1954 1954 Bentley R Type Continental - R-Type Continental Fastback Sports SaloonR-Type Continental Fastback Sports Saloon
- Year of manufacture1954
- Chassis numberBC14D
- Lot number257
- Reference number257
- Interior colourOther
- Exterior colourOther
- Fuel typePetrol
To be OFFERED AT AUCTION at RM Sotheby’s Monaco event, May 14, 2016.Estimate:
€750,000 - €950,000
Body Style 7277. 178 bhp, 4,887 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine with two SU carburettors, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with wishbones, coil springs, and an anti-rollbar, live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 3,048 mm
- Offered from the personal collection of Wally Yachts founder Luca Bassani Antivari
- A desirable late-production “D” series R-Type Continental
- Numerous original special-order features
- An exceptionally desirable grand tourer extraordinaire
A MODERN MAGIC CARPET
Even after becoming the “Silent Sports Car” in the mid-1930s, Bentley held tight to its performance heritage. Later in the decade, the company began experimenting with aerodynamic designs and eventually created the Georges Paulin-designed Corniche prototype of 1940. The Corniche did not survive World War II, but its spirit did, and after the War, it evolved into H.I.F. Evernden and J.P. Blatchley’s R-Type Continental. It is “a car which would not only look beautiful but possess a high maximum speed, coupled with a correspondingly high rate of acceleration, together with excellent handling and roadability”.
H.J. Mulliner was contracted to design and build the prototype Continental, which was based on the frame, suspension, steering, and braking components of a standard R-Type. The body, window, and seat frames were built of light alloy, resulting in a four-passenger body that weighed only 750 pounds and less than 4,000 pounds when mated to the chassis. After extensive road tests in France, the prototype’s overdriven top-gear gearbox was found to be unsuitable for the revolutions per minute offered by the engine, so it was replaced by a direct-ratio top gear and lower axle ratio, which was a combination that proved best for both high-speed touring and well-spaced gear changes for city driving.
CHASSIS NUMBER BC14D
Of the 207 production Continentals built between May 1952 and April 1955, Mulliner would body 193 of them to variations of their prototype design, which was dubbed the Sports Saloon. The Mulliner-bodied R-Type Continental created a space for itself that was unique. It combined the swiftness of a Ferrari, the driver-friendly agility of an Alfa Romeo, and the luxuriant comfort of a Rolls-Royce in one elite, built-to-order package that cost $18,000. In the early 1950s, there was no other automobile quite like it in the world, which made it a “must-have” for the burgeoning jet set. In the words of Autocar magazine, it was “a modern magic carpet”.
According to the Bentley R-Type Continental Register and copies of the original build documents, chassis number BC14D was road tested on 22 September 1954 and completed on 4 October 1954. Bodied to the most desirable design, H.J. Mulliner’s Fastback Sports Saloon, it was specified with several unusual custom options for its first owner, including a divided front bench seat, a steering wheel offset an extra 2½ inches to the right, “Wraith-type” lightweight bumper overriders, a dashboard radio with an additional speaker, and map pockets and elbow rests on the doors, as well as a flat plain radiator cap without the “Flying B”, and the optional automatic transmission.
Interestingly, the car was not delivered to the original owner, steamship line executive William A. Headlam of Raithwaite Hall in Whitby, Yorkshire, until 15 March 1955, via Myers & Burnell Ltd., the area's Bentley agents. It has had a known and continuous ownership history since, passing in 1959 to J. Stephenson, a friend of Jack Barclay; in 1966 to the Hon. R.H.C. Neville; in 1975 to J.R. Wild; and in 1988 to A.G. Eliades. The accompanying history file includes Jack Barclay service records, registration documents, restoration invoices for the trimming of the interior in 1988, and extensive additional correspondence, as well as build records from the Rolls-Royce Foundation. Amusingly, one of the letters from a previous owner, written during the 1970s fuel crisis, notes that “at the end of December, I am taking one of my cherished R-Type Bentleys off the road and sinking to the depths of depravity by purchasing a little Japanese Datsun, a pair of extra-large dark glasses, and a high-coloured coat so that I cannot be recognised”!
The car is now finished in sumptuous Velvet Green over green leather upholstery, a very elegant colour combination. Since 1993, it has been the prized possession of Luca Bassani Antivari, founder of Monaco’s Wally Yachts, one of the world’s premier yacht builders, and has seen regular careful maintenance by Chelsea Workshops, allowing it to be driven with enjoyment along the Corniche. Mr Bassani recounts:
Since I was a young boy, I had dreamed of owning an R-Type Continental and becoming a member of the Bentley Boys group; it has always been, for me, the only classic car that could be used comfortably by its owner. Late in the 1980s, I began to look for one and had the opportunity to see and touch a dozen examples. In the end, I realized that UTU 3 was the nicest one because of her shape and lines that had been so perfectly drawn and built.
The delivery in St Tropez of my R-Type had a real James Bond touch. I landed in my helicopter, close to a lorry that, immediately after our landing, opened, with my Continental sliding out from its back. I and my friend immediately jumped in the magnificent car to go directly to the Club 55, where I was welcomed more than ever! In St Tropez, when the road to the harbour was closed to traffic, I never had any problem being allowed to pass in my Bentley. The same has been true in Monte Carlo; when UTU 3 is arriving, there is a kind of race between the valet guys to park her, and in the best position possible.
UTU 3 is a queen of the road, a status that she will always retain.
Whilst driving the car up into the hills surrounding Monaco for this catalogue, she is reported by an RM Sotheby’s specialist to have performed as impeccably as one would expect from a car that has seen the regular use and maintenance that this example has. This lovely R-Type Continental is offered with pride to a new home following years of enjoyment along the winding cliff-side roads of Monaco—the exact use for which the sumptuous, seductive Continental was originally intended.
To view this car and others currently consigned to this auction, please visit the RM website at rmsothebys.com/.
1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback Sports Saloon