Bentley S2 Continental – 1959

The Bentley Continental S1 had done well for Rolls-Royce — as did the companion Silver Shadow I — but times they were a-changing. In particular, the bell tolled for the venerable straight-six F-head, for Rolls introduced a 6.2 liter aluminum V8 that immediately went into uprated Bentley S2s and Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud IIs.

These powerful grand tourers were ideal for their era. Motorways, autoroutes, autobahns and autostrada were proliferating all over Europe with speed limits no more than a cloud on the horizon. The large, heavy S2 was more than capable of taking full advantage, cruising at high speed for hours on end — an attribute appreciated by wealthy owners and envied by drivers of most contemporary mass-produced cars. But the new engine was teamed with an old-fashioned chassis and servo-assisted drum brakes (at least now boasting four shoes) reminiscent of the Edwardian era. It would not be long before the S3 arrived to address some of those deficiencies.

In the meantime, that old-fashioned chassis allowed the S2’s Continental derivative to enjoy the stylish addition of hand-build custom bodywork, though creative coachbuilders were coming under pressure from the rise and rise of monocoque construction. But they could still deliver the goods. H J Mulliner offered traditional elegance, producing the famous ‘Flying Spur’ — a six-light design considered to be one of the most handsome large saloons ever. Mulliner was equally at home with the two-door coupe, though Park Ward specialized in attractive fixed and drophead coupes and other coachbuilders like James Young gatecrashed the Continental party.

The S-series would be the last real opportunity for these superb coachbuilders to strut their stuff, and the S2 Continentals are regarded as the best of the best — having more power and flexibility than S1s without the added weight of S3s.

COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:

UK

FIRST MANUFACTURED:

1959 (until 1962)

ENGINE:

6,230 cc 014V V8

PERFORMANCE:

Top speed of 120 mph (185 km/h); 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 11.4 secs

YOU SHOULD KNOW.

Rolls-Royce could have its cake and eat it with the S2 Continental – for both the coachbuilder entrusted with creating the closed bodies (H J Mulliner) and the company tasked with developing the open bodies (Park Ward) were actually owned by Rolls-Royce.

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