Here Is Why Bentley Calls Its Coupe The “Continental” | Nostalgia

If there is a brand that is synonymous to grand touring cars, it is irrefutably Bentley. Of all Bentley models, the “Continentals” are legendary and gracious, meant for motoring at speed, in style, safety, and comfort, typically what grand tourers are made for. Bentley, at present, is promoting the 2016 Continental GT Speed by nostalgically invoking the original Bentley R-type Continental, the first of the ‘winged’ models to bear the “Continental” nameplate way back in 1952. Since then, the continentals have constantly undergone many transformations with every new models, but conspicuously retaining a particular trait. If you get that peculiarity right, you get to know why they are called as the “Continental”. Any guesses??

Definitely, they are not ‘Continental’ because they come with cold buffet of fruits and cereals! Bentleys are legendarily belongs to the British Isle, so not continental Europe as well. The real reason for being ‘Continental’ can be easily inferred from the latest Continental GT’s promotional website write up that goes as following:

“The luxury of spontaneity – the freedom to take to the open road on your own terms. No other car on the road today exemplifies the spirit of life’s grand tour more than the Bentley Continental GT.”

Bentley’s coupes are as a rule designed to traverse entire continents in absolute speed and comfort. They are the ultimate ‘Grand Tourers’ capable of high speed and spirited long-distance driving. This is pretty much the peculiar trait of the Bentley Continentals – open-road touring across continents. And they have always done justice to their claim, from the first, original R-type Continental to the latest Continental GT Speed. A little dose of its history and evolution will prove the case in point.


Bentley R-type Continental was famous for its punchy engine and lowered suspension

Following the World War II, Bentley resumed its production of civilian cars with the R-type Continentals in 1952, after relocating from Derby to Crewe in England. The Continental was based on the original R-Type saloon, retaining its 4.6-liter inline-six engine producing 153 hp and shared several components. But it replaced the four-door bodywork with an altogether more elegant, dynamic 3-door coupe design, thereby world’s first grand tourer. The 1,700 kg car cruised at a top speed of 190 km/h, fastest four-passenger vehicle of its day.

The R-Type Continental’s chassis was independently produced and sold to custom coach-builders for hand-built aluminium coach work, prominent ones being H.J. Mulliner & Co (Bentley’s customization department named after him), Park Ward, Franay, Grabar, and Pininfarina. The car was expensive and exclusive, only about 208 were built in total, most of them being right-hand drive models. Later in 1955, Bentley built 49 units of custom-built Continental S1 models. Four years later, Continental S2 debuted with a new L Series V8 engine whose off-shoots are still used in contemporary Bentleys like the Mulsanne. The Continental S3, for its part, was unique by its four-headlamps in the front wings. These second generation Continentals ended in 1965, replaced by Bentley T Series. The Continental nameplate would not be revived until 1984.


Bentley Continentals are the ultimate ‘Grand Tourers’ capable of high speed and spirited long-distance driving.

The Continental proved to be well-liked and fashionable among the elites; it out-sold Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn (that shared platform and components with the R-type) by three to one. During those decades, the Continental range was famous for its punchy engine and lowered suspensions, which gave an edge over its rivals with extreme performance needed for high-speed touring. The coupe’s distinctive angle-free, lightweight design also helped establish Bentley as reliable grand tourers.

The R-type Continental became one of the most sought-after Bentleys of all times, including till date – an unrestored 1952 R Type Continental was sold for over $1 million USD this year at a Barons auction. It is undeniably one of the most beautiful Bentley ever made. The company says that it is in that spirit which the latest Continental GT Speed has been conceived and built, as the fastest production Bentley ever made. This ain’t new for luxury automakers calling up their own histories to highlight their glorious pasts and relating their nostalgia to their current ventures.

Also Read: Luxury Carmakers Stir Up Their Own History To Appeal Buyers

The 2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed boasts a top speed of 331 km/h, and is driven by a 6.0-litre, W-12 twin-turbo engine pumping out 626 hp of max power and 820 Nm of torque. It features variable power assisted steering, thereby optimising fuel economy and reduced emissions and the drive remains precise through the most demanding corner. Bentley’s ultimate two-door coupé sprints from idle to 100 km/h in just four seconds.

2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed

2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed

For those who loves to drive across continents and mountains – far and fast – and yet insist on absolute luxury, the Continental GT Speed is the only reliable option – just like the Continental R-type six decades ago.

Dhiyanesh Ravichandran

Dhiyanesh is equally crazy about driving cars and writing about them. This guy loves everything with a steering wheel, so, at someday if self-driving cars take up all driving, he is sure to go nuts! He likes sedans of 90s era, esp W140 S-Class and R34 Skyline GT. Apart from usual motoring stuffs, he maintains a strong appetite for sociological perspectives on cars, their historical and cultural footprints. He owns a 1999 Fiat Siena passionately, and drives a Ford Fiesta.