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R-Type Continental Franay Coupe
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  Bentley R-Type Continental Franay Coupe      

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Country of origin:Great Britain
Produced in:1955
Numbers built:1
Introduced at:1955 Paris Auto Salon
Designed by:Franay
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:January 28, 2015
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Click here to download printer friendly versionAt £7,300, the Bentley R-Type Continental was the most expensive sports car in the world when it was introduced in 1952. As the name suggests, it was based on the R-Type and was intended to be the range-topping, high-performance Grand Tourer that would top Bentley's range. Compared to the 'standard' model, the R-Type Continental benefitted from a lightened construction and a more powerful version of the Rolls-Royce sourced engine.

Like the 'standard' R-Type Bentley, introduced in 1951 to replace the Mk VI, the Continental was built on a straightforward steel frame. This was, however, lightened where possible. Independent suspension was fitted at the front, while the rear-end featured a live axle. The straight six engine from the R-Type was fitted with a high compression head, raising power to around 158 bhp. Initially a four-speed manual was the only option but by 1953 a GM-sourced Hydramatic automatic gearbox became available.

Bentley offered the R-Type Continental as a rolling chassis to be bodied by the customers' coach-builder of choice. The very first and a majority of the rest were clothed by HJ Mulliner with a fastback coupe body styled by Stanley Watts, who was influenced by windtunnel tests conducted by Rolls-Royce. Many years later, tests with an actual car showed that the Fastback Coupe was not quite as slippery as it looked. Among the other coach-builders that worked their magic on the Continental were the likes of Park Ward, Pinin Farina and Franay, sometimes using the lightweight panels and other components like the special seats supplied by Mulliner.

The first R-Type Continental was ready in the second half of 1951 but production did not get under way until the start of 1952. When the R-Type was superseded by the S1 in 1955, a Continental version was also developed but it is not as highly regarded as the original. During the four-year production period, five distinct evolution can be identified; A through E. Launched together with the Hydramatic gearbox, the C series of 1953 is the most popular. The D and E models received a slightly larger and more powerful engine, which was also retrofitted to some earlier cars.

By the summer of 1955, Bentley had produced 208 R-Type Continentals. In addition to being the most expensive car on sale at the time, it was also the fastest production four-seater car with a top speed of over 190 km/h. Combining speed, style and luxury, the R-Type Continental today ranks among the most sought after of all Bentley and is still considered the marque's finest post-War model.

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