1957 Bentley S1 Continental Sports Saloon
Coachwork by H J Mulliner
Chassis no. BC87BG
Bentley's magnificent Continental sports saloon has been synonymous with effortless high speed cruising in the grand manner since its introduction on the R-Type chassis in 1952. Unlike the ordinary, factory-bodied, 'standard steel' R-Type, the Continental was bodied in the traditional manner and first appeared with what many enthusiasts consider to be the model's definitive style of coachwork - the lightweight, wind tunnel-developed fastback of H J Mulliner.
The Continental's performance figures would have been considered excellent for an out-and-out sportscar, but for a full four/five seater sedan they were exceptional: a top speed of 120mph, 100mph achievable in third gear, 50mph reached in a little over 9 seconds and effortless cruising at the 'ton'. Built for export only at first, the Continental was, once delivery charges and local taxes had been paid, almost certainly the most expensive car in the world, as well as the fastest capable of carrying four adults and their luggage. 'The Bentley is a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances and delivers the occupants well-nigh as fresh as when they started,' concluded Autocar.
With the arrival of the final generation of six-cylinder cars - the all-new Silver Cloud and Bentley S-Type - the Continental lost some of its individuality but none of its exclusivity. Eulogizing about the new S-Series cars, introduced in April 1955, The Autocar wrote, 'the latest Bentley model offers a degree of safety, comfort and performance that is beyond the experience and perhaps even the imagination of the majority of the world's motorists.'
Later, in October that same year, the Bentley Continental became available on the 'S' chassis. 'It brings Bentley back to the forefront of the world's fastest cars,' Autocar remarked of the H J Mulliner-styled fastback which, arguably, was the quickest four/five-seater saloon of its day. The S-Type's new box-section chassis incorporated improved brakes and suspension and an enlarged (to 4,887cc) and more powerful version of the existing inlet-over-exhaust six-cylinder engine, which for the first time was identical in specification in its Rolls and Bentley forms. The Continental version came with shorter radiator and higher gearing and, for a time at least, could be ordered with right-hand 'change, manual transmission. As had been the case with the original R-Type, the new S-Type Continental was only ever available as a coachbuilt car, the designs produced by independent coachbuilders for the S1 Continental chassis being among era's the most stylish.
Supplied new in the UK, this right-hand drive Bentley S1 Continental features H J Mulliner's definitive coachwork and has the standard automatic transmission option. The car was purchased by the consignor from Bonhams in 2006 from its owner of more than 20 years. At the time we were pleased to confirm that the car had enjoyed just six owners from new and covered a total of circa 106,000 miles. Work carried out prior to that sale was recorded as being in excess of $20,000, including new Wilton carpeting and a rebuild of the drive train in 1997 by British car specialists DeLong's Automotive of Campbell, California (bills available). While it was also reported to have been kept garaged and driven regularly. This has been continued in the present ownership.
The Bentley is offered complete with original toolkit, owner's manual and numerous service invoices (mostly Bentley of San Francisco). An iconic and timeless design, the S1 Continental Fastback has arguably never been bettered.