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Lot 540: Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon

Grand Palais Sale, Bonhams (7 February 2013)

Described by The Autocar as, 'A new stage in the evolution of the post-war Bentley,' the magnificent Continental sports saloon has been synonymous with effortless high speed cruising in the grand manner since its introduction in 1952 on the R-Type chassis. Of all-welded construction, the latter enabled the incorporation of a much-needed improvement to Rolls-Royce's standard bodywork in the shape of an enlarged boot together with associated changes to rear wings and suspension. The R-Type and its Rolls-Royce sister car, the 'E' Series Silver Dawn, were notable as the first Rolls-Royce products available with automatic transmission, the company having opted for General Motors' Hydra-Matic, a state-of-the-art four-speed unit permitting manual selection. The standard R-Type was a lively performer, achieving 106mph in silence and reaching 50mph from standstill in 10 seconds despite a kerb weight approaching two tons. The Continental raised this already superlative combination of high performance and exceptional refinement to hitherto unattained levels. Rolls-Royce's six-cylinder, inlet-over-exhaust engine had been enlarged from 4,257cc to 4,556cc in 1951, and as installed in the Continental benefited from an increase in compression ratio - the maximum power output, of course, remained unquoted. Unlike the ordinary '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 sports car but for a full four/five seater saloon 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. The example offered here  right-hand drive chassis number 'BC24B' - was retailed new by Edwards & Co Ltd of Bournemouth and first owned by one G E Lambert. Accompanying build history shows that the car was equipped with the manual transmission and originally finished in black with red leather interior trim, while special features included veneered dark walnut woodwork, sliding front seats with tipping/adjustable backs, and ashtrays front and rear. The car's original UK registration was 'NPU 10'. Information supplied by the Continental Register lists the following subsequent owners in the UK: Baron Nugent (1968) and Peter Wyngarde (1971) and one in the USA: James Owen Jr (1977). Mr Wyngarde is believed to be the actor of that name best remembered for his role as Jason King in the UK television series 'Department S'. A United States auction record on file (dated 2001) states that the Bentley had covered approximately 1,100 miles since purchase in 1977 (presumably the seller was James Owen Jr) and only 150 since an engine rebuild. Additional refurbishment listed was as follows: repainted (1993), headlining replaced (1994) and interior leather and carpet replaced (1997). The car was acquired by the present owner in 2001 and is currently resident in Belgium. Offered with EU taxes paid, it represents a rare opportunity to acquire a very fine example of what can is considered as the most famous and desirable post-war Bentley.

Lot Details
Auction Grand Palais Sale
Bonhams, Paris, France
TypeCar
Lot Number540
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price€500000
Hammer Price (inc premium)€525083
Year1953
Condition rating2
Registration number
Mileage-
Chassis numberBC24B
Engine numberBCB23
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors