Bentley Motors has handcrafted a unique and one-off Continental GT Azure, inspired by Bentley’s retained example of the iconic R-Type Continental, JAS 949. The new Continental GT is in honour of JAS 949’s 70th birthday, celebrating one of the important style icons in Bentley’s history. JAS 949 is one of only 208 examples of the R Type Continental ever built—but the car had a greater impact than the limited numbers suggest. The beautiful Bentleys old and new have been photographed at an equally spectacular London landmark that is itself a 21st century reinvention of a 1950s icon—Battersea Power Station in south London.
Quoted as ‘a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances’ the R-Type Continental was the fastest four-seat luxury saloon in the world when launched in 1952. The three key design lines of the car—the power line from the front wheel, the rear haunch and the roofline— were the inspiration for the first generation Continental GT in 2003 and every Continental GT since. The latest Azure members of the Continental GT family continue to celebrate elegance and timeless design, directly descended from the R-Type Continental, while adding a focus on wellbeing behind the wheel.
Using Mulliner’s Personal Commissioning Guide, the new Continental GT Azure has been curated in homage to one of the most iconic members of Bentley’s 43-car Heritage Collection. JAS 949 is Bentley’s own R-Type Continental, and resides in the newly opened Heritage Garage at Bentley’s carbon-neutral campus in Crewe. Bentley acquired JAS 949 in 2001 and has maintained it in excellent mechanical order while sympathetically preserving its patina. The car is driven on the road on a regular basis.
JAS 949 was delivered to its first owner, Dr Rowland Guenin of Switzerland, in December 1953. It was ordered in Ivory with a Red interior and a manual gearbox, a specification it retains today along with the original 4.6-litre engine. To recreate the closest specification for the modern interpretation of JAS 949, a new Continental GT V8 Azure has been hand painted in Old English White—a faithful re-creation of the heritage paint colour that dates back to the 1950s. As per the muse, the Continental GT is fitted with bright chrome (including the matrix grille). While JAS 949 rides on 16” wheels, the newer version runs on 22” hand-finished wheels, in a black and polished finish as per the original.
The brainchild of Chief Projects Engineer Ivan Evernden and Chief Stylist John Blatchley, the R-Type Continental set a template that continues to inspire Bentley designers. Two pre-war coachbuilt specials, the ‘Embiricos’ Bentley and Corniche, had shown the advantages of improved aerodynamics. In the early 1950s, Ivan Evernden took inspiration from these one-off creations to create a sleek coupé based on the R Type Bentley saloon.
Inside the beautiful cabin, Cricket Ball leather can be seen throughout providing a cosseting, deep and rich heritage feel for the driver and passengers and mirroring the hide colour of JAS 949. To provide contrast and to preserve the design lines of the cabin, hand-applied piping in Beluga leather brings accents to the seats.
Adding a contemporary aspect, the Burr Walnut veneer has been left as open pore, providing a closer texture to the patinated finish in JAS 949. Selected from only the very best, most figured stock available, open-pore veneer is painted with just three ultra-thin layers of lacquer, together totalling only 0.1 mm in thickness. By comparison, Bentley’s High Gloss lacquer coating is 0.5 mm thick and has a glossy, smooth finish. Each layer is applied by hand and sanded between applications, ensuring the lacquer sticks to the natural grooves of the wood. The resulting finish is wax-like and perfectly highlights the authentic, natural colour and texture of the wood species.
The new Continental GT Azure is designed to enhance the well-being and comfort of the vehicle’s occupants, making every journey a relaxing experience regardless of distance. Seating is the foundation for driving comfort and control, and all Bentley Azures feature the Front Seat Comfort Specification as standard. This includes a massage function with six programmable settings which promotes the constant micro-adjustments in muscle and posture that are so vital in preventing fatigue, adjustable side bolsters, electric seatbelt adjustment and comfort headrests.