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The Bentley Mark VI 4-door standard steel sports saloon was the first post-war luxury car from Bentley. Bond purchases a Bentley Mark VI - his second Bentley - towards the end of the novel, Moonraker.
Announced in May 1946 and produced from 1946 to 1952 it was also both the first car from Rolls-Royce with all-steel coachwork and the first complete car assembled and finished at their factory. These very expensive cars were a genuine success, long-term their weakness lay in the inferior steels forced on them by government's post-war controls. Chassis continued to be supplied to independent coachbuilders.
This Bentley factory finished car was given the name Bentley Mark VI standard steel sports saloon. This shorter wheelbase chassis and engine was a variant of the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith of 1946 and, with the same standard steel body and a larger boot became the cautiously introduced Silver Dawn of 1949. The same extended-boot modification was made to the Mark VI body in 1952 and the result became known as the R type Bentley.
Mark VI engines and chassis were modified to provide higher performance and sold to be bodied by selected coachbuilders as the first Bentley Continentals, the most expensive production cars in the world and the world's fastest 4/5-seater saloons.
Design and performance
The Mark VI 4 ¼-litre used an F-head straight-6 engine 4.3 L (4,257 cc/259 cu in) in size. The manufacturer refused to disclose a horse power value for the car (other than Tax Horsepower of 29.4 hp according to the old RAC formula) but an Autocar Magazine road test reproduced in 1950 reported that top gear provided "flexibiity down to 6 mph (10 km/h)" and the ability to "climb a hill of 1 in 9 maximum gradient, complicated by bends", all of which supported the manufacturer's contention that power, along with low speed torque, were adequate.
In 1951, a 4 ¼-litre, 4.6 L (4,566 cc/278 cu in) version of the engine was introduced and then referred to as the big bore engine. A four-speed syncromesh manual transmission was fitted with the change lever to the right of the driver on right hand drive cars and on the column on left hand drive versions.
4 ¼-litre cars had chassis numbers from B 1 AJ through B 400 LJ, with the final two letters indicating the series in which it was built. The "big bore" cars serial numbers begin with B 1 MB (although B 2 MD was the first big bore Mark VI built) and ended with B 300 PV (although B 301 PU was the last one built). Each alphabetic series only contained either even or odd numbers, and 13 was always skipped for the odd-numbered sequences.
The 4.3 L was referred to as the 4 ¼} L and can be quickly identified from its single exhaust. The 4.6 L is known as the 4½} L and features a twin exhaust.
Chassis and running gear
The chassis used leaf springs at the rear and independent coil springing at the front with a control on the steering wheel centre to adjust the hardness of the rear springing by hydraulically adjusting the rear dampers. A pedal-operated central lubrication system allowing oil to be applied to moving parts of the suspension from a central reservoir was fitted. The 12.25 in (311 mm) drum brakes were assisted by the traditional Rolls-Royce mechanical servo.
The standard steel factory body
Towards the end of the war Car Division of Rolls-Royce prepared this postwar car to have its own factory-supplied bodywork, all-steel so it could be exported all over the world. The factory bodies with a Gurney-Nutting-Blatchley refined shape were made by Pressed Steel Ltd of Coventry and sent to the Bentley works at Crewe for painting and fitting out with traditional wood and leather. They featured rear hinged "suicide" doors at the front with concealed hinges, a sliding sunroof, a permanently closed windscreen with a defrosting and demisting unit hidden in the scuttle and an electrically controlled heater beneath the front passenger's seat. Twin screenwipers were fitted and provision was made for the fitting of a radio with a short and flexibly mounted aerial that could be swung up above the centre of the screen.
A 4.6-litre, factory bodied car tested by The Motor magazine in 1951 had a top speed of 100 mph (160 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 15.0 seconds. A fuel consumption of 16.5 miles per imperial gallon (17.1 L/100 km; 13.7 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £4,473 including taxes
James Bond's Bentley Mark VI
- "The 1953 Mark VI had an open touring body. It was battleship grey like the old 4½ litre that had gone to its grave in a Maidstone garage, and the dark blue leather upholstery gave a luxurious hiss as he climbed awkwardly in beside the test driver." 
In the early novels Bond's one true love was the 1933 Bentley 4½ Litre. After this was destroyed, he used his gambling winnings to buy a 1953 Bentley Mark VI with a Coachbuilt, 2 door, open touring body. Griswold notes that this car would have been fitted with the 4,556 cc engine. Like his previous Bentley, the Mark VI is battleship grey with dark blue leather upholstery. Its time in the novels is brief; consisting of a test drive scene where Bond buys the car on the condition that the test driver brings the vehicle to the ferry terminal at Calais by the following evening. After Moonraker the Mark VI is never mentioned again.
- ↑ First Post-War Bentley. The Times, Thursday, May 23, 1946; pg. 7; Issue 50459; col C From our motoring correspondent
The first post-war Bentley model, known as the 4 ¼-litre Mark VI, will be ready next month. It is an improved version of the 1939 car, and experimental models have been tested for several years, one having covered over 100, 000 miles. Modifications include: a new frontal appearance; overhead inlet and side exhaust valves; chromium plated cylinder bores; independent front suspension by helical springs; a new and stronger chassis frame; a divided propeller shaft which eliminates the need for a tunnel in the floor boards; and improved brakes.
In the past Bentley Motors have made chassis only but the Mark VI will be sold as a complete four door sports saloon at £2,997 including purchase tax. Other models will be available with coachwork by Park Ward, James Young and H J Mulliner at prices from £3,450 to £3,910. The chassis alone costs £1,785.
- ↑ Nutland, Martyn (2007). Bentley MkVI: Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, Silver Dawn & Silver Cloud, Bentley R-series & S-series. Dorchester, UK: Veloce Publishing, 92. ISBN 978-1-845840-68-6.
- ↑ Display Advertising: Announcing Important New Developments The Times, Friday, Sep 19, 1952; pg. 3; Issue 52421; col F
- ↑ (1950) "4¼-litre Bentley Mark VI Saloon (road test)". Autocar Road tests compendium.
- ↑ Nutland, Martyn (1997). "Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, Silver Dawn & Silver Cloud. Bentley MkVI, R-series & S-series". Dorchester, UK: Veloce Publishing.
- ↑ (October 10, 1951) "The Bentley Mark VI Saloon". The Motor.
- ↑ Fleming, Ian (2004). Moonraker. Kent, UK: Penguin Books, pp.243-244. ISBN 978-0-1411-8756-3.
- ↑ Griswold, John (2006). Ian Fleming's James Bond: Annotations And Chronologies for Ian Fleming's Bond Stories. AuthorHouse, p.116. ISBN 978 1 4259 3100 1.