Bentley Continental S2 V8
Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 4
In 1955 Bentley released the wonderful S type, fitted with an enlarged six-cylinder engine. But there was even better in store when, in 1959, Bentley released the first of the V8 Continentals.
These new V8 models were built by H.J. Mulliner and Park Ward, and naturally followed the introduction of the new Rolls Royce V8 engine (as fitted to the Silver Cloud 2 and Phantom V). There were several body types, notably the Mulliner two-door hardtop and Park Ward drophead coupe, which joined the H.J. Mulliner Flying Spur four-door Continental saloon.
Again using aluminium construction, the Continentals had every creature comfort known to man (at the time) fitted as standard kit. The new four-shoe front brakes
were, for the first time on a Bentley, self-adjusting. The new forged wishbone suspension
set-up developed by the Rolls-Royce engineers also found its way onto the V8 Continentals.
From a styling perspective, the fins on the rear wings disappeared, while the front wings, which formerly had a rather complicated lamp housing, were of a plainer and more simplistic design.
Owing to some minor chassis changes concerned with mounting the new engine, the radiator
shell was moved forward a little over 2 inches, and was also slightly canted forward. Most importantly for the driver (who was rarely the owner we might ad), was that the spare wheel was now mounted in a tray below the floor of the luggage compartment, which in-turn liberated considerable boot space.
An emphasis on length and width, by using a continuous wing shape from the front headlights to the rear, were the design highlights of the Park Ward drophead coupe Continental. This resulted in making the car look considerably lower than it actually was, and even hinted to the Italian fashion of the day.
The glass area was considerably increased, and a fully wrap-around windscreen was used. The radiator
shell, compared with that of the standard S.2 saloon, was shorter vertically by 3 inches, and was mounted lower, with the upper edge canted forward, the front bumpers being raised to match with the bottom of the shell as was the case with previous models.
A welded sheet steel body structure included the scuttle, floor, rear seat pan, boot floor, rear wing and quarter panels, while the remainder of the panels were made of a light alloy. Passenger safety came in for a serious upgrade too, the instruments and switches grouped in front of the driver being encased in a cowl to prevent windscreen reflections, while the fascia itself was edged at top and bottom with leather-covered padded rolls which extended along the door cappings.
The window handles were inset into the doors, and the front seat
guide rails were protected by a special design of cushion, so that when the seats were fully forward there was no danger of injury from the exposed rails. All models were fitted with an improved ventilation system, with optional refrigeration unit for full air-conditioning.
Mechanically, the most important change on the new model Bentley's was the braking system used, it being carried over from the S series chassis, however the front brakes
were equipped with four shoes, or, more precisely, two half-shoes per main shoe, with drums 11.250 inch in diameter and a shoe lining width of 3 inches. The size was unchanged, but the new shoe arrangement increased the total lining area for the four brakes
by 25 per cent from 240 to 300 square inches.
The front brakes
were, as previously, of the two-trailing shoe type, an arrangement that helped reduce the tendency of fade and yet remained light to operate, because the system (which had a duplicated hydraulic circuit) was assisted by the gear box-driven mechanical servo linked to the master cylinder.
The two main shoes were of a normal pattern, and the half-portions which carried the riveted and bonded linings could pivot freely on them for self alignment. The shoes were aluminium castings, and at the point where the two halves came together the metal portion formed a lap joint. Thus, although the half shoes could pivot freely when the drum was removed, they had sufficient freedom only for self-alignment on the car. This arose from the fact that the Girling brakes
used a autostatic pattern, in which the shoe remained in constant light contact with the drum.
In addition to the increased lining area achieved (which alone improved the life of the brakes), the self-compensating action eliminated the tendency for the lining to wear more severely at one end. Furthermore, the pressures around the drum periphery were equalized,
which resulted in a smoother action and lower operating temperature - and thus better resistance to fade.