Image credits: © Bentley.

1954 Bentley R Type

Fastback Coupe
Coachwork: Mulliner
Chassis Num: BC62LC
Sold for $753,500 at 2011 RM Sothebys.
Slowly the effect of World War II began to wane. However, most of the British Isles, like the rest of Europe, was still rebuilding. Rationing was still a part of everyday life; chains that only allowed an individual to go just so far.

When it would become apparent the country would not only survive, but thrive once again, a mass exodus would take place amongst the nationals. Although the war had been over for years, the population wouldn't really experience freedom until the early 1950s.

Everyone, from the common man to the wealthy man, wanted to experience life. For those that could afford it, opulence was considered life. And for those that could, nothing would provide life-giving pleasure like the Bentley Continental Fastback.

The Bentley Continental had actually come into existence before the start of World War II. These Continental, for their day were fast and comfortable. One particular Bentley, a 1938 4.25-liter Coupe would end up being able to reach more than 120 mph on the autobahns in Germany. The early Continental would eventually lead to the MK V. However, MK V production would be limited by the outbreak of World War II.

After the war, Bentley and Rolls-Royce would move operations to Crewe. Bentley would pick up manufacturing with the MK VI. In spite of the fact the war had ended, and people started to again live a life of normalcy and of greater comfort they would still need some inspiration to truly enjoy life again. Bentley would replace the MK VI with the R-Type Continental and the result would be a rebirth for Bentley. The beautifully designed H.J. Mulliner designs would motivate the wealthy to not just think practically anymore, but artistically and emotionally. And the R-Type's design was truly an evocative design; a flagship for Bentley.

All of the Continentals ever produced for Bentley would be coach-built, and therefore, very distinctive. One of those distinctive designs from Mulliner would be the Continental Fastback. The Fastback featured a steeply descending rear end completed by a boot handle and the Bentley logo.

There would be just 208 R-Type Continental cars built. Out of those, 193 would include the Mulliner Fastback Coupe design. Only 43 out of the 208 would come fitted with left-hand drive direct new from the factory. And among those 43, only nine would be fitted with automatic transmissions before leaving the factory. These nine cars would certainly be the rarest of the bunch. And one of them would be available for auction in Monterey, California.

Chassis BC62LC certainly is one of the rarest Mulliner Fastback Coupes, but it would also have a history filled with extra highlights that would cause the car even more of an interesting showpiece. This specific chassis, made available through RM Auctions, would be finished in midnight blue with maroon Connolly leather interior and would be delivered to Laurence Rockefeller in 1954. The car would be delivered to New York on board the SS Mauretania. Laurence Rockefeller was a philanthropist and a rather generous individual. The car would actually be a gift to his wife Mary Rockefeller.

Mary would own the car until 1960 when it would be sold to John Merriam, the CEO of Northern Natural Gas Company. Merriam would keep the car until 1972 when it would again be sold, with air conditioning, to Virgil Campbell. Peter Hageman would eventually purchase the car in 2001. It would eventually change hands a couple more times before it would go through come mechanical work by Mosier Restoration in Inglewood, California. The car would further go through restoration in 2007.

As presented at the time of auction, the car was expected to earn somewhere around $850,000 and $1,000,000. It would come with a 155 hp, 4.8-liter six-cylinder engine with dual SU carburetors; making it the fastest production car of its time. Even after some sixty years of age, the quality of the Bentley Continental Fastback still offers confidence of extended high-speed cruising.

One of the definitive examples that charted Bentley's course after the war, this rare Fastback Coupe also has that particular personal history that makes the car a centerpiece not just in any collection but in conversation as well.

At auction, the lot was sold for the sum of $753,500 which included buyer's premium.


'Featured Lots: Lot No. 213: 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback by H.J. Mulliner', ( RM Auctions. Retrieved 19 August 2011.

Wikipedia contributors, 'Bentley R Type', Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 5 July 2011, 12:15 UTC, accessed 19 August 2011

By Jeremy McMullen
Fastback Coupe
Coachwork: Mulliner
Chassis Num: BC2LD
Sold for $1,815,000 at 2016 RM Sothebys.
Just 207 (some sources say 208) R-Type Continentals were built for the fortunate few who could afford the 'idea of perfection.'

The Bentley R-Type Continental, in its day, was the world's most expensive automobile. For instance, it was 35 percent more costly than a Cadillac Special Sedan. Before the outbreak of the war in 1939, Bentley thought about producing a limited-production performance model for the new high-speed roads that were being constructed in Europe. A prototype achieved a near 100 mph average speed in testing on the German Autobahn, but WWII halted production plans. Revived in 1951, Bentley Motors worked closely with coachbuilder Mulliner and developed a lightweight performance Mark VI Bentley by using aluminum panels and reducing the 4078 pound weight to 3739 on the standard sedan.

What really made the Bentley Continental so distinctive was the fastback two-door bodywork, whose excellent aerodynamics gave the car excellent high-speed performance. The pre-war prototype had raced at LeMans in 1949 and 1950 with some success.

The six-cylinder, water-cooled engine with a displacement of 5.57 liters, produced 160 horsepower, coupled to a four-speed transmission, and had a top speed of 120 mph. The pressed channel-steel chassis carried an independent front suspension with coil springs and wishbones, a rear suspension with a semi-elliptic leaf spring, and four-wheel drum brakes.

This particular R-Type Continental was the second chassis to be built with the larger 4.9-liter engine. The powerplant was mated to a center-mounted four-speed gear change. This example is reportedly one off only seven left-hand drive cars with both the 4.9 engine and 'center shift.' The car was ordered with the optional lightweight bucket seats and rear wheel skirts. H.J Mulliner fitted the car with a Fastback Sports Saloon coachwork and finished it in Maroon with Putty interior - the same color combination it wears today.

This car was road-tested on August 16, 1954 and subsequently completed on August 21st. After the car was built, it was shipped from London to New York aboard the SS American Producer and was sold by Manhattan dealer J.S. Inskip on November 17th to its original owner, Mary Thurston Horn. In 1957, the Continental passed to its second owner, Arthur M. Young, who is believed to have tuned the car's engine for increased power. The car remained in his ownership for the remainder of his life, by which time it had been driven approximately 110,000 miles. It was sold by his estate in 1995 to a broker in the United Kingdom, for whom it was subsequently restored before being sent back to the United States in the hands of Miles Marsh. Mr. Marsh had Vantage Motorworks of Miami, Florida, which upgraded its restoration to modern Pebble Beach standards. An authentic Continental Touring Spares kit was sourced for the car and a six-piece set of fitted luggage were recreated to original Mulliner designs.

The current owner acquired the car in January of 2009, the four caretaker since new.
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.
Chassis Num: BC29D
Engine Num: BED28
After the prototype Bentley Corniche II was launched, the production cars that followed were first called the Continental Sports Saloons but were later referred to as the R Type Continental. Between 1952 and 1955, 208 of these cars were built and 15 were fitted with alternative coachwork. This car was bodied by Park Ward of London and is the only one of its kind on the road. This R-Type Continental Sports Saloon has chassis number BC29D and engine BED28.

This was the 1954 London show car and is the only survivor of two alloy bodied Park Ward Coupe R-Type Continentals built out of a total of 208 chassis.

There is a complete record of the 14 owners of this vehicle. The current owner commissioned a two-year restoration by the firm of P.A. Wood and the restoration was completed by Vantage Motorworks of Miami, Florida.

All of the Park Ward vehicles were supplied with varying degrees of special accoutrements including fitted luggage to this one. The luggage and garment bags have been faithfully reproduced and nestle comfortably in the trunk along with the rare Continental Touring Spare Kit.
Coachwork: Mulliner
Chassis Num: BC38LC
This Bentley R-Type Continental BC38LC) was first delivered to importer J.S. Inskip of New York. Briggs Cunningham was an enthusiastic Bentley R-Type Continental owner, and Cunningham's team manager, Alfred Momo, specified some of the original fittings for this car for his Cunningham teammate and this Bentley's first owner, race driver Bill Spear. These included items such as Marchal airhorns and fitted suitcases befitting a race driver of the 1950s. Another famous owner was His Highness Prince Sadruddin, the Aga Khan, who acquired the car in 1998. This car has recently been completely restored to its original 1954 specification by Bentley specialists P & A Wood in the United Kingdom.
The R-Type Bentley was the second standard steel model produced by Rolls-Royce after WW II. The 4.5 inch Big Bore engine was capable of speeds well over 100 MPH. This right hand lady is correct for the period after a thorough restoration and has placed well in several Rolls-Royce shows.
Sport Saloon
Coachwork: James Young
- Specially commissioned by Jack Barclay himself, for testing abroad in Europe, 1954.
Coachwork: Franay
Chassis Num: BC51LC
Engine Num: BCC50
Sold for $963,235 (€700,000) at 2014 RM Sothebys.
A very special variant of the iconic R-Type Continental Fastback, on one of 24 left-drive central gear change four-speed chassis, was sent to Franco-Brittanic Automobiles December 21, 1953. It was driven from the port to Paris by an FBA chauffeur seated on a crate and sent to Franay of Paris for coachwork, completed and delivered May 20, 1954. Franay built five bodies out of the 208 R-Continental chassis supplied by Rolls-Royce between 1952 and 1955. The other four, not all of which are known to still exist, were more plebian 'notchback' designs similar to production French Fords and the like. Complete difficult to acquire tools and correct handbook accompany the vehicle along with factory records and complete unbroken ownership pedigree.

The car is the only LHD R-Type Continental Franay Fastback in existence! 1 of only 5 bodies that Franay built for the Continental R-Type chassis. Production of the Bentley R-Type started in 1952 and continued through 1955; a great departure from Bentley's traditional chauffeur-driven sedan, the Continental was designed to be driven by the owner-enthusiast. Only 208 cars were built during the three-year period and just 43 had left-hand drive. Profiles of the Continental and the Bentley Mark VI standard sedan are indistinguishable up to the rear edge of the front doors; beyond that point the 'fastback' design incorporates a rear window and a sweeping trunk lid that results in a more spacious luggage compartment. The R-Type was delivered as a rolling chassis for the creation of custom coachwork. This R-Type Continental has a 4,566 cc engine (4.5-liter), a four-speed manual transmission with floor-mounted shifter, and a rear axle geared for high-speed touring; the R-Type can maintain 120-mph for hours without breaking a sweat. Most Continentals were fastbacks built by H. J. Mulliner & Co. in London; Park Ward in London built six, Graber in Switzerland built three, Franay in Paris bodied five cars, and Pinin Farina in Italy created only one. This extremely rare and beautiful example was delivered new to Vandendreissche & Fils May 20th, 1954 in France. Former owners include: D.J. Smith, USA- January 1965 Gene Littler, USA – July 1977 Richard Gorman, USA, 1990 Bill Jacobs, Jr., Joliet, IL. USA, 1990 Blackhawk Collection, Danville, CA. USA, 1990 – current
Fastback Coupe
Coachwork: Mulliner
Chassis Num: BC66LC
Engine Num: BCC65
Sold for $550,000 at 2008 RM Sothebys.
Sold for $1,870,000 at 2016 RM Sothebys.
After the Second World War, Rolls-Royce began preparations for, what would become known as, the Standard Steel Saloon. The first of these was introduced in 1946 on the Bentley Mark VI. It had standard coachwork and appealed to a wide audience. Those customers who demanded more were given the Bentley Continental. This new grand touring model was initially called the Corniche II. Once production got underway, the name was changed to the 'Continental Sport Saloon.' It shared its basic chassis layout, much of its suspension, steering, and braking with the Mark VI. There were many differences as well.

The H.J Mulliner Sports Saloon was given an aluminum, lightweight body with a fastback deck, tapered rear fenders and a curved windscreen. The series A, B, and C cars were given an inline six-cylinder engine. The engine featured an aluminum cylinder head, six overhead intake valves, and six side exhaust valves. This 4.5-liter unit was capable of producing 158 horsepower, thanks in part to the dual SU H-6 carburetors, large bore exhaust system, and high compression.

The first 89 Continentals produced were fitted with a four-speed manual gearbox. The later series cars had an automatic based on the General Motors Hydr-Matic unit. In total, there were 166 cars with manual gearboxes and 42 with the automatic.

This 1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback with coachwork by H.J. Mulliner is a left-hand drive vehicle with the highly desirable four-speed automatic.

In 2008, this vehicle was offered for sale at the 'Sports & Classics of Monterey' presented by RM Auctions. It had an estimated value of $575,000 - $765,000. The lot was sold for a high bid of $550,000, including buyer's premium.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2009
Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.
Bentley relocated car production to its aero engine factory inn Crewe, Cheshire, England, soon after World War II and resumed manufacture of luxury motorcars. The first postwar Bentley was the 4,257cc Mark VI in 1946; the R-Type was introduced in 1952 with a longer chassis and the larger 4,566cc straight 6 engine. Bentley introduced the R-Type Continental at the same time, and 208 were built until the end of production in 1955. These special R-Type Continental chassis were sent to custom coachbuilders such as H.J. Mulliner and Park ward in London to be bodied in a variety of styles.

This example is one of four Drophead Coupes built by Park Ward on a specially strengthened chassis. It has the larger 4,887cc, 6-cylinder engine giving 172 BHP and a 4-speed automatic gearbox. In 1962, this car played a starring role in the film The Fast Lady, starring Leslie Phillips and James Robertson Justice.
Fastback Coupe
Coachwork: Mulliner
At the time it was built, the R-Type Continental was the fastest production four-seater in the world, capable of speeds approaching 115 mph in total comfort. Its wonderfully streamlined coachwork was the result of collaboration between H.J. Mulliner and Bentley's own staff at Crewe. Extensive testing and alterations helped create the aerodynamic shape and by late-summer 1951, the drawings and scale models became reality with the creation of the prototype.

Every weight-saving technique, including a body crafted of aluminum, was used at the time to enhance performance. Lightweight bumpers and seat and window frames crafted of aluminum made the car lighter. Power was supplied by a 4.5-liter OHV inline six-cylinder engine and like its sister Rolls-Royce, horsepower ratings were never quoted. Production began in early 1952 with just 208 produced.

This example appeared on the Rolls-Royce stand at the 1954 Paris Motor Show. Originally painted black, its first owner was Bao Dai, last Emperor of Vietnam, during his time of exile in France.
Drophead Coupe
Coachwork: Park Ward & Co.
Chassis Num: B132LTN
After World War II, Rolls-Royce embarked on a engineering approach that resulted in key commonality in components with Bentley and, for the first time, began building complete automobiles (both chassis and bodies). However, the companies also supplied the remaining coachbuilders with the chassis of these models and these cars went on to become the most rare and desirable examples, then and now.

In 1951, the R-Type Bentley was introduced as a further development of the MK VI. It had a standard factory body with more luggage space. It also had an enlarged 6-cylinder 4.5-liter engine and was offered with an advanced automatic transmission. Several R-Types were sold as a chassis to be bodied by a client's preferred coachbuilder. Park Ward, which was later purchased by Rolls-Royce, was at the time an independent company with many designs for postwar Bentley and Rolls-Royce customers.

Following its appearance at the 1953 International Motor Show at Earls Court in London, it went to the shipper on December 4th for delivery to its first owner of record, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. who purchased it for his second wife. Records show two subsequent caretakers held the car for lengthy periods of time until 2013. While it was complete and in good condition the car did not reflect the condition commensurate to its production and historical significance. So a full Concours quality restoration was commissioned by the current owners.

This is one of the most stylish R-Types and is the only left-hand drive, two light convertible ever built by Park Ward. It received coachwork to Park Ward's design 554. Of the 51 Park Wards produced only four received design 554 and this example is the only left-hand drive example.
In 1931 Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley. From that point, the two marques began to show similarities, such as design and mechanics. By the mid 1950's, the marques were mostly the same except for badging and engine. The R-Type's are memorable because they were still their own distinct model.
In 1952 at the Earls Court Motor Show, Bentley displayed their R-Type model. Bodywork was mostly handled by H.J. Mulliner and was available as a two-door Continental or Saloon. The Continental's featured a 4566 cc engine which was later increased to 4887 cc. The inline-six cylinder engine had dual SU carburetors, cast-iron cylinder blocks and aluminum alloy cylinder heads. A four-speed manual gearbox was standard with a 4-speed automatic being offered as optional equipment. Servo-assisted drum brakes provided the stopping power.

The predecessor the R-Type was the Mark VI which had been produced from 1946 through 1952. The customers of the Mark VI complained that there was insufficient luggage space. In 1952, this issue was addressed and the cargo space was increased. Originally, the Mark VII name was to be used but Jaguar had already secured rights to the name. They were marketed as Bentley Sports Saloons and later were given the designation R-Type. This was because the vehicle that replaced this series was the S-Type, the next in the succession.

The Continental bodies were mostly two-doors, light aluminum alloy, and aerodynamic. A few of the R-Type Continentals received coachwork courtesy of Graber or Franay. Only one Continental was bodied by the famous Pininfarina. The body designs were tested in the Rolls-Royce aircraft engine wind tunnels to determine maximum aerodynamics. The gearbox was a close-ratio unit matted to a highly tuned engine. In 1955 the production of the R-Type ceased and was replaced by the S-Series.

The R-Type Continentals were sports sedans that were excellent for touring. Their aerodynamic and stylish bodies, coupled to a potent drive-train, and luxurious interior was the complete package. In modern times, these are highly sought after.
By Daniel Vaughan | Mar 2006
Following WWII, the British faced a sobering time during the early 1950s. Commodities and luxuries that were once commonplace, were still subject to rationing. Taxes continued to be piled on the British people, and frozen wages kept inflation in a constant battle.

Following a decade of prolonged asceticism, the petrol rationing was finally lifted on May 26th 1950. The British motorist was once again given the option to drive his or her car as frequently as they liked. An all-time record, as described by the AA, the traffic packed a solid ten miles out of London following the lift of the rationing.

The director of Bentley's Experimental Department, Chief Project Engineer Ivan Everden began working on a top-secret project in 1950 known as Corniche II. His goal was to create a two door, four-seater grand touring vehicle that was speed-driven, yet refined. This vehicle would eventually become the famous R-Type Continental.

One of the most beautiful vehicles in British automobile history, the Bentley Continental R is considered to be the ultimate in post-war Bentleys. In 1939, a year before the WWII, a Parisian, Andre Embiricos, was interested in a special Bentley. Built by boutique French coachbuilder Pourtout and styled by Frenchman Georges Paulin, who was responsible for designing the streamlined bodywork with the extensive wind-tunnel testing, the Bentley and Rolls Royce engineers developed the experimental 'Continental'.

A phenomenally advanced vehicle, this was a revolutionary looking 4-liter Bentley, called the ‘Embiricos Bentley'. With it's mechanical advancements, stream0lined design and lightweight coachwork, it was considered to be a true ‘super-car' forty years before the term was even coined.

It wasn't until years later in 1951, when the actual production model of the Bentley Continental began development in cooperation with Mulliner coachbuilders. Considered to be worth the wait, it was more than 20 years after Rolls-Royce took over Bentley in 1931 before a new sporty model was introduced by the new owners. The R-type Bentley Continental was produced from 1952 until 1955 with only a total of 208 units ever being produced.

Establishing the pattern for which to build upon, Ivan Rvernden would use the earlier vehicle as a model when given the go-ahead to develop the R-Type Continental. At the time, the management was divided in the opinion of whether the market was ready for such an expensive and high-powered vehicle. The debut of the R-type was made in 1952, and the world experienced Bentley amazing achievement, a luxurious vehicle that would surpass the performance of many sports cars.

The look of the R-Type Continental was one of the most striking things about it. With raised front wings that swept across the doors, before tucking into the rear of the vehicle, curved windscreen, smooth fastback, and fin-like rear wings all-together made a breathtaking car.

Designed by coachbuilder H.J. Mulliner, who used only slightly modified versions of the existing Bentley Mk VI saloon car's chassis, the result was the extremely fast, expensive, and exclusive Continental R. 193 models were bodied by HJ Mulliner. Similar to all the best 1930's Bentleys, the Continental R came with two passenger doors and a full four-seater package that was superbly detailed. The bulky, yet sleek shell of the R-type contained the combination of high horsepower and remarkable aerodynamic performance.

With a weight of only 340 kilograms, the streamlined bodywork was composed fully of aluminum alloy. The Continental R had a very impressive stopping-power and was equipped with servo-assisted drum-brakes. With a capacity of 150 bhp, the first production series of the R-type was equipped with a 4566 cc. cast-iron six-cylinder engine, while the last series had an approximate 175 bhp as the engine was bored up to 4887 cc engine.

Everything was done to lessen the weight of the four-seater luxury car. By replacing the non-standard tires and bodywork with aluminum body panels transformed it to a revolutionary light alloy frame. Also, bucket seats now replaced the bulky armchairs of before. A radio was fitted only at the customer's request, as every ounce mattered on this vehicle. Performance modifications to the R-type included a specially modified exhaust, raised compression ratio and performance to an impressing high. Able to reach a quarter of a mile in 19.5 seconds was an amazing achievement in the fifties.

With a sharp tapering tail, the Continental R still carried the prestigious Bentley radiator grille and was considered to be a vehicle for the ‘sportsman' who enjoyed driving far and fast. The vehicle had a top speed between 115 and 118 mph, and was a front engine, rear-drive with a separate chassis. The engine was low-revving, the controls and steering was heavy, and the fuel consumption was fierce. Nothing was held back on this car, the interior was filled with leather, carpet and wood, and high performance was the most important factor. Every component of the Bentley Continental R, especially the interior trim, was of the finest quality.

In 1952 the Continental R was sold for £7,608 and all of the Bentley Continental R's were built for export. The price was part of the appeal, it was considered to be quite the rage to own, the ultimate automotive status symbol. The R-type Continental was a marvelous car by any standards, and not only looked good, but was also extremely fast.

These cars have long outlived their first owners, and the majority of them are raced highly competitively today in rallies. Remaining an automotive icon half a century later, the Bentley Continental R is considered to be on of few vehicles that can by truly called a design classic.

By Jessica Donaldson
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