1956 Bentley S1
Year of manufacture1956
1956 Bentley S1 Continental Coupé
Coachwork by Park Ward Ltd
Chassis no. BC59LAF
Engine no. BC58A
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 on the R-Type chassis in 1952. With the arrival of the final generation of six-cylinder cars, the all-new Silver Cloud and Bentley S-Type, the Continental lost some of its individuality but none of its exclusivity. Eulogising about Bentley's new 'S' Series cars, introduced in April 1955, The Autocar wrote, "the latest Bentley model offers a degree of safety, comfort and performance that is beyond the experience and perhaps even the imagination of the majority of the world's motorists".
Later, in October that same year, the Bentley Continental became available on the 'S' chassis. "It brings Bentley back to the forefront of the world's fastest cars," Autocar said of the H J Mulliner-styled fastback, which was the quickest four/five-seater saloon of its day. The Bentley S-Type's new box-section chassis incorporated improved brakes and suspension and an enlarged (to 4,887cc) and more powerful version of the existing inlet-over-exhaust six-cylinder engine, which for the first time was identical in specification in its Rolls and Bentley forms. The Continental version came with shorter radiator and higher gearing and, for a time at least, could be ordered with right-hand change manual transmission. As had been the case with the original R-Type, the new S-Type Continental was only ever available as a coachbuilt car; the designs by independent coachbuilders for the S1 Continental chassis being among era's the most stylish.
Of the 431 Bentley S1 Continentals produced between 1955 and 1959, 185 were bodied by Rolls-Royce's in-house coachbuilder Park Ward Ltd, of which 33 were left-hand drive like this example. Chassis number 'BC59LAF' was delivered new to Lewis Robert 'Lew' Wasserman, one of the 'movers and shakers' of the Hollywood motion picture industry, whose performing artists agency Music Corporation of America (MCA) ended up owning both Universal Studios and Decca Records. Connie Brooks' 2003 biography of Wasserman is evocatively titled: When Hollywood had a King: The Reign of Lew Wasserman, Who Leveraged Talent into Power and Influence.
In 1990, 'BC59LAF' was bought by London-based Bentley Continental specialist Peter Fisher, who embarked on a two-year restoration on behalf of prominent French collector Jean-Michel Signoles current president of Goyard. Today the restoration had held up so well that the car can still be described as in concours condition. The magnificent Black Pearl paintwork is faultless, while the original 'Gentleman's Club' interior features swathes of very lightly patinated red leather and plentiful wood embellishment as befits such a prestigious and exclusive model. Registered in Belgium, the car retains its original engine, while other notable features include the desirable options of air conditioning and power steering.