1954 Bentley R-Type Continental,
Lot 474
1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon Chassis no. BC71C Engine no. BCC70
Sold for £298,500 (US$ 363,801) inc. premium

Lot Details
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1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon
Coachwork by H J Mulliner

Registration no. OLU 1
Chassis no. BC71C
Engine no. BCC70


  • Described by The Autocar as, 'A new stage in the evolution of the post-war Bentley,' the magnificent Continental sports saloon has been synonymous with effortless high speed cruising in the grand manner since its introduction in 1952 on the R-Type chassis. Of all-welded construction, the latter enabled the incorporation of a much-needed improvement to Rolls-Royce's standard bodywork in the shape of an enlarged boot together with associated changes to rear wings and suspension. The R-Type and its Rolls-Royce sister car, the 'E' Series Silver Dawn, were notable as the first Rolls-Royce products available with automatic transmission, the company having opted for General Motors' Hydra-Matic, a state-of-the-art four-speed unit permitting manual selection. The standard R-Type was a lively performer, achieving 106mph in silence and reaching 50mph from standstill in 10 seconds despite a kerb weight approaching two tons.
    The Continental raised this already superlative combination of high performance and exceptional refinement to hitherto unattained levels. Rolls-Royce's six-cylinder, inlet-over-exhaust engine had been enlarged from 4,257cc to 4,556cc in 1951, and as installed in the Continental benefited from an increase in compression ratio - the maximum power output, of course, remained unquoted. Unlike the ordinary '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 sports car, but for a full four/five seater saloon 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.
    A right-hand drive, manual transmission model, 'BC71C' was built to special order for first owner Raymond Way and originally finished in Ivory White with white-piped red leather upholstery, red carpets, and sycamore and walnut veneers to the interior. Apparently, the Bentley was nicknamed 'Dracula'.
    In January 1958 the car was acquired by Miss M A Strickland, who had work carried out on it in the late 1960s/early 1970s by Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and H J Mulliner to rectify some accident damage and blistering of the paintwork. In the Continental benefited from over £1,600 worth of refurbishment including renewal of pistons, new clutch plate, front suspension overhaul and much more besides.
    In February 1978 (at 85,692 miles) the Bentley was acquired by the current vendor, who then spent tens of thousands of pounds renewing the cooling system, fuel system, interior and other components. There are related bills on file from marque specialists Sargeants of Goudhurst, Richard Dullimore & Associates, The London Chroming Company and Rolls-Royce/Bentley specialists Taylor's of Chichester.
    In 2001 the engine and gearbox were removed and completely overhauled by Taylor's at a cost of approximately £63,000, while there are additional bills on file for staged payments up to 2007 for continuing work on the rolling chassis and running gear (see estimate). Taylor's also attempted to find a chassis in better condition but eventually opted to use the original, the rear section of which has been extensively renewed. (It should be noted that 100,000 should be added to the total currently displayed on the odometer).
    The Continental comes with Swansea V5 document and a report dated April 1983 written by noted automobile historian and author, Michael Sedgwick, who found that it was in excellent condition at that time and reckoned 'its behaviour by any standards was outstanding'. Sold strictly as viewed, 'OLU 1' is offered with the rolling chassis fully restored but with its body off and in need of completion. A potentially most rewarding project with most of the hard work already done.

Saleroom notices

  • Please ask a Bonhams member of staff to view the large quantity of parts and trim that are offered with this car.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


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Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:
A successful bidder at this sale will be required to pay Bonhams 1793 Limited ("Bonhams") a premium calculated as follows:

25% on the first £50,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £50,001 to £1,000,000 the Hammer Price
12% from £1,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at 20% will be payable on the amount of the premium.

The premium is payable for the services to be provided by Bonhams in the Buyer's Agreement which is contained in the catalog for this Sale and for the opportunity to bid for the Lot at the Sale.

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  1. Sholto Gilbertson
    Specialist - Motor Cars
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 5809
    FaxFax: +44 20 7468 5802
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