1960 Bentley S2
Year of manufacture1960
Number of seats2
1960 Bentley S2 Continental Sports Saloon
Coachwork by H J Mulliner
Registration no. 483 XUL
Chassis no. BC49AR
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 in 1955 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. Dependable though it had proved, Rolls-Royce's six-cylinder engine was nearing the end of its development. At the same time the company was facing increased competition from faster rivals in the vital United States market, and it was, principally, these two factors that prompted the switch to V8 power as the 1960s approached.
Introduced in the autumn of 1959, the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II and Bentley S2 appeared externally unchanged from their Silver Cloud and S-Type predecessors, though their performance was considerably enhanced by the new 6,230cc aluminium-alloy engine, which produced approximately 25% more power than the old six. "The Bentley S2, with its sister Rolls-Royce models, gives high-speed travel in silence and luxury, while the driver and passengers enjoy the sense of well-being that only British craftsmanship can give," enthused Autosport. "The V8 engine, with its flashing acceleration, certainly contributes to the result and is a definite step forward in Rolls-Royce technique." There were few significant changes to the running gear, though power-assisted steering was now standard and the manual gearbox had been dropped, Rolls-Royce's own four-speed automatic transmission being the sole offering.
The Continental version of the Bentley remained, as ever, exclusively a coachbuilt automobile. The firms of H J Mulliner, Park Ward, James Young and Hooper (with a solitary example) all offered hand crafted bodies on the Continental S2 chassis, which differed from the standard version by virtue of its four-leading-shoe front brakes, shorter radiator and, up to chassis number 'BC99BY', higher gearing. Of these four, James Young and Hooper would soon cease coachbuilding, leaving only Mulliner and Park Ward to carry on a noble tradition. Consolidating its in-house coachbuilding capability, Rolls-Royce had purchased H J Mulliner in 1959 and two years later the firm was merged with Park Ward, which had been acquired in 1939. Of the 388 S2 Continentals made, 222 were bodied in styles that originated with H J Mulliner and 125 with those of Park Ward.
Described as 'arguably the best looking' by Martin Bennett' in his book 'Bentley Continental', the S2 version typically cost some 40% more than the equivalent standard steel saloon and was the preserve of a privileged few. The S2 Continental represented the ultimate in luxury travel for the sporting motorist, affording a fast yet comfortable journey for four people and their luggage to glamorous destinations such as the St Moritz and Côte d'Azure.
Representing the pinnacle of bespoke taste in its day, 'BC49AR' was supplied new in 1960 to Mr Morton of The Anchor Glass Co Ltd, Brent Cross (now site of the eponymous Shopping Centre) and in 1963 passed to its second owner, Mr G R Bates of Warwickshire. He had the car maintained by Rolls-Royce Ltd, and in 1968 it was prepared for his move to the Channel Islands where he obviously intended to stay for some time. While 'BC49AR' was being prepared at H J Mulliner/Rolls-Royce's facility in London, he requested that they update his car to S3 specification to include the quad headlamps and different front wings. By this time the S3 was no longer available, hence Mr Bates' decision to have his S2 updated.
St Helier Garages looked after Mr Bates' updated S2 throughout his time in Jersey over the next 40 years, by which time the mileage total had risen to only some 70,000. Brought back to London after Mr Bates' ownership, the Continental was reregistered and treated to a top-end overhaul of the engine. Since then the Bentley has belonged to only its third owner living in Belgravia where he keeps half-a-dozen Bentleys and Rolls-Royces dating from the 1950s and 1960s, all of which are cared for on his behalf by Graeme Hunt Ltd. With only three owners from new and relatively few miles covered over the course of its 59 years, this wonderful S2 Continental remains in outstandingly original condition and is worthy of the closest inspection.