Bentley Cresta, far-fetched history designed in Italy and made in France

Bentley rechargeable throughout history there were many, probably almost as many as the series. From the special models of Mulliner to the Dominator made for the royal family of Brunei (actually a Range Rover with Bentley look), there are many rare models. But the one that concerns us today is not only strange, but it also generated a descendant that its creators could not imagine.

The history of the Bentley Crest of Facel-Métallon is that of a Bentley made in Fracnia, designed in Italy and that would later inspire the Bentley Continental coupe , the creation of the French brand Facel Vega . And to top it off, some of its features are appreciated in the current Bentley Bentayga.

Bentley Cresta
Image Source: Google Image

From aircraft to manufacturing Simca and Ford

France had several luxury brands throughout its history, although none came alive until today. But although in many cases they had a short existence, the great majority left an important mark in the history of the car. The most recent was MVS / Venturi, but in classic post-war automotive circles, Facel Vega is the favorite luxury gala brand.

Facel Vega was created by a French industrialist, Jean Daninos, in 1954. In 1945, Jean Daninos returned from the United States where he contributed to the war effort working at General Aircraft Equipment. In France, was technical director of the aeronautics Bronzavia and when in 1941 fled of the Nazi troops, Daninos took the patents to the United States.

On his return, he takes the reins of a former subsidiary of Bronzavia now independent, Facel (for Forges et Ateliers de Construction d’Eure et Loire). Facel made parts for the aeronautics industry, but soon absorbed another manufacturer (Skar) and merged with Métallon to become Facel-Métallon.

Jean Daninos did his aeronautics career at Morane-Saulnier and Bronzavia, but began with Citroën 22 years, from 1928 to 1935, participating in the development of the famous Citroën 11 CV, the Traction Avant. And the car was his first passion. Thus, it creates a car division for the manufacture of bodies and its first customer would be Panhard (45,000 bodies for the Dyna X84 until 1954). In 1948, he obtained another contract, this time with Simca. In addition to the bodywork, it would install the Simca 8 Sport (and later do the same with the Simca Plein Ciel and Océane). And in 1951, Ford commissioned the Ford Comet.

All these contracts are fine for the company, but Jean Daninos wants to make his own cars. In 1948, she wanted to make her own luxury car and contacted Rolls-Royce, owner of Bentley since 1931. Rolls-Royce wants to propose more sporty models at Bentley and takes the opportunity to authorize Daninos to make their prototypes, to see what Comes out of all this.

Bentley Cresta
Image Source: Google Image

Bentley Crest, to go training

For the design uses Pinin Farina, who at that time still worked in the factory of his brother Giovanni, the Stabilimenti Farina. They designed and manufactured two prototypes (some speak three) based on the Bentley Mark VI and are called the Bentley Crest.

The Bentley Crest is presented at the Paris Salon of 1948 and makes an appearance at the Geneva Motor Show in 1949. In both cases, it creates sensation. And its elegant and refined body has little to do with the classic and obsolete design of the Bentley Mark VI . They are like day and night. In the prototypes exposed in the two rooms, the calender is more horizontal than high.

In fact, seeing the photo of one of Cresta’s first prototypes alongside the Mark VI, I can not help but see the front of the Bentley Bentayga . It turns out that Pinin Farina already had it clear decades ago, the calender had to be horizontal. However, Bentley’s management does not like it and asks for the calender to be taller, i.e. more upright and more imposing.

Jean Daninos accepts and obtains the authorization to manufacture the car in small series. In 1949, nine serial units, with the vertical grille, of the Bentley Cresta will leave the factories of Facel-Métallon. Among its clients we find Prince Rainier of Monaco, Pamela Churchill or actor Yves Montand.

Bentley Crest II: The first prototype of Facel Vega

For Jean Daninos, the Bentley Crest was just the beginning. In 1951 and on the same basis of a Bentley Mark VI orders a single unit of a unique model that would be nicknamed, Crest II. The design of Cresta II is the work of Daninos himself. Although the Cresta was a somewhat massive coupe and ideal for large tourism, the Crest II sports a slimmer silhouette than its predecessor. The profile is more sporty and the front has little to do with a Bentley. It is also less spacious, according to the Facel itself is a 3-4 seats (I guess it will be depending on the size of the rear passengers).

The design of Cresta II is so personal that Jean Daninos will not hesitate to use it, properly evolved, for the Facel Vega that would come to market three years later. There is no certainty of this, but it seems obvious that this unique model made expressly by Daninos was the prelude to what he imagined: create your own brand with a very personal design. And it is not only in the front that you can see the similarity with the Facel Vega, the forms of the wings of the rear and the line of box very high for the time in relation to the roof line, are also characteristics that would look like the Facel Vega.

While the Bentley Crest II was the precursor of the Facel Vega, the Bentley Cresta served as an inspiration and probe for Bentley when launching a new model on the market: The Bentley Continental Coupé made by Mulliner.

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