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 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,' declared 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. Eulogising about the new S-Series cars, introduced in April 1955, 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 the era's most stylish, although arguably none ever improved on H J Mulliner's sublime original.
Right-hand drive chassis number 'BC11BG' was specified with automatic transmission and delivered to its first owner, Richard Silcock Esq of Myerscough House, Lancashire with the registration 'VKD 460', the number it retains to this day. Throughout its life the car has maintained its original colour scheme of Carriage Green coachwork with matching leather and carpets.
In 1962 the Continental passed to its second owner, Geoffrey Alexander Rowley-Conwy, 9th Baron Langford, who kept the car for over 40 years during which period it was serviced mostly at the Bentley factory in Crewe. The very extensive and well-maintained history file, extending to hundreds of pages, includes correspondence with the factory' s Service Department documenting Lord Langford's fastidious attention to detail and exemplary level of care over the long term, which has resulted in the manner in which the car performs today. Though designed and built by Bentley for the owner-driver, 'BC11BG' benefited from the care and attention of the family chauffeur for much of its time with Lord Langford.
This is possibly the last un-restored example of the model available. While most have been restored once, or even twice, in the 50 and more years since they left the factory, 'BC11BG' is refreshingly different, reflecting the singular nature of its long-term ownership. It retains its original interior leather, wood and headlining, and much of its paintwork, though the combination of age and use have resulted in stone chips to the front and cracked paint on the boot lid, with some areas polished through to the undercoat. The result is an irreplaceable piece of motoring history that generates a high level of interest and respect from even the most seasoned observer. With originality, preservation and impeccable provenance now determining which cars are most sought after, 'BC11BG' can only become increasingly appreciated and valued for these ever scarcer qualities.
The car maintains its original specification with just one update, electronic ignition, which is reversible. It will cruise effortlessly at 90 mph and more, needing no concessions to cope with modern traffic conditions, and is capable of carrying its occupants over vast distances in a high level of comfort. Currently taxed and ready for its next journey, 'BC11BG' comes with its full tool kit, owner's handbook, the aforementioned extensive history file and Swansea V5 document. This wonderful Bentley Continental is a car worthy of any collection and will bring great pride to its next discerning owner.