1953 BENTLEY R TYPE CONTINENTAL SPORTS SALOON
COACHWORK BY H.J. MULLINER & CO., LTD.
Chassis No. BC2 LC
Engine No. BCC2
Burgandy with green upholstery
Engine: six cylinder in-line, 4,556cc, c140bhp at 4,200rpm; Gearbox: 4-speed manual, column shift; Suspension: independent front wishbone and coil spring, half elliptic springs to beam rear axle; Brakes: four wheel drum. Left hand drive.
When the Bentley marque was relaunched in the fall of 1933 by Rolls-Royce, its new owners offered a new type of sporting car - fast but refined, luxuriously equipped. With its classic and understated coachwork it was indeed The Silent Sports Car, as the company's publicists called it. In the late 1930s there were new ideas. Bentley experimented with lightweight, aerodynamic high-speed coupes on their distinguished six-cylinder 4.25 liter chassis. Handsome, scientific, very fast, they were widely acclaimed. But war intervened and the Corniche, as it was then called, was shelved.
Afterward, in the austere 1940s, the company instead concentrated on getting their four-door Mark VI Standard Steel Saloons into production. When at last they felt able to look again at the Corniche concept, Bentley's designers set themselves daunting objectives. Based on the Mark VI's massive cruciform chassis with a mildly tuned, twin carburettor edition of its superbly engineered new straight six powerplant, the new sports saloon was to accommodate up to four occupants in luxury at cruising speed in excess of 100mph. Brakes, ride, handling and roadhandling were all to be commensurate.
Announced in 1952, the R Type Continental was clothed with a subtle all light alloy body with a low hood and roof line. Much work in the wind tunnel resulted in excellent aerodynamics, enabling the coupe to be geared to do the very high figure 27mph per 1,000 engine revolutions. The result was effortless cruising up to the 116.5mph maximum recorded when an English journal tested the prototype. Acceleration too was remarkable with 0-60mph taking just 12.5 secs. Much of the credit for these figures must go to the care taken to hold weight down. Not only was the coachwork of light alloy throughout, but equipment such as the seat frames and other interior fittings were of similar materials. It was to the long-established, highly respected London coachbuilders H.J. Mulliner that the task of building most of the 208 Continentals was entrusted. Furnished in traditional manner with finest leathers and matched polished walnut, the light and airy cabin was given four richly upholstered seats. Exquisitely executed details such as the delicate sweep of the fascia panel towards the curving door cappings spoke of the care with which the whole automobile was conceived and constructed. Each R Type Continental was unique, custom built to the detailed specification of the client for whom it was built. The fastest production sedan of its time, the model was received with adulation at its birth and has retained its place as one of the most charismatic Grand Touring automobiles ever built.
This particular very early Continental has one of the 'lower' 3.07:1 rear axle ratios available on production models according to the original instruction and maintenance handbook. It was built at Mulliners (the original coachwork maintenance instructions booklet accompanies this lot) with left hand drive for the North American Market and exported direct to its first owner William Campbell Carpenter in August 1953. The car's early history remains to be researched, but it is known that it was restored in Slough, England by Reall (Coachbuilders Ltd) in 1963. We suspect that at this stage the original seats and upholstery were exchanged for the current MB Tex (Mercedes-Benz type) installed. An after-market air condition system is also installed and may have been fitted during this early restoration.
Since November 1971, it has been owned by the present vendors. Further work was carried out in 1973, when the eight-track AM-FM stereo set was installed. The car has had very limited use during the past 27 years and during the past 15 years the car has covered less than 1,000 miles. The car has resided in both Florida and New Jersey during this period. General condition of the Bentley is now best described as in need of restoration. The paintwork has significant crazing upon close inspection and the interior woodwork and veneer also require attention. The Continental R Type is one of the most desirable of all post-war touring cars and this example will undoubtedly be restored by its new owner to its former glory.