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1953 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon
Coachwork by H J Mulliner
Registration no. 999 BHR
Chassis no. BC20C

"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. "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.

Chassis number 'BC20C' was supplied by Charles Atwood & Son Ltd to Mr B P Jenks. Completed on 18th December 1953, the car was delivered finished in Masons Black with Burgundy hide interior trim, lightweight seats, and the manual gearbox. Its next three private owners, in order, were Sir Henry Spurrier (1956); S R H Clarke (1962); and Flight Lieutenant T N Allen (1971). The Bentley's original registration number was 'EUK 378' and it has also been registered 'KT 2038' and now '999 BHR'.

This Continental has one of the most comprehensive history files we have ever seen, effectively commencing in 1971 when the car was purchased from Frank Dale & Stepsons by Flt Lt Allen, who would look after it with no expense spared for the next 40-plus years. It appears that every single invoice has been kept, and the file also contains correspondence with the Rolls-Royce factory and a number of technical drawings. In the 1970s the Continental was re-sprayed white and re-trimmed in light grey, while in 1997 Classic Restorations of Alyth carried out a complete coachwork restoration and bare-metal repaint in Jaguar Metallichrome Blue, retaining the grey trim.

Following the Continental's departure from Mr Allen's ownership, the most recent refurbishment was carried out in 2014/2015 by Hexagon Classics. This comprehensive restoration included a complete mechanical overhaul; bare-metal repaint in the original colour; complete interior re-trim using correct Connolly hides in original Burgundy; new Wilton carpeting throughout; new West of England Cloth headlining; and a complete refurbishment of all wood veneers. Presented in beautiful condition, 'BC20C' represents a rare opportunity to acquire a fine example of the most famous post-war Bentley, possessing impeccable provenance.

With its outstanding aerodynamic coachwork, developed by Rolls-Royce stylist John Blatchley in collaboration with coachbuilder H J Mulliner, the R-Type Continental fastback remains the pinnacle of Bentley's achievements in the post-war era.

Bonhams 1793
101 New Bond Street
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Bonhams Collectors’ Car department