Classic Rolls-Royce Advert Classically Knocks Bentley


  • Old Royce advertisement knocks Bentley
  • Silver Cloud, Bentley S1 mechanically indistinguishable
  • Wither Bentley beneath the mighty RR

By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG via Jim Mahoney

“PEOPLE who feel diffident about driving a Rolls-Royce can buy a Bentley.”

Diffident. Let’s look that one up, shall we?

Merriam Webster: adj. hesitant in acting or speaking through lack of self-confidence.

Thought as much.

This helpful suggestion, part of 13 sales points Rolls-Royce’s marketing department pitched in the above 50’s advert reads like a real put-down for Bentley today.

The language underscores decades of Bentley’s withering under the shadow of the double R’s; adding layers to the bitterness of Royce’s hostile takeover of W.O.’s concern during the Great Depression.

“The Bentley is made by Rolls-Royce. Except for the radiators, they are identical motorcars, manufactured by the same engineers in the same works. People who feel diffident about driving a Rolls-Royce can buy a Bentley.”

If you were on the Bentley sales team, and there really wasn’t such a thing in 1959, this half-hearted endorsement would ring about as true as Elvis complimenting the Beatles for That’ll Be The Day.

Fortunately for Bentley and Rolls fans, the Bentley S-Series did eventually take unique shape with coachbuilt bodies modeled leaner, more Jaguar-esque, and driver focused that the grander, upright Silver Clouds.

Vive la différence!

December 08, 2009

About the Author: Gunnar Heinrich is publisher of Automobiles De Luxe online and is executive producer of the Automobiles De Luxe Television series on PBS member station CPTV.

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  1. Legend has it that the chief engineer of Rolls_Royce read this ad with dismay. “We must do something about that electric clock,” he scolded.

    For years, this David Ogilvy ad instructed generations of copywriters in the subtle art of the misleading impression.

    “The mufflers tune out sounds acoustically“. How the hell else are they going to do it? Aquatically?

    Ogilvy was also responsible for the Great Platformate Swindle of the 1960s, by the way.

    And a P.S. Don’t mention the optional espresso machine. Nowadays, everybody will want one.

  2. Solid points re: Ogilvy.

    I also get a strong sense that there was a great emphasis on engineering in this advert that became conspicuously absent in Rolls marketing until BMW introduced the new Phantom.

  3. “emphasis on engineering…conspicuously absent in Rolls marketing until BMW…”

    Which reflects a very Teutonic idea of social status, and of which professions sit at the top of the tree.

    Here in Germany, it never ceases to amaze me that engineering outranks law or medicine.

    A German mother prays that her son or daughter should marry an engineer, in the same way every American mother wants her child to marry a doctor.

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