Project 116 (P116) was a Continental R commissioned by a well-heeled and charismatic Italian, Carlo Talamo, in the late 1990s.
The car was overhauled by Mulliner Park Ward (MPW), Bentley’s personal commissioning department. Autocar’s Steve Cropley flew to Milan to see the car and meet its owner, a Bentley and Rolls-Royce distributor who “spent the £250,000 it costs to put a Continental R on the road in Italy, then as much again having the car modified by MPW”.
Asked why he’d spent so much money, Talamo told Cropley that he was “a lifelong admirer of the most remarkable Bentley of them all, the 4.5-litre ‘Blower’, which created so much of the Le Mans legend. Though successful in business, Talamo believed he had little hope of ever owning a Blower, so he tried to create a modern Bentley with the spirit of the great cars of the 1920s”.
The P116 started out as a standard wheelbase Continental R coupé, but MPW gave it more power and stripped out 200kg of weight. Setting it apart was a polished aluminium bonnet, radiator shell and headlight surrounds.
“The radiator grille mesh is no-nonsense material from the Bentley Eight, and the inner headlight on each side has been deleted and its aperture covered with the same mesh,” reported Cropley. “The front bumper is simplified in design and body-coloured, and the scoops and apertures under it are also meshed over.”
Add to that a Milanese Green paint finish and three racing roundels, exaggerated wheel arch flares and five-spoke 18in alloys and the Bentley’s unique look was complete.
The race-bred theme continued inside: “The first thing you see inside is a properly triangulated matt black roll cage. The interior is much simplified over a standard model. It lacks dozens of standard features: cruise control, passenger’s window switch, standard door pads, carpets, rear seat, rear console, driver’s armrest, hi-fi, smoking accessories, sun visors, vanity mirrors, rear cabin lights and a lot more. This is where most of the weight savings came from.
“Yet you could hardly call the new interior stark: there is lush quilted leather on the doors, floor and rear compartment, turned alloy on the fascia and centre console and elegant waist rails in straight-grained oak around the cabin perimeter.”
On Talamo’s changes to the engine, Cropley reported: “It retains the 6.7-litre capacity, but uses wilder camshafts, a bigger Garrett turbocharger, gas-flowed heads and a ram air intake.” This increased power to 425bhp at 4000rpm and torque to 670lb ft at 2000rpm. The car’s 0-60mph time was 5.5sec, and it could hit 160mph.
Despite the power hike, this Continental R retained a “quality unique to powerful Bentleys: huge thrust forcing you back in the seat, yet no sign of a tacho needle arcing rapidly around its dial”.
Despite all the modifications, Talamo kept the standard Continental R’s suspension. Cropley said: “The car does ride smoothly and flat, and while there is roll, it is well controlled and the big rubber footprint gives the steering plenty of quick response. It is a big car, made to be stoked rather than shoved, but it goes like a Ferrari.”