A rare 1961 Bentley S2 Continental has been stripped of its original 6.2-litre V8 and “upcycled” with a fully-electric powertrain, raising the age-old debate about preservation and originality versus improvements and fitness for today’s driving environment.
The car is one of just four examples made by London Coachbuilder James Young and had, until now, lived a globe-trotting life in Germany and Japan, before being returned to Britain to become, claims its maker, “the world’s rarest upcycled electric vehicle.”
British company Lunaz, based at Silverstone, is responsible for the high-end, high-voltage conversion, which also included a bare-metal restoration of the S2 Continental, and the addition of a host of new-car features. During the process the all-alloy internal combustion engine, transmission and all its ancillaries were removed, and fluids drained for recycling. In their place went Lunaz’s 400bhp and 530lb-ft electric powertrain, which is almost twice as potent as the original motor’s output.
With a range of 250 miles on a charge, and now capable of reaching 62 mph from rest in a rogueish 6.9 seconds, Lunaz wisely upgraded the brakes from drums to discs all round, with six-piston callipers at the front and four-piston units at the rear – as well as a regenerative system. The suspension now utilises electronically-adjustable coil springs with lever-arm dampers which can be set from the inside the cabin.
The interior has also had a makeover, and, in keeping with the car’s claimed environmental credentials, the materials used are said to be sustainable. The hides for the leather seats were tanned using olive leaves that had naturally fallen from their trees, the carpet is woven from regenerated nylon fibres and has a backing made from recycled plastic bottles. The wood veneers are from Forestry Stewardship Council-approved sources.
“This magnificent Bentley S2 Continental was already an exceptional motor car, as one of just a few examples of its type that remain in the world,” explains Lunaz founder David Lorenz. “In its new guise, it’s the rarest vehicle ever to be converted to fully electric propulsion, and the most exclusive project we’ve ever undertaken at Lunaz Design: it’s literally one of a kind.”
There’s no denying the craftsmanship or ingenuity in this million-dollar machine, although Lunaz hasn’t revealed the condition of the car when it arrived, so we don’t know if this exercise was a real rescue mission or a virtue-signalling vanity project. Either way it’s hard to imagine that the environmental impact of a rarely-used classic built 60 years ago would be any worse than the creation of the new battery, motor and associated materials that have gone into the conversion.
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