1952 Bentley R Type


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First owned by André Embiricos; present ownership since 1986
1952 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon
Coachwork by H J Mulliner
Registration no. SYE 556
Chassis no. BC18D

'The vocabulary of motoring being a lame and limited thing, it is difficult to put into words the gulf that separates a Continental from the average car in all the qualities that have a bearing on safety at speed. In acceleration, in braking, in cornering power, in roadholding, in responsiveness to the controls, this Bentley is the equal of modern racing cars, and superior to some.' ? Raymond Mays, The Autocar, 2nd October 1953.

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 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. 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, aluminium, wind tunnel-developed fastback of H J Mulliner. In developing the Continental, Bentley Motors made every effort to keep its weight to the minimum, knowing that this was the most effective way to achieve the maximum possible performance.

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 but has been estimated at around 153bhp. As the Continental matured, there was ? inevitably ? an increase in weight, which was offset by the introduction of a 4,887cc engine on the 'D' and 'E' series cars, commencing in May 1954. 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. As Autocar observed: 'The Bentley is a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances and delivers the occupants well-nigh as fresh as when they started.' When production ceased in 1955 a total of 208 cars had been completed, the left-hand/right-hand drive split being 43/165.

The example offered here - right-hand drive chassis number 'BC15B' ? was delivered new to the Paris-based Greek shipping millionaire and racing driver, André Embiricos, who had owned a succession of Bentley motor cars, including the famous 'Embiricos' 4¼-Litre Coupé, commencing in the 1930s. The Bentley was delivered new on 8th October 1954 via Franco-Britannic Automobiles, Paris. Special features included a Bluemels steering wheel; speedometer in km; HF horns; steering column 1" lower and 1½" shorter than standard; and an extended gear lever. The car was originally finished in Midnight Blue with tan trim.

Mrs A Embiricos subsequently part exchanged the Bentley with the factory on 27th June 1956, and on 12th September that year 'BC18D' was sold via Jack Barclay to its second owner, one W Bateman in England. The car received the registration mark 'SYE 556'. In October 1986, the Continental was sold by marque specialists P&A Wood to the current (third) owner, Clive Richards OBE, KSG, DL, and when acquired was still in entirely original condition. The car has now been donated to the Clive and Sylvia Richards Charity on whose behalf it is being sold.

One very unusual feature, which is still in working order, is the horn switch. At the time of the Bentley's delivery, traffic regulations in Paris forbade the use of car horns in order to cut down the noise that prevailed at the time. Motorists were expected to signal people politely to move out of the way of their oncoming car by flashing the headlights. Accordingly, the Bentley was fitted with a switch underneath the dashboard which, when turned on, stops the horns from activating but flashes the headlights!

Offered with a substantial history file, 'BC15B' represents a rare opportunity to acquire a fine example of the most famous post-war Bentley, possessing impeccable provenance.