In-house designs : Rolls-Royce projects
During the early-to-mid 1960s, Rolls-Royce entered into a collaborative venture with BMC, with a view to jointly producing a range of saloons and coupés.
Rolls-Royce was thinking in terms of down-sizing at this time, a reaction to the general down-turn in demand for their traditional coachbuilt models during the post-war years. In due course, this would lead to the production of the their first unitary-construction car, the 1965 Silver Shadow, but along the way, a number of intriguing BMC-based Rolls-Royce and Bentley models were considered.
History relates that the only production manifestation of the BMC/Rolls-Royce venture was the FB60-engined Vanden Plas 4-Litre R, but on this page you can catch a glimpse of some of the cars that might have been…
ADO53-based: Bentley Java
The short-lived Java project (1961-1962) was conceived as a way of developing a new entry-level saloon on a shoestring budget, by basing the car on the bodyshell of BMC’s Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre. Perhaps mindful of the effect such a move might have had on its reputation, Rolls-Royce only ever contemplated marketing this car as a Bentley model. A 6-cylinder engine, the F-60, was earmaked for the car, having originally been developed from a previous Rolls-Royce engine for use in the aborted Bentley Burma saloon.
The first running prototype, designated 71-B, hit the road in March 1962 and was little more than a Vanden Plas Princess 3-Litre fitted with a Rolls-Royce F-60 engine and gearbox, along with various other modifications to its brakes and steering. This car was used solely for performance-evaluation testing, but would later form test-bed for the Vanden Plas Princess 4-litre R, which retained the F-60 engine (designated FB60 in its BMC incarnation) but dispensed with the 71-B prototype’s gearbox, brakes and steering.
ADO61-based: Bentley Bengal/Rolls-Royce Rangoon
By the time the Vanden Plas 4-Litre R reached the market in 1964, work was already well underway on project ADO61 (the Austin 3-Litre), which would replace the entire “big Farina” range. As can be seen in the Vanden Plas prototypes gallery on this site, BMC gave serious consideration to producing a Vanden Plas Princess version of the Austin 3-Litre, but less well-known is the fact that this car could also have formed the basis of a brace of even more upmarket saloons.
ADO30-based: Bentley Alpha
Alongside the Bengal/Rangoon project, Rolls-Royce saw an opportunity to develop a Bentley version of a BMC’s proposed ADO30 coupe, which was itself to have been built on ADO17 underpinnings. ADO30 (also referred to within BMC as XC5212) had its origins in a project to replace the Austin-Healey 3000 with a Pininfarina-designed coupe, using Hydrolastic suspension and the 4-litre FB60 engine. a twin-OHC version of the Rolls-Royce F-60 engine, dubbed G-60.
Most observers seriously doubt that this engine would have done such a car justice, but it was all to prove academic: in 1966, Jaguar joined forces with BMC, and after briefly thinking about using a Jaguar engine in the car, the project was promptly cancelled. Although a full-size prototype of the BMC car was produced, the Bentley Alpha only made it as far as the quarter-scale model pictured above.
ADO58: Bentley Burma-based coupe
This was the final joint-project undertaken by BMC and Rolls-Royce, and was intended to produce a coupé based on a shortended version of the aborted Bentley Burma prototype. The car would have been built and sold only by BMC, and would most likely have carried one of their upmarket brands, such as Wolseley or Riley. However, the project was cancelled before any models or prototypes were built, although it is believed that one of the Bentley Burma protoypes was modified as a mock-up.
This page was contributed by Declan Berridge