Defined by a dichotomic identity
This, the only Bentley with coach-build body by Figoni and Falaschi — an Italian coach-builder based in France famous for extravagant Alfa Romeo, Delahaye, Talbot and Bugatti one-offs — is interesting for the dichotomy of ways the design can be read.
On the one hand this 1947 coupe is low and svelte with calmly flowing, classically automotive speed-form lines. Yet on the other, it has massive, full-bodied volumes to the side, above, and behind its very upright fuselage — like a footballer wearing a billowing ballgown. Its design aesthetic is the marriage of two dichotomic forms, and so too is its design identity: it presents both an aristocratically British and formal character, typical of a post-war Bentley; and also a hedonistic exuberance that we might associate more with more southern European pre-war designs (not least those of other Figoni and Falaschi designs…).
Ultimately the way that this single design works in unifying such dichotomic ingredients makes it such an exemplar of the coach-built one-off — and the opposite of mass market, of normative, of accessible, of commodified. Its dichotomic identity is exceptionally rich, and a challenge to wholly accommodate, but makes this totally unique such a prize.
[With much thanks for the photograph, courtesy of Mark Hyman ofHyman Ltd]