Bentley's new S-series cars replaced the R-type range at the 1955 Earls Court Motor Show.
The Bentley S1 was powered by the company's well-proven 4.9-litre smooth six-cylinder engine of the R type, with twin SU carburettors. Coil and wishbone independent front suspension was new, and with four-speed automatic transmission, the S1 was able to convey its occupants in an ambience of leather seats and walnut veneer to speeds approaching 100mph. With development of its dependable six-cylinder engine nearing an end, and facing competition from faster rivals in the United States market, Bentley turned to V8 power as the 1960s approached. A radical change was to appear in 1959 with the introduction of the General Motors inspired 6,230cc V8 engine.
There was now adequate power to achieve a sustainable top speed of around 115mph. Although slightly heavier than its predecessor, the new Bentley S2 boasted a creditable 11.5 second dash to 60mph from rest. The new engine was an entirely new departure for Bentley, which caused some consternation among traditional Bentley customers. In the event, the V8 engine was a huge step forward, setting the standard for the rest of the century. The Standard Steel coachwork of the S-series cars proved extremely popular, having a certain dignity and yet fitting the traditional Bentley sporting image behind the winged B radiator.