Bentley celebrates 60 years of the S2 Continental Flying Spur

1959 Bentley S2 Continental Flying Spur 3/4 front

This year marks the centennial anniversary of Bentley, which is reason enough for celebration. But it also marks the 60th anniversary of the S2 Continental Flying Spur, the esteemed British automaker’s most celebrated offering of the postwar era.

The S2 was the updated version of the S1 that came out in 1955, and both cars were badge-engineered twins of the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I and Silver Cloud II. Both iterations were extremely successful and profitable for the two brands. Given that Bentley and Rolls sold the S1/S2 and Silver Cloud as complete cars, it was also proof positive that this strategy was the way forward, rather than selling rolling chassis and relying on custom coachbuilders for the body.

The 1959 S2 featured a new, all-aluminum V-8 developed by and for Rolls-Royce, which owned Bentley at the time. The 230-horsepower V-8 replaced an inline-six designed in the 1920s. The 6.2-liter engine substantially improved the grand tourer’s performance, but perhaps more importantly offered enough power to drive an air conditioning system that actually cooled the cabin. The new S2 also finally adopted power windows and a rear window defroster, features already long offered in American luxury cars.

Beyond an engine borrowed from Rolls-Royce, the S2 Continental Flying Spur shared the Silver Cloud II's electrically controlled suspension, chassis, and most body panels. Still, the design was sleek, elegant, and proved very popular. The S2 went out of production in 1962 after 1922 examples sold.

Some might find it surprising that Bentley is highlighting a legacy vehicle that was essentially a badge-engineered Rolls-Royce. For many years, the primary difference between a Bentley and a Rolls was the Bentley's rounded radiator grille. Rolls-Royce no longer controls Bentley, though, which is now part of the global Volkswagen Group. Considering that the modern-day Continental Flying Spur, first reintroduced in 2005, is based on a platform shared with Audi (A8) and Volkswagen (Phaeton), putting the S2 Continental Flying Spur in the spotlight actually makes sense.