Four-seat Java concept stole headlines for Bentley, and gave then-owners Rolls-Royce a welcome boost
Matt Burt
19 March 2015

Bentley has a habit of launching sensational concepts at the Geneva motor show, as it did earlier this month with the EXP 10 Speed 6.

Back in 1994, the broadside across the industry was Concept Java, which represented a significant diversion for Bentley, then owned by Rolls-Royce. “Rarely has a concept car got people speculating and dreaming quite as much as Concept Java, a ‘junior’ Bentley with Cosworth V8 power,” wrote Autocar’s Giles Chapman at the time.

The Java – explained by company chiefs as a study in packaging for future Bentleys – was a four-seat convertible with a fabric roof that stowed beneath an electrically operated rear deck.

“The brief was to come up with two cars in one: an urbane Bentley coupé in the idiom of the great Continentals of yesteryear on the one hand, and a proper four-seat convertible on the other. Not only that, but it all had to fit into the space of a Mercedes E-Class,” wrote our man at the show.

The car’s styling was a collaboration between Rolls-Royce chief stylist Graham Hull and Design Research Associates, headed by Roy Axe. “It is packaged around a 3.5-litre, twin-turbocharged Cosworth V8 that has its roots in the firm’s XB Indycar units,” Autocar’s story explained.

“It will need to pump out at least 340bhp if the car is to achieve Rolls-Royce’s projected performance figures: a top speed limited to 155mph, 0-60mph in 5.6sec and 0-100mph in just over 14 seconds.

“At the moment, Java is a mock-up that doesn’t move, you can’t buy and has no engine. But look closely at the details and quality of construction, the totally realistic packaging and the size of the car – let alone its knockout styling – and it can’t be anything but the first decent pointer we’ve seen towards a Bentley for the next century.”

At that moment, however, Concept Java was purely to gauge public reaction. “Rolls-Royce doesn’t show concept cars very often and when it does, they eventually lead to cars a fortunate few of us can buy,” wrote Chapman.

Rolls-Royce hinted that the Java’s wheelbase was “likely to be close to that of the BMW 5 Series” and revealed that the company already used the German giant’s technology.

So did Java herald a new dawn for Bentley? Well, not directly. The car never made it to production, although the Sultan of Brunei liked it so much that he commissioned 18 examples in three body styles for his collection.

However, given that the show car appeared at a time when Vickers was putting Rolls-Royce in the shop window with ‘for sale’ dangling around its neck, the appearance of a dynamic concept did no harm at all.

Previous Throwback Thursdays

4 March 1899 - Steam, electric or combustion engine? 

14 February 1913 - 100 miles in one hour

13 February 1982 - 4x4s tested on the farm 

2 February 1934 - The ethics of skidding

21 January 1949 - Tidier tails

27 January 1961 - Ford Thunderbird road test

19 January 1980 - Talbot Horizon road test

16 April 1997 - When Bugatti bit the dust

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Comments
12

19 March 2015
I absolutely loved this concept when I first saw it, and think it still looks good today. Notice the slim pillars and low bonnet line, which create a very elegant look. I guess it wouldn't have a hope of passing today's crash / pedestrian safety tests. Shame RR didn't have the resources to get it into production at the time.

19 March 2015
If you compare this with pictures of the new Wraith convertible prototype, you can see very clearly the impact of safety legislation in the intervening years and understand how much harder to design truly elegant cars today.

19 March 2015
I thought it was super at the time but don't think it has aged at all well. Nice size, however, the current drive towards fatter and fatter not being at all appealing.

19 March 2015
Those headlights look like they're from a 90's Kia. In fact it looks like one of those classic Japanese luxury car knock-offs built on a Corolla or Micra platform. Out of interest, did the 18 examples ever get built?

19 March 2015
The overall shape is classic but the details have aged terribly. Looks older than 1994..


19 March 2015
Basically it previewed what would end up becoming the Continental GT and GTC in the following decade under VW ownership.

Apparently the Sultan's 18 cars (6 coupé, 6 cabriolet, 6 shooting brake) were built by a third party for Bentley. There's a bit of info around on the internet about it.

19 March 2015
Looks like the next step up from a Rover75?

Peter Cavellini.

19 March 2015
I can see the Arnage in that concept - different height:length proportions.

19 March 2015
From a time when 16" wheels still looked big....

19 March 2015
It looks like the headlamps were nicked wholesale by Ford when the did the midlife refresh of the Mondeo a few years after this debuted.

It also presages the idea of a smaller premium car, or at least smaller by Bentley standards, being embraced nowadays except by Bentley itself. They could do with a lighter, nimbler car to be seen as a truly sporting luxury marque.

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