As the country slowly reverted to a peacetime economy, in May Rolls-Royce moved its Motor Division out of Derby to a facility it had established at Crewe in Cheshire for the purpose of building Spitfire engines. Pyms Lane was to become the longest ever serving home to the marque, as it remains so today. The motor manufacturers of Great Britain woke up to a new reality, with a completely new and ultra-punitive taxation culture - a direct consequence of the massive debt that the country had run up in order to defeat fascism. In this austere climate, Rolls-Royce was faced with a massive challenge to which it rose with great credit and foresight when it launched the Mk VI. This model employed a six-cylinder 4¼-litre engine of 'F' head design, in a hefty chassis fitted with independent front suspension.
The Mk VI was designed as a mass-production model in order to earn the Company as much hard currency as possible. With this in mind, for the first time ever, it produced a model with a standard steel saloon body, although rolling chassis could be purchased and delivered to a customer's coachbuilder to be fitted with a body designed to his or her personal specification, as every Bentley produced prior to 1940 had been. The great success of this model ensured sufficient breathing space for the parent Company to re-establish its presence in the post-war motoring world.
This year 24-hour racing returned to Le Mans after a ten-year break and with it a Bentley joining the other 36 cars entered. After a faultless and unflurried run, Soltan Hay and Tommy Wisdom brought the 1938 Embiricos 4¼ Litre home in sixth place. This car returned in both 1950 and '51, finishing 14th and 22nd, respectively. Eddie Hall brought his Derby out of retirement in 1950 and, fitted with a streamlined coupe body, it finished eighth.
Having bored out the Mk VI engine to 4½ litres the previous year, a revision for the model resulted in the launch of the R Type variant, named on account of the chassis number suffix range reaching the letter R.
The Company had also been working on a special lightweight, tuned, version which would achieve 120mph - a quite remarkable achievement for a full four-seater at that time. This was the ubiquitous R Type Continental, a stunning ultra-fast trans-Continental tourer, clothed in the most eye-catching of coachwork; the fastback, designed by HJ Mulliner, was marketed as the fastest production four-seater in the world. Some 208 were built and they represent a pinnacle for the marque post-war (more information is available at www.continental.org.uk).
The launch of the S Series, utilising at first the six-cylinder engine, was now up to 4.9 litres and mounted in a new chassis, with a Continental version for the more sporty-minded customers. This model marked the use of the automatic gearbox as standard, with very few chassis now fitted with a manual box.
With the introduction of the new, in-house designed V8 of 6.2 litres displacement, the S became the S2, which incorporated yet more changes to the basic chassis design.
With sales of Bentleys experiencing something of a gradual decline, and the introduction of the Silver Shadow and its Bentley variant, the T Type, the following decade and a half probably marked the lowest fortunes ever for the Bentley marque. The T Type could only ever be described as a badge-engineered option to its parent model and sales reflected this situation when compared to those of the Silver Shadow.
However, the important step forward was the introduction of a monocoque construction chassis, all-round disc brakes, independent suspension at both ends with hydraulic self levelling and much more. The Company recognised, as it still does today, what a gem of a powerplant it had in the V8.
The T series became the T2 in 1977, and variations on this model included the Corniche.
Due to severe loss-making within the aero division, the motor division was separated from the parent Company under its own management and became known as Rolls-Royce Motor Cars.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was put into the hands of the receiver.
The original monocoque design of the T Series was reworked, the engine bored out to 6¾ litres. For Bentley the new model was launched as the Mulsanne. Sales of the Mulsanne were, initially, slow, but salvation was just around the corner. Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Ltd was sold to Vickers.
Marque afficionados would generally agree that this period saw the revival of the Bentley marque. Principally due to the efforts of the then Chief Executive, David Plastow, and the development team under John Hollings, the V8 engine in the Mulsanne acquired a turbocharger, which transformed the car's performance. However, whilst this massive car could be propelled to very high top speeds extremely quickly, it was not capable of carrying that speed comfortably enough through corners, as little work had been done on the running gear of the standard chassis.
In response to the criticisms levelled at the Mulsanne Turbo, dramatic improvements to the running gear were implemented and the Turbo R was born (R standing for roadholding). Initially producing around 320bhp, 400lbs/ft torque, combined with ever-improving roadholding capabilities and enhanced tuning packages as the model was developed, this car put new life back into the name Bentley. Sales, now comfortably outstripping the parent marque, testified to this.
To take full advantage in the revival enjoyed by the marque, the Company re-launched the Continental, building a two-door, two-seater of dramatic proportions on the Turbo R platform. These employed a 385bhp, rising to 420bhp, tuned version of the V8, and the two-door concept led, in 1995, to the drophead Azure.
A pivotal year for Bentley. The first major event was the launch of the new model, the Arnage, powered by a 4½-litre BMW engine, a reflection of the increasing closeness of the German company to Rolls-Royce. In that year, Vickers, the owners of the car company, put it up for sale and, after a two-way battle, Volkswagen won - albeit losing the Rolls-Royce marque to BMW in a curious twist to the takeover and resulting from Rolls-Royce plc's ultimate ownership of the name Rolls-Royce. The terms were that VW would gain control of Bentley, the factory at Crewe and all the company assets, along with Rolls production for the next four years. However, BMW would take direct control of Rolls-Royce on 1 January 2003.
Having announced a major investment in Crewe of some £500 million, the first outward impact of VW's ownership was the re-introduction of the original V8 into the Arnage, becoming the Red Label version. This proved a popular move with customers, despite the practical difficulties endured by the engineers at Crewe to achieve it. News also started to leak out about plans for a new model to be launched in 2003.
The latest version of the Arnage, the T, was launched, with a considerably improved package, including the ever-reliable V8 tweaked to produce 440bhp.
The new Continental GT broke cover at various motor shows around the world with deliveries expected to commence in the autumn. This was also the last year that the Continental R Type would be built.
In April, Bentley Motors announced that more than 3,200 firm orders had been placed for the new Continental GT.