Strive for Perfection

Shock of the old

Shock of the old

An old man is standing next to a black Bentley car.

The unveiling of an electrified 1961 Bentley at the Concours on Savile Row delivered a jolt of excitement and a glimpse into a sustainable future for classic car motoring

For two days in May, the fine art of cloth and cut is intertwined with the equally dashing bespoke creations of the world’s foremost luxury marques as the annual Concours on Savile Row takes up residence in the world-renowned home of British tailoring. But there was a distinctly modern twist to the 2023 celebration of classic car design.

Among the 40-plus vintage thoroughbreds and modern-era one-offs on show, a quiet hum of excitement emanated from one display in particular. A Bentley S2 Continental is always cause for quickened pulses, but the impeccable model that graced the red carpet at the Savile Row event delivered an extra buzz to the occasion.

The 1961 Bentley in question was unveiled by Lunaz – specialists in the electrification and “upcycling” of classic cars – and is one of the rarest motor cars ever to be transformed to all-electric power. In its original specification, the S2 was driven by a 6.2-litre V8 petrol engine. Today, now completely restored and reimagined, it is equipped with Lunaz’s in-house-designed proprietary modular electric powertrain.

The Bentley S2 Continental takes to the red carpet at the London concours
An old red carpet on the ground.
The Savile Row event merged the worlds of fine tailoring and bespoke classic motors

A rare breed

The Bentley Continental was always the rarest S2 variant – the standard and long wheelbase versions represented more than 80 per cent of the total number produced – making the model on display one of only a handful left in the world.

All Bentley S2 variants were powered by the then-new “L” Series 6.2-litre V8 engine, made from aluminium alloy for an improved power- to-weight ratio. This ensured the engine could sustain the power demands of automatic transmission, power steering and air conditioning with no loss of performance.

According to the build sheets of the Lunaz model, its original owner initially commissioned a four-door body from leading London coachbuilder James Young; but they evidently had a change of heart at the last minute, as research shows that the car has only ever existed in its present two-door form. In 1967, the car changed hands for the first time. Over the decades that followed, it would reside with various owners as far afield as Germany and Japan before returning to the UK.

An old car driving down a street.

An electrifying process

The classic Bentley underwent the same upcycling process that Lunaz has applied to a number of rare, high-value luxury cars at its facility in Silverstone in recent years. The result is a Concours-standard vehicle that meets the company’s key requirements for an upcycled electric vehicle: usability, reliability and sustainability.

This process begins with a detailed inspection and assessment to determine the chassis, powertrain and suspension configurations. Employing 3D scanning, engineers create detailed computer-aided design (CAD) models as the basis for any renovation and reconstruction work required. The car body is then stripped down to a bare metal shell and returned to as-new condition using traditional coachbuilding and restoration techniques. Any external and internal materials are repaired and recoated, and anything that can’t be reused, down to the nylon in the seatbelt cord, is recycled.

The car’s internal combustion engine and its associated systems, lubricants and other fluids are carefully removed and reclaimed, then replaced with Lunaz’s proprietary fully electric powertrain. The modular design allows engineers to adjust individual components to reflect each car’s innate character, as well as the owner’s personal preferences.

Other vital systems, including brakes, steering, suspension and electrics, are all given Lunaz’s full modernisation treatment to bring them into line with the dynamic expectations of the customer and current safety standards.

“We are furthering the legacy of cars that are more than the sum of their parts. They are sources of joy beyond those who are privileged to own them”

Specs appeal

The fully electric S2 Continental on show in Savile Row is now equipped with a clean-air 400bhp powertrain, producing 530lb-ft of torque. The car can go from 0–62mph in 6.9 seconds, and to ensure handling capability in line with contemporary standards, its suspension has been uprated to a fully adjustable coil-spring suspension with a lever arm damper (configurable electronically from the cabin of the car). Likewise, its brakes, which also incorporate a battery regeneration system, have been upgraded to six-piston calipers in the front and four-piston variants in the rear.

“This magnificent Bentley S2 Continental was already an exceptional motor car, as one of just a few examples of its type that remain in the world,” says David Lorenz, founder of Lunaz. “In its new guise, it’s the rarest vehicle ever to be converted to fully electric propulsion, and the most exclusive project we’ve ever undertaken at Lunaz Design: it’s literally one of a kind.

“This car is also a further demonstration of our proven upcycling process and technologies, developed entirely in-house at our Silverstone facility, which are fast becoming the de facto gold standard for electrification projects involving the world’s most prestigious marques.”

In its new incarnation, the S2 on show retains its luxurious character; but in keeping with its zero-emission powertrain, the interior now incorporates a higher proportion of sustainable materials than the original. All seat leather is made from hides tanned using naturally fallen olive leaves, and the carpet in the front and rear cabins and boot is made from 100 per cent regenerated nylon fibre and has a backing made from 100 per cent recycled plastic bottles. Similarly, all the wood veneers on the dashboard and other areas originate from sustainable sources, certified by the Forestry Stewardship Council.

The interior of an old classic car with orange leather seats.
The S2's interior features sustainably sourced materials such as the carpet's regenerated nylon fibre
An old car is plugged into an electric charger.
The Bentley's zero-emission electric powertrain produces an impressive 400bhp

Something old, something new

Working from a 44,000-square-foot facility at Silverstone, opposite the home of British motor racing’s Club Corner, Lunaz was founded in 2018. Following its launch of the world’s first all-electric classic Bentley, Rolls-Royce, Range Rover and Jaguar sports cars, the company secured investment from leading institutional names including the Barclay, Reuben and Dallal families, as well as David Beckham.

Since then, it has established itself as a world leader in the re-engineering and refurbishment of classic marques, either sourcing cars for customers or working on classics that clients already own. “Customers can do a very authentic and traditional restoration or they can be free to modernise and express their own tastes and interests,” says Director of Communications Warren James. “We are furthering the legacy of cars that are more than the sum of their parts. They are pieces of iconography with enormous cultural value, sources of joy beyond those who are privileged to own them.”

The key technology behind the company’s revolutionary approach is its electric powertrain. As well as being sustainable, it is brisk, powerful and reliable, with a driving range of 220-plus miles. It was developed by Lunaz’s Managing Director and Technical Lead Jon Hilton, who built his reputation as Technical Director for Renault F1, winning successive world championships with Fernando Alonso.

At Lunaz, Hilton initially worked on a Jaguar XK120 before taking his technology into other marques, starting with a Rolls-Royce Phantom V. “That allowed us to develop the world’s best restoration skills,” says James. “We then announced the Silver Cloud, a car that is as lovely to drive as it is to be driven. If we are furthering the legacies of classic cars we need the greatest cars in history.”

An old black car parked on the side of a street, causing shock.
The upcycled Bentley S2 Continental represents a meeting of classic design and modern innovation

“Our heart and soul will always remain with the preservation of these beautiful classics”

A cut above

Back to the streets of central London and the Savile Row celebration of classic motoring. Just as a tailor crafts a suit to fit the individual measurements and preferences of their client, so too is one of the motoring industry’s newest innovators working with its customers to create bespoke electric vehicles that meet their specific needs and desires. As importantly, it is also delivering a vision of sustainable luxury that will help ensure the marques’ legacies for generations to come.

As James concludes, “There are billions of cars in the world and it would be an ecological and commercial disaster to scrap all of them. Our heart and soul will always remain with the preservation of these beautiful classics.”