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1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback

1 of 43 LHD, Unique Special Order Interior, Lifetime California car.

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sold

VIN B/C42LC
Exterior Color Smoke Green
Interior Color Crocodile/Cream
Mileage 99415 Miles
Engine Inline 6 Cyl no. BCC41
Transmission Automatic
Status Sold
Stock FJ754

Comments

1954 Bentley R-Type Continental by H. J. Mulliner
s/n BC42LC, Engine no. BCC41
Smoke Green with special order Crocodile/Cream Interior

Created in Bentley’s greatest tradition of luxury, performance, and engineering, the R-type Continental has always been one of the most desirable Bentleys ever produced. Indeed, they are some of the most desirable cars of any type, and are among a select group of blue-chip collector cars thanks to their rarity, timeless appeal, and stunning aesthetics. In fact, these aesthetics consistently garner much praise, including the classification of the car as one of the twenty-five most beautiful cars ever made, according to Automobile Magazine. Developed as the ultimate variant of the R-type, this, the first Continental, was an exclusive, high-performance, grand tourer that achieved these goals through innovative design and light weight. The aluminum body was refined and optimized in Rolls-Royce’s aircraft wind tunnel, and indeed the stunning fastback styling and small rear fins were functional features to provide high speed and stability. On early cars, aluminum window frames and bumpers were employed and the hood ornament even left off. Nevertheless, the cars are not exactly small or lightweight, and they pushed tire technology to the limit, requiring special tires that could withstand the heat generated by the car’s weight, and more importantly, its speed.

With a top speed just shy of 120mph, it was the fastest 4-seat car of its era. Handling was also superb, with an uncanny and typically Bentley-like tendency for the car to seem much smaller than it is. The luxurious interior and refined manners of the car were also typically Bentley, as was the build quality, and consequently, the Continental was the most expensive car you could buy when it was new. Its price was and eye-watering £7608, or the equivalent of about $750,000 USD in today’s dollars, and as a result, just 208 examples were built in all.

This particular example is one of just 43 left hand drive examples built, and was delivered with a number of special features, the most remarkable of which is a crocodile upholstered interior. This was an original special order feature, and though it sounds unusual, it is actually quite stunning and attractive in person. The car is equipped with lightweight seats, and was the first automatic built. Also worth noting is that the car is has a sunroof.

Originally delivered in San Francisco, this example has been in California since new and has just three owners. Its first owner kept the car until 1976, at which point he sold the car in Southern California to its second owner. The car had 70,000 miles at that time, and the second owner enthusiastically and fastidiously kept the car until 2008. The car is comprehensively documented, with a massive file with receipts back to 1976, in addition to copies of the original build sheets. The car also comes with its original unrestored crocodile bound owner’s handbook and registration slips back to the 1970’s. The car was featured in Automobile Quarterly, and was shown at Pebble Beach in 1978. It was also awarded the Rolls-Royce Owners Club National Brace Award in 1987.

Over the years, car has sympathetically kept up and restored as necessary, but never completely disassembled. The receipts indicate all varieties of regular service work and cosmetic care, including a repaint and renewed chrome in 1976, as well as a new interior in 1995, at a cost of $11,403.91. The car has been kept properly, with regular fluid changes and tune ups, and more significant work such as recored radiator in 2002, and substantial transmission work at the same time. In January-March of 2009, the car was comprehensively serviced and a brake overhaul performed, to include master cylinder, front wheels cylinders, new linings all around, overhauled rear expanders, overhauled servo, brake rod bushings, machining the drums. The intake valve stem seals were also replaced at this time. The oil and coolant were changed, new spark plugs fitted, and the engine tuned as well. The total for this work was $4,864.10. The indicated mileage, just under 100,000, is from new.

Cosmetically, the car makes a strong impression. The body is extremely straight, solid, and has excellent gaps. The paintwork is an older repaint that is attractive overall, though it shows aging in some places. The chrome is very nice, with light pitting and scratches, completing the nice consistent patina of the exterior of the car. The lights and glass are in excellent order.

The interior of the car is stunning. The wood has been spectacularly refinished to concours condition, while the upholstery is in similarly nice condition. The crocodile upholstery is actually leather that is embossed with the crocodile pattern, though the original crocodile upholstery remains on the inside of the rear armrest. The rear armrest also contains a beautifully restored cribbage board, a deck of cards, and a vanity mirror. The conventional leather upholstery has very light wear only, and the switches and instruments are excellent. The car is fitted with a Becker Europa radio. The headliner and carpets are both in outstanding order.

The engine compartment is tidy and very clean with only light soiling. The painted components such as the cylinder head cover and air box are in very fine shape. The overall impression of the engine compartment is one of honesty and correctness, and even the grease gun and torch are present in the engine compartment. The underside makes a similar impression, with evidence of recent maintenance, and most importantly, extremely solid frame and body panels.

The trunk is very nice as well, and all the correct and myriad carpet sections. The full jack set is present including the air pump, and the spare is also present, as are the tools. The car also comes with a pair of uninstalled correct auxiliary lamps with ‘B’ logos. It is also equipped with books and tools, including the crocodile bound owner’s manual.

The car runs and drives very well. It starts immediately and the ride is very compliant over road imperfections. The car conveys a sense of solidity and craftsmanship that is unparalleled. The car corners very capably, defying both its age and its size, while the brakes are servo-assisted and operate effortlessly. Engine is both torquey and smooth, authoritatively accelerating the car. Visibility is superb, the driving position commanding, and one can only imagine what a tremendous motoring experience the car must have been when new. Even today, it begs to be used, and would be an ideal companion for a long trip. Indeed, thanks to its 1954 build date, it is eligible for a wide variety of events and represents a sophisticated and unusually comfortable alternative to more functionally narrow traditional sports cars.

This is an extremely rare opportunity to acquire an important example of this very significant car, which is widely acknowledged to be one of the most beautiful cars ever made. Arguably Bentley`s greatest car since World War II, the Continental has a unique ability to transcend the conventional postwar Rolls-Royce and Bentley experience, and is thus at home in any collection of significant automobiles. Certainly this is the Bentley to own for the sporting enthusiast, but would of course be at home as the centerpiece of a Bentley collection as well. Indeed, Ian Fleming saw fit to equip James Bond with one in the novel Thunderball, following Flemming`s opportunity to keep one in the UK for a year prior to exporting it (the Continental was initially available for export only).

This particular example is highly significant since it is one of the 43 left hand drive cars built, and because it is the first factory automatic delivered. It is superbly documented, and comes with a host of extras including full tool set (both in the engine compartment and in the boot), full jack set, a tremendous amount of records, auxiliary lamps, and owner’s handbook. Its excellent mechanical health and known history add further appeal, while its cosmetic patina encourages its new owner to actually drive and therefore enjoy the car. The car is, in short, everything that a Bentley should be: sensational-looking, luxurious, beautifully made, and a pleasure to use.

 


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Fantasy Junction +1 510 653 7555 Emeryville, California 94608 USA

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