BENTLEY MK V1 – 1951. – OAE 373.

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 coach-builders including Bentley & Rolls Royce.

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 1951.

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.

The Mark VI 41⁄4 litre used an F-head straight-6 engine 4.3L 4,257ccin 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 “flexibility down to 6 mph 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 and that the car was still capable of a top speed of around 75 mph.

The Mark VI Bentley was introduced at a time of steel shortage across Europe which translated into a serious shortage of new cars for sale on the UK market. A Used Car report in 1951 of a three year old example with 10,450 miles on the odometer noted that a car which had, when new, retailed for £4,538 including sales taxes, was now offered for sale at £5,635. This was seen as a comment on the quality of the car but also on the continuing shortage of cars for sale of this quality in the UK.

OAE 373 was built by the Rolls Royce factory in Crewe where at that time the Bentley & Rolls Royce cars were built in the same factory on the 15th January 1951.