The first Crewe-designed Bentley was the R-Type Continental of 1951 which was arguably Chief Designer John Blatchley’s finest expression of postwar aerodynamic form. Blatchley had been poached from famed coachbuilder Gurney Nutting who constructed the famous streamlined Blue Train Bentley many year before.
Andreas Mindt, Bentley’s current director of design, reflects that back in 1951 the designers had to get their message across to the Bentley hierarchy with beautiful watercolour artworks and that unlike today the designer could not click an ‘undo’ button if a mistake was made.
From these renditions full-size versions were developed into technical drawings that had to show front, rear and side views as well as sectional drawings to enable model makers to replicate the design in three dimensions. Finally wax or clay was attached to a frame to give form to the vehicle with much hand-finishing before the finished model was not only accurate but aesthetically pleasing.
These days scanners and robotics do the same work in a fraction of the man-hours once spent and much of the initial design work is done by computer. Jaguar’s head William Lyons always wanted to see prototypes brought to the front of his home at Wappenbury Hall so that he could see what they would look like in real-life situations and in different natural lighting conditions.
Today that can all be done on screen and displayed to people working in different locations around the world. Bentley’s Design chief said hat these techniques have proved particularly helpful during the recent pandemic and enabled them to keep to deadlines despite having team members restricted from travelling to the factory.
Even so Bentley is working to provide a brand new Design Studio at Pyms Lane to support the development of new models for Bentley’s onward journey towards electrification.