The Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and Bentley S Series (or S Type) models were introduced in April 1955. Still today they represent one of the highest expressions of post-war British automotive culture. Still built with separate chassis, these cars were offered with the standard steel body or with coachbuilt body, built by the most famous English coachbuilders.


The superlative standard steel saloon was magisterially designed by Rolls-Royce Chief Stylist John P. Blatchley and had the merit of creating a well-defined identity for a brand that until a few years earlier had never produced complete cars and whose only mark of distinction was the Greek temple-shaped radiator grille. In many peoples’ minds, the Silver Cloud standard steel saloons represented Rolls-Royce in its classic form.


The success that the standard steel saloon was enjoying gave similar opportunities in the exclusive market of coachbuilt cars. Traditionally Rolls-Royce and Bentley had produced chassis only, to be sent to a customer’s favoured coachbuilder. In the Silver Cloud era, just five main English coachbuilders survived: Park Ward, H. J. Mulliner, Hooper, James Young and Freestone & Webb. The designs on offer to their customers had changed compared to before the war: rarely bodies with a unique design, called one-offs, were proposed. The new drawings were converted into batches of new cars, to reduce costs. Of course, production numbers remained very low, possibly only a few dozen, although customers still had the opportunity to modify some details according to personal taste, to fit particular equipment and choose from an almost infinite range of colours.


In 1958 H. J. Mulliner offered a drophead coupé derived from the standard steel saloon, adapting the body panels into new styling. This drophead coupé, also known as Adaptation became very successful during the years.


Following the success of the R Type Continental created in 1952, Rolls-Royce decided that there would also be a sporty Continental version of the Bentley S Series, offered as chassis only. Compared to the standard chassis the S 1 Continental had a higher rear axle ratio, a higher engine compression ratio and a reduced frontal area, as the radiator grille was 1½ inches lower and the steering column more inclined, allowing lower and more aerodynamic bodies, which could enable these cars to reach the considerable, at least for the time, maximum speed of 120 m.p.h.


At the beginning, three different 2-door body styles were offered: the H. J. Mulliner saloon, well-known as the Fastback and the Park Ward saloon and drophead. Successively James Young and Hooper also offered their versions for the Continental chassis.


In 1957 H. J. Mulliner offered a 4-door body styling for the Continental chassis, which became famous with the idyllic name Flying Spur, which came from the Scottish family Clan crest of the Coachbuilder’s Managing Director Harry T. Johnstone. During the years, the Flying Spur became the most successful model for the Continental chassis.


During the 1957 Rolls-Royce introduced the long wheelbase - also referred to with the acronym lwb - version of the Silver Cloud and S Type, to be offered beside the Silver Wraith. The 127 inch wheelbase, 4 inches longer than the standard wheelbase, allowed the fitting of a division without sacrificing any legroom for the rear seat passengers. The styling of the car, made by the Rolls-Royce Styling Department headed by John P. Blatchley, was elegantly treated, with the added 4 inches blending harmoniously in the general layout, without upsetting the original imprint of the standard saloon car. The conversion of the standard steel body to a 6-light touring limousine styling was made by the Park Ward, as belonging to Rolls-Royce. 


In 1959 Rolls-Royce launched the second Series with the name of Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II and Bentley S 2. Apparently, nothing had changed as the styling was exactly the same of the first Series. The big new was under the bonnet and it was the new V-8 engine. Thanks to its compactness, this engine could be fitted perfectly in the engine compartment of the Silver Cloud. This mechanical jewel, a new technological feat of Crewe, had its main feature in the aluminium block and heads, a big step forward if compared with the old cast iron straight-six. It was lighter, but also slightly noisier, forcing the introduction of hydraulic tappets, moved by a single camshaft fitted in the middle of the two banks. The information concerning power and torque was not normally revealed at Crewe, but according to a contemporary estimate, the new V-8 engine produced about 200 horse-power, nearly 20 per cent more than the previous straight-six.


The choice of the V-8 engine was also forced by marketing requests, as this kind of engine was the most popular in America, which was by far the most important market for Rolls-Royce.


The coachbuilt models also maintained the same styling offered on the first series. Only Park Ward proposed a new styling for the Continental chassis. Designed by Vilhelm Koren, who joined the Styling Department just one year before, the futuristic shape of the new drophead coupé for the S 2 Continental chassis, with its straight winglines put the bases for the future generation of monocoque Rolls-Royce models, which would became famous with the name of Silver Shadow. 


In 1962 was introduced the third Series, with styling alterations and named Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III and Bentley S 3. The Styling Department decided to work on the frontal appearance, without radically altering the general shape of the car or reducing the visual impact of the radiator grille adorned either by the Spirit of Ecstasy or the winged B. The most distinctive features of the Silver Cloud III were the twin headlamps that were smaller than the single headlamps used on the two previous Series. These had a more modern and horizontal appearance, following American tendencies, and improved visibility at night, because each headlamp had both dipped and full beam functions.


The same styling improvements were introduced on the coachbuilt versions. The S 3 Continental Park Ward drophead coupé was reached by the 2-door saloon version, and thanks to the peculiar design of the twin headlamps, these models became popular with the nickname of Chinese Eye. From 1963 these models and others previously offered for the Continental chassis only, like the famous Flying Spur, became available for the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III chassis also.