1953 Bentley R Type
Year of manufacture1953
Offered from The Alps to Goodwood Collection
1953 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon
Coachwork by H J Mulliner
Chassis no. BC27C
"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 'BC27C' was supplied new by Charles Atwood & Son Ltd to one J Salem. Completed on 15th July 1953, the car was originally finished in black with beige hide interior trim, and was equipped with lightweight seats and the manual gearbox. It was built to design number '7277/G', featuring a higher rear wings line; door recesses with sliding panels; compartment in offside boot; and small over-riders.
'BC27C' went on to have a further five owners (all in the UK, details available) before being acquired by prominent collector the late Denis de Ferranti in January 1965. It is believed Mr Ferranti kept the Continental until his death in 1992, and the car was next owned by Anthony Galliers-Pratt (from January 1994).
In 1999 'BC27C' was a class winner at the R-REC's Althorp meeting, and during 1999/2000 was rebuilt and rally-prepared by Padgett Motor Engineers and Autotrade Restoration in preparation for the Liège-Rome Rally, which it participated in on four occasions (2000-2003). In 2006 the Bentley was acquired by Terry Lister of Warwickshire, passing to the present owner, a prominent Swiss private collector, in August 2009.
Padgett's rally preparation involved fitting up-rated dampers; higher poundage front and rear springs; larger diameter front and rear anti-roll bars; steering modification; Dunlop racing wheels and tyres; and Alfin ventilated brakes with competition linings. The engine has been tuned, incorporating forged pistons and con-rods; competition clutch; lightened flywheel; fluid damper; OPWAS big-valve cylinder head; 8.8:1 compression ratio; gas-flowed ports; triple carburettors; free-flow twin exhaust; alloy radiator; and an oil cooler.
Many of Padgett's modifications were based upon work carried out by Bentley's Hythe Road Service Department for individual customers and by the Experimental Department for the 1955/56 model (R-Type) Continental, which was never put into production. Improving the volumetric efficiency and raising the compression ratio without changing the camshaft profile has significantly increased power within the useable rev range. The engine now produces 226bhp compared to the estimated 158bhp of the standard Continental engine; it has also been designed to run on Super Unleaded petrol. The first Continental to be rally prepared in this way was 'BC65C', in 1996, and Padgett has completed four Continentals to rally specification. In 2018 'BC27C' was fitted with air conditioning and electric power steering (for 1st and reverse gears).
While in the vendor's care the Continental has been enthusiastically campaigned throughout Europe and beyond, participating in prestigious events such as the Rallye des Alpes; Eifel Classic; Gaisberg; Vosges Classic; and the California Mille. Its most recent outing was at the British Car Meeting (BCM) in Mollis, Switzerland in August 2019.
Presented in beautiful condition, 'BC27C' represents a rare opportunity to acquire a fine example of the most famous post-war Bentley, possessing impeccable provenance and expertly prepared for historic rallying. 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.
Should the vehicle remain in the UK, local import taxes of 5% will be added to the hammer price.