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Image Left 1955 S1 Series1957 Continental S1 Image Right
 

Image credits: © Bentley.

1956 Bentley S1 news, pictures, specifications, and information

Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.
Chassis Num: BC 23 LAF
Engine Num: BC 22 A
 
Sold for $577,500 at 2007 Gooding & Company.
When Bentley introduced their R-Type Continental in 1952, it had a top speed of 120-mph and was hailed as 'the fastest four-seat car in the world.' The R-Type was replaced in 1955 by the S-Series, which also had a Continental variant.

The S Series had a long chassis which many feared would degrade the cars performance. This was not so, as the engine received an increase in displacement and the rear-axle ratio was changed to provide performance levels on par with the model it replaced. The suspension was improved which gave the car a nicer ride while improving its performance.

H.J. Mulliner bodied the Rolls-Royce styled fastback coupe, also known as the Sports Saloon. There were a handful of coachbuilders that were tasked with performing their craft on the Continental models, with Park Ward probably being the most famous. Their firm produced both open and closed models for the Continental S Series. It is estimated that 431 S1 Continentals carried this Drophead Coupe body and only 69 are in existence in modern times.

This S1 Continental Drophead Coupe with coachwork by Park Ward is one of only 31 original left-hand drive US delivery cars. It was delivered by New York City's Inskip Motors to Mr. R. L. Parish. It came equipped from the factory with a radio, sun visors, sealed beam headlights, speedometer calibrated in miles per hour, and whitewall tires.

In 1960 the car was sold to J.F. Anderson of Houston Texas. Rosa Eggleston from Memphis, Tennessee became the cars next owner in 1965 and sold it to the current owner in 1991. Up to this point in history, the car had been driven 39,000 miles. A three-year restoration was commissioned which removed the original green paint using walnut-shell stripping process. The entire vehicle was completely overhauled with most of the mechanical elements being refurbished, rebuilt, and/or restored. The interior was reupholstered.

After the restoration, the car was put on the concours trail where it won two Best in Shows and 14 Best in Class awards. The most recent was in 2005. In 1996 it was invited to the Rolls-Royce's manufacturer exhibit at the Pebble Beach Concours. In 2005 it was in the heritage display at the Los Angeles Auto Show and 2006 New York International Auto Show.

Currently, the car has nearly 45,000 miles on the odometer. In 2007 it was brought to the Gooding & Company auction held in Pebble Beach, California and estimated to sell for $550,000-$650,000. Those estimates proved accurate, as the lot was sold for $577,500 including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008
Sports Saloon
Coachwork: Hooper
Chassis Num: B460-AN
Engine Num: BA 230
 
Sold for $46,200 at 2007 Gooding & Company.
In the post-World War II era, a new type of marketplace for the elite in society began to evolve; one that had owner, rather than chauffeur, driving the car. A new type of Bentley was needed.

In 1946, Bentley introduced the Mark VI which was the first Bentley offered with a standard factory steel body. The Great Depression of the 1930s had depleted the number of independent coachbuilders, so the traditional method for clothing chassis's in the pre-WWWII era, was becoming obsolete. The following year, Rolls-Royce introduced their companion car, the Silver Dawn.

There was still a market for custom coachwork, and Bentley made their Mark Vi available as a rolling chassis on which the buyer could commission their own body.

In 1952, Bentley introduced the R-Type which featured a larger 4.5-liter engine and the first automatic transmission. The S-Series followed in 1955 and by this point, the standard steel sedan was nearly identical to the Rolls-Royce counterpart. A few differences existed, such as the grille and badge.

A total of 145 S1 Bentley's were clothed in custom coachwork. The remainders were standard sedans. One of the custom builders was Hooper & Company, based in London and had a history that dated back to 1805. Their existence would continue until 1960 when they ceased production and became a Rolls-Royce distributor.

This 1956 Bentley S1 Sports Saloon has Hooper coachwork. It is an aluminum body with is over 80 lbs. lighter than the standard steel sedan. This car features cutaway 'spats' over the rear wheels and a large, open interior with many windows offering a plethora of light to flow through. The interior is leather with eucalyptus wood trim, door sills, map tray, and rear writing tables.

This car was built for Lady Janet White of Felixstowe, UK and imported to the US in 1970 by Robert and Rita Irwin. The Irwin's retained the car for nearly four decades, before selling to the current owner. The car is completely original and has been driven 86,000 miles since new.

This is one of only four Bentley S1 automobiles with this type of coachwork. In 2007, it was brought to the Gooding & Company Auction held in Pebble Beach, California where it was estimated to sell for $75,000-$100,000. It was offered without reserve, which worked well for the buyer, who purchased the car for $46,200, including buyer's premium.

By Daniel Vaughan | May 2008
Continental Cabriolet
Designer: Graber
 
The Bentley S Type or S1, as it was more commonly known, was produced from 1955 through 1959, during which time 432 examples were Continentals that featured the 4,887cc engine with the six-port cylinder head and other performance enhancements. Bentley claimed that the S1 Continental was the 'fastest four-seater in the world,' and many examples were fitted with custom bodies by notable coachbuilders such as Park Ward and H.J. Mulliner. This S1 Continental is unique in having been bodied by the Swiss firm of Graber for the 1956 Geneva Motor Show. After many years, its current owner has recently carried out its restoration, and the 2013 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance was the car's first showing anywhere in the world.

This was the only Bentley S1 Continental Convertible bodied by an independent coachbuilder rather than the Park Ward Division of Rolls-Royce. This was clothed for the Geneva Show and remained in Europe for some time, unfortunately becoming quite corroded during that period. It was brought to the United Sates and was disassembled for restoration with many parts damaged or lost while it remained in that state for many years. It was finally brought to its present state for the current owner.
Sports Saloon
Coachwork: Mulliner
Chassis Num: BC36LAF
 
The second of only 24 left-hand drive examples built between 1955 and 1959, this Bentley S1 Continental Mulliner Fastback Coupe was restored in 1971 by Steve Morton. He then drove it from Cincinnati to the Rolls-Royce Owners Club meeting in Newport, Rhode Island, where it won the Rolls-Royce Trophy for Best of Show, Postwar - the first Bentley to ever win this unique award. The next year, at the RROC meet in Indianapolis, the car won the Mulliner Trophy. It was later shown twice at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, where it was named Second in Class in 1975 and 1976.
Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.
Chassis Num: BC26lBG
 
One of 31 left-hand-drive alloy bodied convertibles built between 1956 and 1959. This early example has been equipped with the upgraded large valve, large carburetor cylinder head as found on the later versions, power steering and air conditioning. First restored in 1983 in sand over coffee bean brown with saddle tan Connolly interior.
Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Mulliner
 
This vehicle is a 1956 Bentley S1 Drophead Coupe with coachwork by H.J. Mulliner. It is finished in black with a red leather interior. It was on display at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance.
By Daniel Vaughan | May 2007
Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.
Chassis Num: BC16LAF
Engine Num: BC15A
 
1956 Bentley S1 Continental Park Ward Coupe is the Ex Jack Warner Car and is one of the very early S1 Continentals built. The S1 had the six cylinder engine which was well proven and reliable. Coupled with styling and many interior amenities, this is a desirable automobile.

This car was offered for sale at the 2007 Blackhawk Collection held at the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance where it carried a price tag of $350,000. It is one of 33 built.

By Daniel Vaughan | Aug 2007
Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.
Chassis Num: BC22LBG
 
This Park Ward Convertible has only 49,997 miles on the odometer with 9,204 of those miles travelled since being refurbished in 1993. Restoration was accomplished by Vantage Motorworks of Miami. The car is finished in period colors of Gunmetal grey over Mason's black with Connolly hides piped black to match the English mohair roof. It left the factory with air-conditioning and was sold to Edwin Jay Gould. The current owner is only the second registered owner.

The car is fitted with original keys with their engraved codes accompany its interesting ownership documentation. The Park Ward Convertible sold for $18,605.
The Bentley S1 was produced from 1955 through 1959 during which 3538 examples were created with 145 being outfitted with custom bodies. 431 examples were Bentley S1 Continentals. Thirty-five of the Bentley S1's sat atop a long wheelbase. Some of the notable coachbuilders who outfitted the S1's were Park Ward and H.J. Mulliner.
The Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I and the Bentley S1 were nearly identical, except for different badging and radiators. Mechanically, they were identical. Under the hood was an F-head 4887 cc straight six Crewe engine with cast-iron cylinder block and aluminum alloy cylinder heads. A dual SU carburetor type HD6 was used from 1955 through 1957. From 1957 through 1959, a dual SU carburetor type HD8 was used. A four speed automatic gearbox was standard; however, a four-speed manual unit was available as optional equipment. Stopping power was provided by drum brakes. The vehicles were adorned in two-tone paintwork with the hood finished in the lower color.

Six months after the introduction of the S1, Bentley introduced the S1 Continental, a name that had also been used as early as 1952 on the R-Type sedan. The Continental versions featured a slightly tuned engine and other performance features. Bentley claimed the Continental as 'the fastest four-seater in the world'. The engines were modified by enlarging the bore which increased the displacement to 4.9 liters. With the standard automatic gearbox and the added weight of optional power steering and power windows, the increase in engine size was well received by Bentley customers. The steel-body was replaced with aluminum, thus reducing the overall weight of the vehicle.

By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006
When Bentley was purchased by the Volkswagen conglomerate in 1998, many fans of the marque feared the brand would lose its identity. With long time brother Rolls-Royce getting sold off to a different parent company, though, those worries were unwarranted.

Prior to the 1930's, Rolls-Royce and Bentley were serious competitors. Both firms offered their unique interpretations on the English gentleman's car theme. Walter Owen Bentley was a better car builder than businessman, though, and his company was facing serious financial hardships by the early 1930's.

Rolls-Royce Ltd. bought the troubled Bentley facilities in 1931. The first Roll-Royce-produced Bentley, the 3½ Litre, debuted for 1933. From this point until Volkswagen's purchase of the works in 1998, Bentley produced near twins of Rolls-Royce cars, with an occasional special vehicle of its own. Bentley and Rolls produced some of the finest four-wheeled machines in the world during their partnership, but the Bentley brand retained little identity of its own. Bentleys were essentially badge-engineered cars. They were the slightly sportier counterparts of contemporary Rollers.

Proof of this can be found throughout the histories of the two companies, but the Bentley S1 is a great place to start. Produced from 1955 through 1959, the S1 was mechanically and visually (in standard coachwork, at least) identical to the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I in most ways. We've all seen Silver Clouds patiently waiting outside churches on wedding days, clad in white with dignified grilles gleaming. The Bentley, though, was a stronger seller despite its relative lack of fame.

A total of 3,538 Bentley S1's were produced. Of these, 3,072 were of the standard S1 variety on standard chassis. There were 35 made with long-wheelbase chassis. The remaining 431 were S1 Continentals.

The ancient F-series engine, a straight six design, powered the S1 and displaced 4,887cc. It had an iron block with an alloy head. Twin SU carburetors were employed in good British taste, and an automatic transmission was standard fare with an available 4-speed manual offered upon request.

The most impressive S1, in terms of both presence and performance, was the Continental. Rolls-Royce and Bentley were not in the habit of announcing such pedestrian numbers as horsepower ratings during S1 production, so it's unknown how much more power the Continental had over the standard S1. Other improvements were obvious, though, and the Continental's intentions were made clear regardless of its hazy power output figures.

Braking, steering, and suspension systems were all reworked to give Continentals a more controllable feel. They were not available with standard coachwork. The H.J. Mulliner Fastback Saloon body seen on many S1 Continentals resembles that of the supremely expensive R Continental which preceded it. An imposing and handsome design, a mammoth grille of the traditionally curved Bentley style stood upright at the nose of the vehicle. A long hood bridged the expansive gap between the radiator grille's top and the rakish windshield's bottom, and from there all body lines flowed downward and back in a sweeping motion to create an impression of speed even at standstill.

The S1 with standard coachwork was, as stated, a Silver Cloud I twin with a revised grille and new badging. It took the Continental version of the S1 to provide Bentley with a unique car that was in the honest spirit of the maker.

If you walk into a Bentley dealer today, you will notice, amongst other cars, a wonderfully styled fastback named Continental. It has a unique design and an engine with astounding grunt. It was designed to go, stop, and handle with aplomb, and bears no resemblance to any modern Rolls-Royce. So the next time you mistake a standard S1 for a Silver Cloud, ask yourself just how much of Bentley's innate identity was lost to Volkswagen.

Sources:

Kinney, Dave. 'Bentley S1 Continental.' Sports Car Market Apr 2005 21 Mar 2009 http://www.sportscarmarket.com/Profiles/2005/April/English/.

'Bentley S1 and Bentley S1 Continental; Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I: Bentley 3 1/2 Litre.' Rolls Royce and Bentley 21 Mar 2009 http://www.rrab.com/.

By Evan Acuña
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