1954 Bentley R Type



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“Whatever memorable motoring experiences one may have had, this was something different…this Bentley is a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances and delivers the occupants well-nigh as fresh as when they started.” The Autocar.
Without doubt the R Type Continental by H.J. Mulliner is one of the chicest, most stylish and elegant sporting motor cars ever built and a true icon of the 1950's.

Not just that, when launched it was one of the most expensive cars that money could buy at a whopping £6,928 including UK purchase tax! When the prototype was shown at the Paris Salon and the London Motor Show in the autumn of 1951, the new Bentley was introduced to the public as the ‘Continental Sports Saloon’, a title that encapsulated its role as a long-distance express - production was sold-out for many months ahead.

A total of 207 examples (plus the prototype) were built to order in five series: ‘A’ to ‘E’, from May 1952 to April 1955, and no two were the same. Owners could choose from a variety of options: manual or automatic gearbox, “lightweight” sports bucket seats or “heavy” touring seats, special instrumentation and spats on the rear wheels etc. The Bentley R-Type Continental was not only sublimely beautiful and graceful, it was sporting too, it was, in fact, the fastest production four-seater in the world capable of cruising at 100 mph and with a top speed nudging 120mph.

This particular example was completed on October 25th, 1954 and delivered to its first owner, Jorge Ortiz Linares via Franco-Britannic Motors in Paris. According to the original Works Chassis Specification build sheet and factory records the original colour combination was Black Pearl coachwork with Beige Connolly Luxan Grain cowhide upholstery. Additional notes on the Chassis Specification details special steering, French headlamps, Wilmot-Breedon Continental bumpers, Speedometer in kilometers and twin RD 8188 fog lamps.

First owner Jorge Ortiz Linares was the Ambassador of Bolivia to France, and his wife, Graziella, was the daughter of the Bolivian tin mining magnate Simón I. Patiño. Graziella filled their house at 34 Avenue Foch with French decorative arts, especially silver, and this passion for collecting was inherited by their son, George, who went on to form "one of the world's greatest private collections of ancient and tribal art".

BC53D subsequently passed through the hands of three additional owners in France, with all sales being conducted by Franco Britannic Motors, and was later sold to its first English owner, Mr A.E. Walker in 1965 and given the personalised number plate “Y 9”.

According to the Bentley Continental Register, BC53D’s engine was exchanged by Wadhams, Southport in the early 1970s for an engine from another 4.9 litre D-Series car, chassis BC35D. Records for chassis BC35D state that it was also fitted with an exchange 33/4 bore engine, ex “N” stock, on 28 January 1959.

BC53D was exported to Texas in the 1970’s where it stayed for several years before returning to Europe for a short sojourn in Germany in the mid 1990s. It then returned to England having been acquired by known collector Mr. Stephen Pilkington, in whose care it was treated to an extensive cosmetic and mechanical overhaul. It is believed that at this time it was decided to change the colour combination to the elegant midnight blue over oxblood, the combination it still wears today.

Acquired by its present, Central London based, owner in January 2001 via leading historic Bentley specialists, Frank Dale & Stepsons, this magnificent late D series R-Type is a fine example of the majestic Continental with an interesting and well-travelled life from new.

As a late D series example without rear wheel spats, it has a more modern stance, it is factory equipped with the desirable, larger displacement, 4.9 litre, 6-cylinder engine, lightweight seats and 4 speed manual, floor-shift gearbox.

Finished in the effortlessly classic colour combination of midnight blue with oxblood leather upholstery it has been regularly and properly maintained and presents as an extremely handsome example of the R-Type ready, willing and able to deliver its occupants to the South of France...just as fresh as when they started.

Photos: Tim Scott