31 October 2012

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Lot 131

1960 Bentley S2 Continental Coupé by H.J. Mulliner & Co.

  • Chassis no. BC85 AR
  • Engine no. A84BC

Sold for £218,400

178 hp, 6,230 cc OHV V-8 engine, twin SU carburettors, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs and wishbones, semi-elliptic rear springs with electrically controlled shock absorbers, power-assisted front and rear drum brakes, and hydraulic front and hydro-mechanical rear. Wheelbase: 123 in.

• Company car for Sir Denning Pearson, Executive Master, Rolls-Royce, Ltd.

• Four owners from new with complete documented history

• 59,000 original miles with recent cosmetic and mechanical freshening

• One of only 71 right-hand drive S2 coupés bodied by H.J. Mulliner; fitted with factory air conditioning, power windows, and antenna

After the war, Rolls-Royce and Bentley needed to satisfy their customers’ demand for high-quality motor cars post-haste. The early post-war cars needed to be produced quickly, so they were mostly based on late-1930s specifications. The results were practical but not especially exciting to see or to drive.

When the R-Type Bentley Continental was re-introduced in 1952 as a high-speed touring car, it refreshed Rolls-Royce’s reputation, rapidly achieving cult status. Everyone who could afford one wanted a Bentley Continental. Such a marketing success led to the continuation of Continental specification when the S series was introduced in 1955. The last Bentley Continental produced under the combined Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors organization was in 1965.

The venerable Royce-designed straight six-cylinder engine was first introduced in 1907, in the Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. This same engine had been redesigned and improved steadily until 1959. However, the time had come for a larger and more powerful engine, and it was replaced by the first V-8 engine ever offered by the firm. The new V-8 powerplant appeared in the exciting new Silver Cloud II, Bentley S2, and Bentley S2 Continental series cars.

H.J. Mulliner designed and built this car’s body. In business from 1900 through 1968, it was the most successful and prolific of the Mulliner-named coachbuilding firms and has always been closely identified with Rolls-Royce and Bentley. The H.J. Mulliner post-war Bentley Continental R-type and S-series coupé and two-door saloon bodies are highly sought-after by enthusiasts today. As early as 1950, the coachbuilder looked for alternatives to aluminium over a hardwood body skeleton. Mulliner began to use extruded alloy sections under the sleek skins to create a squeak-free, corrosion-resistant body as an alternative to the standard steel saloon. Rolls-Royce Motors acquired the company in 1959, and in 1961, they merged H.J. Mulliner with their other coachbuilding company, Park Ward Ltd.

The Bentley Continental is easily identified by its chassis number, as it is always prefaced with “BC”. The name “Continental” was intended to advertise low wind resistance, lightness, and exceptional speed and performance. The Continental designation rapidly acquired a reputation as being a cut above the standard Bentley.

BC85 AR is a very low-mileage, recently refreshed two-door saloon (a term coined by H.J. Mulliner for their fixed head coupé) and is exceptional in its coachbuilt body and its documented provenance. As original works records indicate, this car was expressly built as a “company car”. These cars received even closer attention during the building process, and the works order cards reflect the extra attention lavished on this particular example. It is one of only 388 examples of the Bentley S2 Continental built and one of a mere 71 right-hand drive coupés ever bodied by H.J. Mulliner & Co.

A car owned by the company and used by a top level executive could never “fail to proceed”, therefore, every possible precaution was taken. Often the chassis frames were X-rayed to ensure castings were absolutely perfect. Engines were assembled by the foreman of each specialty. In the wood shop, the lead workman was tasked to oversee the process, and he sometimes embellished or added special touches to the cabinetry. During final inspection, the car was tested and inspected with the finest of fine-tooth combs. Any car built for in-house use is very special indeed.

This car was as close to perfection as possible when presented to Sir Denning Pearson for his use, and it is now offered with copies of the original records and appropriate maintenance records, restoration invoices, and photographs, as well as UK MoT certificates dating back to the early-1970s. Well maintained throughout its life, this S2 has covered only 59,000 miles. It has been cosmetically and mechanically refreshed by the respected specialists at Healey Bros, keeping this car in top running order, and it has covered very few miles since. As a Rolls-Royce Company car, it was delivered with every option available when new, including factory air conditioning, sundym glass, power windows, and an antenna. Finished in chic Brewster Green paintwork with green Connolly leather interior, this car is in excellent ready-to-show-or-go condition, and the new owner can be confident that they will be driving a very special example of one of the finest post-war Bentleys, one that is elegant, sporting, and luxurious all at once.

Alexander Weaver

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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

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

Michael Squire

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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