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Lot 603: 1956 Bentley S1 Continental Sports Saloon

Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles, Bonhams (3 December 2007)

Bentley�s magnificent Continental sports saloon has been synonymous with effortless high speed cruising in the grand manner since its introduction on the R-Type chassis in 1952. Unlike the ordinary, factory-bodied, �standard steel� R-Type, the Continental was bodied in the traditional manner and first appeared with what many enthusiasts consider to be the model�s definitive style of coachwork - the lightweight, wind tunnel-developed fastback of H J Mulliner.
The Continental�s performance figures would have been considered excellent for an out-and-out sportscar, but for a full four/five seater sedan they were exceptional: a top speed of 120mph, 100mph achievable in third gear, 50mph reached in a little over 9 seconds and effortless cruising at the �ton�. Built for export only at first, the Continental was, once delivery charges and local taxes had been paid, almost certainly the most expensive car in the world, as well as the fastest capable of carrying four adults and their luggage. �The Bentley is a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances and delivers the occupants well-nigh as fresh as when they started,� concluded Autocar.
With the arrival of the final generation of six-cylinder cars - the all-new Silver Cloud and Bentley S-Type - the Continental lost some of its individuality but none of its exclusivity. Eulogising about the new S-Series cars, introduced in April 1955, The Autocar wrote, �the latest Bentley model offers a degree of safety, comfort and performance that is beyond the experience and perhaps even the imagination of the majority of the world�s motorists.�
Later, in October that same year, the Bentley Continental became available on the �S� chassis. �It brings Bentley back to the forefront of the world�s fastest cars,� Autocar remarked of the H J Mulliner-styled fastback which, arguably, was the quickest four/five-seater saloon of its day. The S-Type�s new box-section chassis incorporated improved brakes and suspension and an enlarged (to 4,887cc) and more powerful version of the existing inlet-over-exhaust six-cylinder engine, which for the first time was identical in specification in its Rolls and Bentley forms. The Continental version came with shorter radiator and higher gearing and, for a time at least, could be ordered with right-hand �change, manual transmission. As had been the case with the original R-Type, the new S-Type Continental was only ever available as a coachbuilt car, the designs produced by independent coachbuilders for the S1 Continental chassis being among era�s the most stylish, although � arguably � none ever improved on H J Mulliner�s sublime original.
This �modern magic carpet� was sold new to one H Madi, of Hale, Cheshire in June 1956 and first registered �RXK 10�. Factory records note that it was ordered finished in Shell grey with dark green interior trim. Mr Madi kept the Bentley in the UK for nine months before it was shipped to Gambia in the spring of 1957. The car�s subsequent history can be ascertained from ownership changes recorded in both Rolls-Royce�s company records and its old green continuation logbook. It would seem that its sojourn in Gambia lasted approximately six months, for by September the car had returned to the UK, being registered �FKJ 1� on September 19th 1957. Via four further owners it passed to a Colonel Fetherstonhaugh, of Anglo-Europe Ltd in 1963 and ten years later, while still in their custody, was reregistered �490 JLC�.
The Bentley was acquired by Elton � now Sir Elton - John in 1976 and in the early part of his ownership was consigned to Weybridge Automobiles for a comprehensive restoration including a bare metal re-spray, complete refurbishment of the interior and attention to the mechanicals as and where necessary. In keeping with the requirements of its owner, power-assisted steering, air conditioning and a modern stereo system were fitted during restoration.
The Bentley was carefully maintained as part of Sir Elton�s collection for the next 25 years before being sold to its next celebrity owner, entrepreneur Sir Alan Sugar, in 2001. �490 JLC� was serviced by famous Rolls-Royce/Bentley specialists P & A Wood immediately after acquisition and has been maintained by them ever since, covering only some 1,000-or-so miles while in Sir Alan�s care. Freshly MoT�d and serviced by P & A Wood prior to sale, this wonderful car is offered with copy chassis cards, old-style logbook, Swansea V5, and sundry service invoices and expired MoTs relating to Sir Alan�s period of ownership.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motor Cars and Motorcycles
Bonhams, Olympia, London,
Lot Number603
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£130000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£144500
Condition rating0
Registration number490 JLC
Chassis numberBC1BG
Engine numberBC1B
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors