Lost 1939 Bentley Corniche recreated after 80 years for centenary celebrations

By: Lucinda Nguyen, Unique Cars magazine

Presented by

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Bentley has recreated a one-of-a-kind Corniche 80 years after it was destroyed in WWII

This 1939 Corniche is the missing link between some of Bentley’s most significant models, according to the firm, correlating to the fabled Embiricos 4¼ Litre and post-war R Type Continental. Bentley has since recreated the one-of-a-kind design 80 years after the original was lost.

Corniche-6.jpgCreated as a sporting variant of the existing range and privately commissioned by Greek racer André Embiricos, it was formed on the old 4¼ Litre chassis. The Corniche was developed to be a high performance version of the advanced 1939 MkV saloon that was expected to debut in October that year.


World War II saw the original prototype lost. It had been a collaboration between Bentley, Georges Paulin (who designed the bodywork) and Carrosserie Vanvooren (the coachbuilder).


The original was given a lightweight chassis, constructed from thinner than the standard gauge steel adapted to accommodate the Mark V engine harmonized to an overdrive gearbox.

After completion in May 1939, it was tested at the high-speed Brooklands race circuit, where it was recorded exceeding 100mph (a mighty 160km/h), undoubtedly faster than the standard MkV.

It was sent to France for road testing, where it was damaged in a collision with a bus. In July 1939 it was transported back to Vanvooren for repairs and body improvements.


Repairs were completed on August 8, and the Corniche was collected by a Bentley test driver and taken to Chateauroux to be tested. However, when nearing the headquarters, a car pulled in front of the Corniche and compelled the driver to swerve and hit a tree.

Rolled onto its side, the car was again severely damaged. Because the Corniche was set to be presented at the Earls Court and Paris motor shows that year, the body was hastily removed from the chassis, and the chassis quickly returned to Crewe, Bentley's headquarters.


The body framework was sent to a local repair shop in France. Once fixed, it was shipped back home to reunite with the chassis in time for the shows. However, there was an administrative failure at the docks where the Corniche body was stationed, waiting to be shipped. This resulted in a delay to transport, and was destroyed in a bombing raid on Dieppe.

That string of disasters left Bentley with just the initial technical drawings, if the car was to be remade.

Recreated in Crewe by Mulliner, this Corniche is a faithful replica of the original and was part of a larger project leading up to the marque's centenary.


According to Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark: "The 1939 Corniche was a clear step in Bentley’s design language which is evident when set aside the later and now iconic R Type Continental. It is a pivotal car in the history of Bentley, demonstrating that even then, this great British marque was at the cutting edge of design and technology. Mulliner’s stunning recreation of the Corniche clearly demonstrates our skill in restoring the greats from Bentley’s back catalogue as well as making beautiful personalised modern Bentleys." 


The Bentley centenary celebrations launched in Crewe in August this year, at the Salon Prive Concours d’Elegance at Blenheim Palace. The 1939 Bentley Corniche was debuted in September, before joining in other global events and exhibitions. 


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