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.