2009, although full details of the project are not available. In the 1990s, Mr. Crook fitted a full stainless steel exhaust system by Borla East, along with numerous other maintenance items along the way. Much as it was when first delivered to Captain R.G. McLeod, this is a marvelous Bentley for touring and would be a most enjoyable choice for rallies and other organized road events. The distinctive features and fascinating history set it apart from standard models, and it is sure to delight its next keeper with many miles of pleasurable motoring.
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