Monday, December 7, 2015

Bentley R-Type Continental: Oldsmobile Styling?

In the 1953 Fawcett Book Sports Car Album, John Wheelock Freeman made the following remarks regarding the Bentley R-Type Continental:

* * * * *
The Continental Sports [Saloon] is, frankly, a snob-appeal car.  From the first, its makers unabashedly publicized it as being for the rare discriminating owner who combines unlimited driving skill with an unlimited bank balance.  Production is limited to one per month, for export only, although this situation may change.  Bodywork is a two-door five passenger closed coupé, built in special light alloy by H. J. Mulliner, whose mother seems to have been frightened by a '51 Chevrolet shortly before H. J.'s birth.  The windshield is curved in the worst American style, is placed disturbingly far from the driver.  If you don't like this piece of work, you can take your chassis in a huff to the nearest Italian coachbuilder.
* * * * *

Freeman was a consultant for the 1953 Museum of Modern Art "10 Automobiles" exhibit -- but perhaps not for the famous 1951 8 Automobiles that featured an Army Jeep along with a Cord, a Cisitalia (lent by Freeman) and others.  And if you read his 1953 book, you might detect more than a whiff of elitism, if not snobbery.

For more on the car, built 1952-55, link here (scroll down).

But what of the connection Freeman made regarding Bentley Continental and General Motors styling?


1949 Oldsmobile 98 Club Sedan advertising
Rather than the 1951 Chevrolet, I think the '49 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Club Sedan's styling is closest to the Bentley's.  Its design appeared for the 1948 model year and featured a horizontal chromed strip along the front fender and front door that aligned with the strip on the rear fender.  This was removed for 1949 98s, making for a better comparison to the Bentley.

1952 Bentley R-Type Continental (unknown photo source)
Perhaps the strongest resemblance is from the side.  The cars are 2-door models with fastback styling.  They feature a front fender that sweeps across the door, connecting to a separate rear fender.  General impression aside, details do not correspond.

1949 Oldsmobile 98 Club Sedan (unknown photo source)

1952 Bentley R-Type Continental - Fiskens sales photo
The front ends are considerably different in part because the Bentley retains its traditional grille along with headlamps placed close by.

1949 Oldsmobile 98 Club Sedan (unknown photo source)

1955 Bentley R-Type Continental - RM Auctions photo
Fastback styling differs considerably in that the the Bentley's back is a broad expanse, whereas the Oldsmobile's tapers towards the center with catwalks filling the space to the rear fenders.  The latter are raised over nearby sheet metal at the very rear in both cases, another superficial similarity.

Its sarcasm aside, Freeman's point has some validity.  The Continental, aside from the front ensemble, looks far more American than English, circa very early 1950s.

No comments: