1947 Bentley Mark VI Saloon Coachwork by Vanden Plas Registration no. JLO 945 Chassis no. B294BH Engine no. B147B
The policy of rationalisation begun in the late 1930s continued at Rolls-Royce after the war with the introduction of standard bodywork on the Mark VI Bentley. Rolls-Royce's first post-WW2 product, the Mark VI was introduced in 1946, a year ahead of the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. Although mechanically similar to the Mark VI, the latter was exclusively a coachbuilt car, the first 'standard steel' Rolls-Royce, the Silver Dawn, not appearing until 1949. A separate chassis was retained, the same basic design being built in three different wheelbase lengths, that of the Mark VI (and Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn) measuring 10' exactly. Notable features were independent front suspension and hydraulic front brakes. Powering the range was a new 4,257cc six-cylinder engine featuring 'F head' (inlet-over-exhaust) valve gear that permitted the use of larger valves than the pre-war overhead-valve unit with a consequent improvement in gas flow. As a concession to the marque's sporting pedigree, the Bentley version was equipped with twin SU carburettors, the Rolls making do with a single Stromberg. The Mark VI was a genuine 90mph car while its interior was typically well appointed, boasting leather upholstery and walnut dashboard and door cappings, while the right-hand manual gear change was a characteristically pre-war inheritance.
Despite the popularity of the 'standard steel' body, a coachbuilt alternative remained the preferred choice of many customers. Indeed, if one's preference was for an open car it was the only option, there being no factory-built convertible in either the Rolls-Royce or Bentley range at this time. Delivered new in December 1947 to Major W R Norman of Pickwell Manor, Melton Mowbray, chassis number 'B294BH' carries saloon coachwork by Vanden Plas. London-based coachbuilder Vanden Plas had forged its not inconsiderable reputation by a most fortuitous alliance with Bentley, bodying some 700-or-so of the latter's chassis during the 1920s, including the Le Mans team cars. The firm survived Bentley's demise and resurrection under Rolls-Royce ownership, diversifying into other makes and resuming the relationship with its old partner to produce some of the most sublime designs on the 'Derby' and post-war Bentley chassis.
The Bentley's next owner, from 1958, was Beresford Willings of instrument makers Alfred Willings & Co, West Hartlepool followed by Arthur Dudley Johns of Leigh Sinton, Malvern, from 1979. Johns was followed by one Robert Jewery of Hutton, Brentwood, from 1999, and then the current owner, who acquired the car in 2005. Since acquisition the Bentley has benefited from considerable expenditure on maintenance and servicing. Works carried out include fitting a new radiator, overhauled water pump and new exhaust system (2008); reconditioning the shock absorbers, repainting the body, re-plating the brightwork, and fitting new carpets and headlining (2009); and refurbishing the carburettors, fitting new spark plugs and points, renewing the tyres, overhauling the rear suspension, and re-upholstering the seats and door cards with Connolly leather (2014). The most recent works, carried out this year, include overhauling the front suspension and fitting a new fuel gauge sender unit. All bills associated with the aforementioned works are on file and the car also comes with a quantity of expired MoT certificates and a V5C registration document. It should be noted that the odometer has not worked for some considerable time, as all MoTs since 1984 show the same mileage (72,166). The vendor estimates that he has covered a little over 100 miles in the Bentley since 2005.