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Lot 208

1955 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon by H.J. Mulliner

  • Chassis no. BC67LD
  • Engine no. BCD66
  • Body no. 5732

Sold for $1,127,500


178 bhp, 4,887 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine with two SU carburetors, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with wishbones, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar, live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 120 in.

  • The ultimate R-Type Continental
  • Factory left-hand drive, lightweight seats, and a 4.9-liter engine
  • Matching-numbers engine and original upholstery
  • Still the ideal gentleman’s driving machine


A MODERN MAGIC CARPET

Even after becoming the “Silent Sports Car” in the mid-1930s, Bentley held tight to its performance heritage. Later in the decade, the company began experimenting with aerodynamic designs and eventually created the Georges Paulin-designed Corniche prototype of 1940. The Corniche did not survive World War II, but its spirit did, and after the war, it evolved into H.I.F. Evernden and J.P. Blatchley’s R-Type Continental. It is “a car which would not only look beautiful but possess a high maximum speed, coupled with a correspondingly high rate of acceleration, together with excellent handling and roadability.”

H.J. Mulliner was contracted to design and build the prototype Continental, which was based on the frame, suspension, steering, and braking components of a standard R-Type. The body, window, and seat frames were built of light alloy, resulting in a four-passenger body that weighed only 750 pounds and less than 4,000 pounds when mated to the chassis. After extensive road tests in France, the prototype’s overdriven top-gear gearbox was found to be unsuitable for the rpms offered by the engine, so it was replaced by a direct-ratio top gear and lower axle ratio, which was a combination that proved best for both high-speed touring and well-spaced gear changes for city driving.

Of the 207 production Continentals built between May 1952 and April 1955, Mulliner would body 193 of them to variations of their prototype design, which was dubbed the Sports Saloon. The Mulliner-bodied R-Type Continental created a space for itself that was unique. It combined the swiftness of a Ferrari, the driver-friendly agility of an Alfa Romeo, and the luxuriant comfort of a Rolls-Royce in one elite, built-to-order package that cost $18,000. In the early 1950s, there was no other automobile quite like it in the world, which made it a “must-have” for the burgeoning jet set. In the words of Autocar magazine, it was “a modern magic carpet.”

CHASSIS NUMBER BC67LD

Chassis number BC67LD, the car offered here, is part of the fourth “D” series of R-Type Continentals, and it is, of course, listed in the Bentley R-Type Continental Register. Copies of its original build sheets, which were acquired from the Rolls-Royce Foundation, are also on file. These document and verify its original specifications, which are some of the highest and most desirable of any of its ilk.

The car was ordered by J. Guinness, of Monaco. By this time, R-Type Continentals were being equipped with the later, more desirable 4.9-liter engine, which was used as an upgrade on numerous earlier cars. This car has had the 4.9 engine since new, and it has been mated to an especially smooth and compliant four-speed automatic gearbox. The order of a car with an automatic gearbox caused some consternation at Bentley Motors, as apparently Mr. Guinness was a significant enough customer to warrant a car being built for him without delay, but no chassis with an automatic gearbox was near completion. Bentley paid H.J. Mulliner ?157 to remove the body from chassis number B16D, as yet unsold, and install it on this new chassis. Thus, as the register explains, “The body number is lower than that found on other late D series chassis.”

Mr. Guinness’s car was also equipped from new with Mulliner’s famous lightweight bucket seats, which are both extraordinarily supportive and sporting.

The completed R-Type Continental was flown from Ferryfield Airport to Le Touquet via Silver City Airways on March 1, 1955, and it underwent much testing before being delivered to Mr. Guinness via Franco-Brittanic Automobiles of Paris. FBA would go on to handle the car no fewer than three more times, for its next trio of owners—Monsieurs Chauvel, Bonnal, and Meuli—all of whom were French residents.

In 1980, the car was purchased by French collector Christian Teissier through Frank Dale & Stepsons. It later passed to Belgian owner Michel Kruch during a private sale on January 1, 1998, and it then joined the well-known and highly regarded stable of Friedhelm Loh prior to joining the Andrews Collection several years ago.

The car has a wonderfully patinated appearance throughout, including on its original maroon leather interior, which is beautifully worn and as comfortable as a favorite baseball glove. Its bodywork is finished in rich, deep black, which is perhaps the best color for this body style, and it is accentuated by the original Wilmot Breedon bumpers, dual driving lights, and subtle blackwall tires. Presently, the car records 27,816 kilometers on its odometer. Under the hood, its finishes are somewhat worn but tidy, in keeping with a car that has been driven and enjoyed for some years, and it still wears its original firewall-mounted serial number tag, its original body number, and the delivery plate from Franco-Brittanic Automobiles.

Accompanying this R-Type Continental is a small but rather fascinating file, which includes not only the aforementioned build sheets but also such valuable original literature as maintenance instructions for H.J. Mulliner Coachwork, a guidebook to Rolls-Royce Service Facilities worldwide, and, amusingly, a directory for Lucas electrical system service in Europe.

R-Type Continentals are beloved by collectors for being superb long-distance touring automobiles, and few are better suited for continued road trips and rallies than this charmingly original, well-maintained, and eminently drivable Sports Saloon.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more