Rolls-Royce’s marketing strategy for the 1980s revolved around the re-launch of Bentley, and a crucial element of this plan was the resurrection of a prestigious name from its past: ‘Continental.’ This name was applied to the two-door model, formerly known as the Corniche, which shared similarities with its Rolls-Royce counterpart.
The reintroduction of the ‘Continental’ name in 1984 had the desired effect of reigniting interest in Bentley. In the 13 years since the initial launch of the Corniche, sales of Bentley-branded cars amounted to a meager 77 units. However, during the 11 years of Continental production that followed, sales skyrocketed to a total of 421 cars.
The Corniche was initially introduced in March 1971 as a revised version of the two-door variants of the Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow and Bentley T-Series saloons, which were built by H J Mulliner and Park Ward. These models were significant as they marked the first unitary-construction cars produced at the Crewe factory.
In Corniche form, the reliable 6.7-liter V8 engine from Rolls-Royce delivered approximately ten percent more power than the standard version. This enhanced power allowed the car to reach top speeds exceeding 120mph, with impressive acceleration that could rival sports cars.
The Corniche/Continental quickly gained popularity for Bentley and, despite retaining the recognizable exterior style of the Silver Shadow, it received regular updates and improvements introduced in the contemporary Silver Spirit range. Production of the Corniche/Continental continued well into the 1990s, with the final Convertible examples being delivered in 1995.