If ever there was a car that was cursed—no, not in the sense of Christina, but doomed from the get-go—it had to be the 1939 Bentley Corniche. The Corniche was based on a private commission from Greek racer Andre Embiricos and was designed by French designer Georges Paulin. It featured body work by Parisian coachbuilder Vanvooren, and was intended to be a high-performance version of the MkV saloon. It had a streamlined aerodynamic and a lightweight shell combined with a tuned up version of the MkV engine. All of that made it possible for the Corniche to top 100 miles per hour in testing.
And that’s where the curse comes in. During a test run in Franche on July 9, 1939, the Corniche was hit by a bus. A month later, it was cut off and swerved off the road and hit a tree, which sent it rolling. The chassis was removed while the body was being repaired. After being repaired in the Bentley Headquarters in Crewe, England, the chassis was set to be shipped back but was destroyed in a bombing of Dieppe during the first parts of World War II.
Despite never having gone into production, the Corniche still had a strong influence on Bentley. “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,” explains Adrian Hallmark, chairman and chief executive for Bentley. “It is a pivotal car in the history of Bentley.
As a part of their centenary celebration, Bentley’s Mulliner division has recreated the Corniche down to the minutest detail. The division went so far as to re-create the production process, using original Corniche and MkV mechanical components and following the original technical drawings. They completely remade the body, painting it in Imperial Maroon for the exterior and Heather Grey for the interior trim. The car will make its first appearance at Salon Prive at Blenheim Palace in September—that is if it doesn’t get hit by a bus or get blown up before then. Hopefully this version has better luck than the original.