'This delightful, craftsman built motor car shows what can be achieved using a MkVI, or in this case an R-Type Bentley chassis, as the foundation of a sportscar, the like of which should really have been built by Bentley Motors.' Ray Roberts, 'Bentley Specials & Special Bentleys'.
For all their many virtues, the 'Silent Sportscar' and its post-WW2 successors, the MkVI and R-Type, seem to some Bentley enthusiasts to lack the character of their Cricklewood-built predecessors; not for them the comfort of being wafted along in complete silence at 90mph! Over recent decades prices fetched by genuine vintage Bentleys have risen to levels well beyond the reach of all but the wealthiest; this fact and the absence of anything remotely resembling its vintage touring models from the post-war Bentley range has meant that enthusiasts with a yen for top-down, wind-in-the-hair excitement had little choice but to opt for a conversion. Fortunately there has for many years been a plentiful supply of 'standard steel' saloons too badly corroded to warrant restoration, thus providing suitable chassis for transformation into something more exciting.
There have been countless such 'specials' created by enthusiastic private owners on the MkVI and R-Type chassis, while over the years numerous specialist coachbuilders have offered variations on the theme. The stunning Bentley special offered here is the creation of the late Alan Archer, who until his death in 2008 was a prominent member of both the R-REC and Bentley Drivers Club, owning a number of vehicles over the years including a Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, 4½-Litre 'WO' Bentley and a Rolls-Royce 20/25.
Yearning for a fast sporting tourer in pre-war style, in 1994 Alan purchased an R-Type Bentley, the basis for the vehicle offered here. As Managing Director of Archer Engineering in Leeds, he was well qualified to undertake the professional re-manufacturing of the chassis to accommodate the new 1930s-style coachwork. Modifications included shortening the chassis by 9", moving the engine/gearbox back 16", and lowering by 4". The cruciform bracing was removed, the chassis members boxed-in, and rigid scuttle and rear bulkheads incorporated. All mechanical elements were dismantled, carefully examined and reconditioned or replaced as necessary prior to fitting the new body.
Having successfully constructed and flown his own glassfibre-clad light aircraft for a number of years, he decided to use that material for the sports-tourer coachwork, which is reminiscent of the work of some of the better-quality pre-war European coachbuilders. The original Bentley steel bonnet and its associated fixings were retained together with the internal door handles and mechanisms. Specialist coach-trimmers A S Pickering Ltd of Bradford executed the leather interior and hood, the latter folding neatly away behind a body panel, while other noteworthy features include knock-on wire wheels, chromed trumpet horns, Marchal headlamps and original Bentley bumper bars, the rears reshaped to accommodate the spare wheel. The attention to detail is exemplary.
After approximately 8,000 hours had been spent on its construction over a five-year period, 'NUV 353' returned to the road in 1999 and had covered only 6,556 miles since completion when it was offered for sale at Bonhams' Harrogate auction in November 2011 (Lot 344) and purchased by the current owner. The Bentley had been off the road since 2010 and before being put into storage had been given a general mechanical check-over plus a change of lubricants.
Since acquisition the car has benefited from further significant restoration, some £15,000 being spent. Works undertaken include a full paintwork refurbishment in the course of which the body was stripped back to the glassfibre and refinished to exacting standards. All panels were aligned while the paint was off, the electrics professionally rewired, and the car serviced and tuned. Currently taxed for the road, 'NUV 353' is described as in generally excellent condition and offered with a quantity of expired MoTs, BDC valuation certificate, Swansea V5C registration document and a photograph of the donor car.