Bentley only built a single example of the 1939 Corniche. Sadly, the car's body was wiped off the map during a World War II bombing raid in France. But with a little bit of ingenuity and elbow grease -- OK, a lot of it -- Bentley brought the car back to life.
Bentley announced on Thursday that it has recreated the 1939 Corniche from the ground up. With the help of Bentley's Mulliner bespoke department, the company assembled the 1939 Corniche using nothing but original technical drawings and human skill.
The process started in 2001, when former Bentley director Ken Lea attempted to use as many original parts as possible to rebuild the '39 Corniche, as some of the parts in question were used to make later Corniche vehicles. However, in 2008, the project ran out of money. Bentley itself came to the rescue with investment funds, at which point the team began to recreate the car's ash wood frame and aluminum body panels. The latter were constructed with the help of Ashley & James, an English coachbuilding outfit, using the outline drawings created by the car's original designer.
Eventually, Bentley Motors requested that the rebuild become an in-house project using Mulliner's expertise. Ken Lea still helped oversee the project once it moved under Bentley's wing, with many dedicating their personal time to the project. The paint time used original descriptions to try and match its two-tone paint as perfectly as possible. Even the carpet was recreated using an old roll of material from storage. The result looks stunning.
The original Corniche was a commission from Greek race car driver André Embiricos, but Bentley soon decided that it had an interest in producing a high-performance variant of its MkV saloon car. It was completed in May 1939, eventually traveling to France for road testing, where following a bus accident and subsequent restoration, the car struck a tree and again needed repair. The chassis went back to Bentley in England, but the body remained in France, where it was destroyed in a bombing raid on Dieppe.
Bentley will proudly display its latest creation at the Salon Prive Concours d'Elegance in the UK in September. After that, it'll join Bentley's heritage fleet, where it will be shown off at various events around the world.