Bentley – Mk VI Cresta
“When the first post-war Paris Salon opened in 1946, a result of World War II was that no manufacturers from the countries that had…
“When the first post-war Paris Salon opened in 1946, a result of World War II was that no manufacturers from the countries that had been enemies were permitted to exhibit. Despite the ban Battista Pinin Farina brought two of his creations to Paris and achieved some publicity by parking them outside the Grand Palais.
However a way round this situation was offered in the form of an agreement with Frenchman Jean Daninos who owned Facel-Métallon; a group of companies that included coachbuilding premises. Daninos asked Pinin Farina to design a two door fastback saloon on the chassis of a Bentley Mark VI. Some input also came from ideas by Walter Sleator, head of Franco Britannic, Rolls-Royce’s agency in the French capital at the time. He had been a vocal driving force to create out-and-out performance Bentleys several years earlier and was keen to see his visions become a reality.
The importance of this order for Pinin Farina must not be understated, because a coachwork design commissioned by a French customer wouldn’t be excluded from exhibition at a future Paris Salon and his company was in urgent need of cash, because in December 1946 fire had destroyed their factory in Turin. The most attractive coupé he created, code-named “Cresta” met with much acclaim.
When shown at the 1948 Paris Salon several prospective purchasers showed their interest and further orders followed when early in 1949 the car was exhibited at the Geneva Salon. Jean Daninos decided to arrange for a series to be built by his company Facel-Métallon. His decision was made much easier by the manufacturer at Crewe who offered their full support after modifications were made to the original radiator design by Pinin Farina so that it was “nearer to series standard” to silence previous rumblings in the boardroom at Bentley following the 1948 Paris Salon.
Bentley then delivered a Mark VI in the form of chassis cum engine with a special steering rake suitable for coachwork with a low roofline. The Cresta was to have a lower radiator header tank and scuttle, and a shorter more raked steering column. A higher final drive ratio also hinted at the cars high speed ambitions.
The prototype (chassis number B323CD) had been made completely by Pinin Farina in Turin. The series was produced by Facel-Métallon and the first car that was finished was Chassis No B447CD to the order of Count Manuel A. Matos.
Reportedly a total of seventeen cars were made, however only eleven can be identified beyond doubt by their chassis numbers. The cars were built in workshops seperate from mainstream Facel production until 1950 for an international clientele. This rakish two door four seater coupe bodied in aluminium and steel could be described as one of the most important Bentleys ever created and arguably provides the missing link between the pre-war Bentley Corniche and the post-war Bentley Continental. ”
Story by Frank Dale & Stepsons
ModelMk VI Cresta