Unlike many prewar automobile manufacturers, Rolls-Royce survived World War II and emerged into the brave new peacetime economy in relatively good financial health and with a plan to embrace greater standardization, higher production volumes and their resulting economies of scale. The new Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn and Bentley Mark VI were introduced in 1946, marking the first post-war automobiles of Rolls-Royce design and most significantly, they represented a complete break from the past, being designed and built as complete cars, fitted with new standardized saloon coachwork. The Pressed Steel Company of Oxford built the bodies, which were reminiscent of the Park Ward-bodied Mark V models of the late 1930s, while ex-Gurney Nutting Chief Designer John Blatchley refined the details.
While the “Standard Steel” bodies of the Mk VI and Silver Dawn indeed signaled the downfall of the once-widespread coachbuilding trade, they were trimmed and painted to a standard rivalling the work of the finest custom coachbuilders of the era. This was quite a change in philosophy on the part of Bentley’s parent, Rolls-Royce, yet it reflected the reality that high-quality standardized bodies could indeed be built in greater numbers at the new factory in Crewe.
A 4.3-liter (4,257 cc) inline six-cylinder engine initially powered the Mk VI, with its aluminum-alloy F-head combining overhead intake and side-mounted exhaust valves. While similar to the prior B60-Series engine of the war years, this new design was much simpler and utilized a one-piece cylinder block casting with an integral crankcase and fan belt-driven generator and water pump. Combined with a four-speed manual gearbox and independent front suspension, the Mk VI provided outstanding performance and was capable of top speeds around 95 mph.
Contemporary Bentley advertising for the Mk VI quoted an RAF Wing Commander and highlighted the car’s rare blend of practical elegance, comfortable seating for five and its smooth-shifting transmission, as well as its around-town drivability and capable open-road performance. According to marque expert Johnnie Green’s definitive book “Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque,” 5,208 examples of the Mk VI were produced between 1946 and 1952. While the vast majority were built with Standard Steel bodywork, a wide variety of bespoke custom bodies were still available nonetheless from a number of renowned English coachbuilders, including such highly respected firms as Freestone & Webb, Gurney Nutting, H.J. Mulliner, Hooper and Co., James Young, and Rolls-Royce subsidiary Park Ward.
Bearing Chassis Number B320LFV, this 1949 Bentley Mk VI is one of just four built with elegant and distinctive Design C15 Sedanca de Ville coachwork by Gurney Nutting – a design considered by marque authorities to represent the legendary coachbuilder’s swan song. This body style was also the most expensive offered in the Bentley model catalogue at 3,900 Pounds Sterling plus another 2,168 in taxes. This left-hand drive example, with Body Number 2406, was originally delivered in February 1950 to Edmond Meert in Belgium, possibly unpainted and untrimmed in order to reduce crushing import duties. Subsequent history remains unknown until B320LFV was offered for sale by a Rolls-Royce Owners Club member from Toronto, Canada in the January 1995 edition of The Flying Lady. The Bentley was back in England during the early 2000s with period registration plates numbered ‘YFF913’ and then by 2003, it was acquired by an enthusiastic RROC member from New York, who exhibited the exceedingly rare Gurney Nutting Sedanca de Ville at the 2009 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, and kept the car in good company with other rare coachbuilt Bentleys.
The subject of an older, yet well-detailed restoration, B320LFV is finished in a bold two-tone black and red livery, with pleasingly careworn paintwork and a lovely, well-preserved red leather interior with beige carpeting piped red. The body and paint are attractive overall, displaying a moderate patina with some edge chipping and bodywork imperfections, yet retaining the appealing character of a well-loved car. Features and amenities include an original radio, slide-out under-dash tool kit, and drinkware for the rear passengers in discreet side compartments. Maintaining irreplaceable integrity, the Bentley also retains its documented original engine, numbered B160F. The engine runs with the expected smoothness and refinement, and the four-speed gearbox feels delightfully positive, even with the US-spec column-mounted gear change. Recently out of long-term storage, it may require some additional sorting prior to enjoying on tours, yet it is pleasingly honest and a fundamentally good driving example. Other highlights of this wonderful coachbuilt beauty are the iconic Bentley shuttered chrome grille and radiator mascot, twin fender-mounted mirrors, the highly correct engine and engine compartment, formal rear landau irons, luxuriously appointed rear passenger compartment, and red disc-type wheels. History is well documented in the book “Bentley Mk VI” by Bernard King and The Flying Lady, with relevant pages and entries copied and on file with the car. A lovely and eminently usable custom coachbuilt Bentley, this extremely rare 1949 Bentley Mk VI Sedanca de Ville by Gurney Nutting will be ideal for casual touring enjoyment or serve as an excellent basis for a full concours-level restoration – the choice is yours!
Offers welcome and trades considered