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The Bentley Mark VI 4-door standard steel sports saloon was the first post-war luxury car from Bentley, under the ownership of Rolls-Royce Ltd. After his first Bentley is destroyed, James Bond purchases a Bentley Mark VI towards the end of Ian Fleming's 1955 novel, Moonraker. While the vehicle is not mentioned again in Fleming's writings, it made an appearance in Anthony Horowitz's 2015 James Bond continuation novel Trigger Mortis, set in the aftermath of Goldfinger.

Overview

The Bentley Mark VI was announced in May 1946[1] and produced until 1952. As with all Bentleys produced from 1931 to 2004, the Mark VI was effectively a badge-engineered Rolls-Royce, using inherited or shared Rolls-Royce chassis, and an adapted Rolls-Royce engine.[2] The vehicle was both the first car from Rolls-Royce with all-steel coachwork and the first complete car assembled and finished at their Crewe factory.[3][4] 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[5] and the result became known as the R type Bentley.

The Mark VI 4 ¼-litre used an F-head straight-6 engine 4.3 L (4,257 cc/259 cu in) in size. 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.[6] The chassis used leaf springs at the rear and independent coil springing at the front. A control on the steering wheel centre adjusts the hardness of the rear springing by hydraulically adjusting the rear dampers.[7] The vehicle 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.

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.[8] 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[9]

Appearances

Moonraker (novel)

"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." [10]

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. Author and 007 commentator John Griswold notes that this car would have been fitted with the 4,556 cc engine.[11] 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 in Fleming's fiction.

Trigger Mortis

It would later re-appear in Anthony Horowitz's 2015 continuation novel Trigger Mortis, set in the aftermath of Goldfinger. In the novel, 007 reflects on being forced to surrender the brand new Mark VI for a week to Q Branch at M's behest, who had added a few accessories of their own - an alarm button with a geographical position transmitter, run-flat tyres, bullet-proof windows and a secret panel (for concealing his firearm) in the glove compartment.[12] The novel also notes that by the time of its events, 007 had not yet had time to add the Amherst Villiers supercharger that he favored.[12] By the end of the novel, the vehicle's hidden features save 007's life after he is ambushed in London by vengeful SMERSH operative, Ivan Dimitrov. Unarmed and held at gunpoint, Bond is saved from the assassin's first bullet by the car's bullet-proof door window, which shatters, but provides Bond the opportunity he needs to grab his PPK from the compartment and shoot Dimitrov dead.

Trivia

  • 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.

See also

References

  1. 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.
  2. Sewell, Brian. "New Bentley is a drive in the wrong direction", 13 July 2004. Retrieved on 5 April 2013. 
  3. Crewe's Rolls-Royce Factory From Old Photographs by Peter Ollerhead and Tony Flood, republished electronically 2013 by Amberley Publishing of Stroud, Gloucestershire, England
  4. Ollerhead, P. (2013). Crewe's Rolls-Royce Factory From Old Photographs. Amberley Publishing. ISBN 9781445627649. Retrieved on 5 October 2014. 
  5. Display Advertising: Announcing Important New Developments The Times, Friday, Sep 19, 1952; pg. 3; Issue 52421; col F
  6. Taylor, James (2008). Original Rolls-Royce & Bentley 1946-65: The Restorer's Guide to the 'standard' saloons and mainstream coachbuilt derivatives (Original Series). Herridge & Sons Ltd., p.29. ISBN 9781906133061. 
  7. Nutland, Martyn (2007). Bentley MkVI: Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith, Silver Dawn & Silver Cloud, Bentley R-series & S-series. Veloce Publishing.
  8. 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. 
  9. (October 10, 1951) "The Bentley Mark VI Saloon". The Motor.
  10. Fleming, Ian (2004). Moonraker. Kent, UK: Penguin Books, pp.243-244. ISBN 978-0-1411-8756-3. 
  11. 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. 
  12. 12.0 12.1 Horowitz, Anthony (2015). "Chapter 3: Back to School", Trigger Mortis (in English). Hachette UK, p.39. ISBN 9781409159155.