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Lot 416: Bentley R-Type Countryman

Rolls-Royce, Bentley Motor Cars and Automobilia, Bonhams (19 June 2010)

There has been some confusion over the production history of the Harold Radford-bodied Countryman models on Rolls-Royce and Bentley chassis. Radford fitted his first Countryman body to the Bentley MkVI chassis in 1948 and they were continued on the successor R-Type. Known as Series I/II/III, the Radford bodies were originally constructed on complete rolling chassis, as purchased from Bentley Motors Ltd and were, therefore, classified as fully coachbuilt cars on completion. It is understood that Radford had found the Bentley MkVI's luggage compartment too restricted to undertake any adaptation of the standard body. In 1952, however, the 'Big Boot' Bentley B7, subsequently known as the R-Type, was introduced and although Radford already had complete coachbuilt bodies under construction for the longer chassis, he realised that the new chassis' extra length would be of great benefit as far as adaptations were concerned. To this end, he completed the first 'standard steel' car with Countryman modifications on a B7 'SP' chassis in April 1953. The car met with great approval because it retained the more graceful lines of the standard steel version  altered only by the split tailgate and 'hatchback' opening rear window, which was not that noticeable when closed. The overall appearance was less bulky than Radford's own rather dumpy bodies, and no doubt the cars were a far better proposition due to the inherent quality of the Rolls-Royce designed coachwork. Subsequently, 13 standard steel R-Types were completed with Countryman adaptations, of which 'B190UM' is only the second. For these new 'adaptation' models, Radford now purchased a virtually complete car from Bentley Motors Ltd, minus such items as the boot lid and certain interior fittings. For this reason they were no longer designated as coachbuilt cars. The coachbuilder's section in the Bentley Motors official chassis specification listings records these cars as being built by Bentley Motors Limited  with Harold Radford finish. Because the 'Countryman' nomenclature was retained, irrespective of whether the car had a complete coachbuilt body or a modified Bentley Motors factory body, it has caused some confusion as to how many Countryman cars were built. With the introduction of the owner/driver Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn to the home market, three Silver Dawns were adapted to Countryman specification. The first owner of 'B190UM' was the Hon. Geoffrey Denis Erskine Russell, who succeeded to the title of 4th Baron Ampthill in 1973. A descendant of the 6th Duke of Bedford, he purchased the car, at the age of 32 years, for 5,597  an enormous sum for any kind of vehicle in 1954. Russell was General Manager of Fortnum and Mason, a Captain in the Irish Guards and later held the office of Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords. He was awarded the CBE in 1986. In 1965 the car passed to an American Air Force Colonel, who had it shipped to Virginia when he returned home. He last used it in 1968 when it went in for some repairs. The car then remained in storage until purchased by its third owner in 1989. Excited by this rare find, the new owner kept the Bentley as his pride and joy until he passed away in 2007, aged 87. During his ownership, he spent some $35,000 on parts alone (receipts on file) to bring the car up to the desired standard. As a result of his labours, the Bentley was awarded more than 15 trophies at major events on the East Coast of America. In 1994 the car was also awarded the prestigious Antique Automobile Club of America (AACA) 'National Senior Award' and went on to win nine more consecutive AACA awards. A further milestone was the presentation of 'The Guerrero Trophy' at the Rolls-Royce Concours event in Philadelphia. Having since returned to its country of origin, 'B190UM' underwent specialist work as well as other routine servicing before being offered for sale at Bonhams' RAF Museum, Hendon auction in April 2009 (Lot 324) where it was purchased by the current vendor. Immediately after acquisition the Bentley was despatched to marque specialists, R D A James, of Nailsworth, Gloucestershire for a thorough service plus various other works at a cost of 4,584. The latter included a braking system overhaul; spin-on oil filter conversion; replacement of the gearbox mounts, steering ball joints, half shafts and rear wheel bearings; fitting five new tyres; and installing a new (Continental ratio) differential for more relaxed cruising and improved fuel economy. R D A James' detailed invoice is on file (inspection recommended). Reregistered with its original number 'OYN 770', this rare Radford-converted R-Type is offered with current road fund licence, MoT to March 2011 and Swansea V5.

Lot Details
Auction Rolls-Royce, Bentley Motor Cars and Automobilia
Bonhams, Rockingham Castle, Northamptonshire
Lot Number416
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating
Registration numberOYN 770
Chassis numberB190UM
Engine numberB220U
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors