Bentley’s reputation for producing desirable grand touring cars goes all the way back to the 1952 R-type Continental, the first of the breed to bear the “Continental” name. Bentley is currently promoting the 2016 Continental GT Speed with a side-by-side drive with the original Bentley R-type Continental. The new car’s striking lines hark back to the original’s “striking power line, muscular rear haunches and swooping, fast roof line”, all of which have become Bentley design cues in the last decade.

The 1952 R-type Continental sported hand-built aluminium coach work, with a 4.5 litre inline-six that put out 153 hp. This was perfectly adequate to propel the 1,700 kg car to 190 km/h. The Continental was built at the Rolls-Royce facility in Crewe, and shared many components with its standard R-type sibling.

Most of the 207 cars built were right hand drive, with the majority having coachwork by H.J. Mulliner & Co, with others being built by Park Ward, Franay, Grabar, and Pininfarina. A special Sports Saloon was built by James Young in 1954 for the owner of that company. The Continental proved to be popular, out-selling its Rolls-Royce cousin by three to one.

The Continental’s desirability has increased over the last six decades, with an unrestored R-type Continental changing hands at a Barons auction in 2015 for RM4.8 million.

The 2016 Bentley Continental GT Speed has a top speed of 331 km/h, driven by a 6.0 litre, W-12 twin-turbo engine and eight-speed gearbox. The engine is rated at 626 hp and 820 Nm of torque, driving the 2,750 kg GT Speed to 0 to 100 km/h in four seconds.