6,230cc OHV All-Alloy V8 Engine
2 SU Carburetors
4-Speed Automatic Transmission
Front Independent Suspension - Live Rear Axle
4-Wheel Drum Brakes
*One of just 65 factory LHD Park Ward Drophead Coupe examples
*Delivered new to Wilt 'The Stilt' Chamberlain
*Has spent most of its life in California
*Elegant and luxurious Bentley Continental
THE BENTLEY S2 CONTINENTAL
Described by The Autocar as, 'A new stage in the evolution of the post-war Bentley,' the magnificent Continental has been synonymous with effortless high-speed cruising in the grand manner since its introduction on the R-Type chassis in 1952. With the arrival in 1955 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. Dependable though it had proved, Rolls-Royce's six-cylinder engine was nearing the end of its development. At the same time the company was facing increased competition from faster rivals in the vital United States market, and it was, principally, these two factors that prompted the switch to V8 power as the 1960s approached.
Introduced in the autumn of 1959, the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II and Bentley S2 appeared externally unchanged from their Silver Cloud and S-Type predecessors, though their performance was considerably enhanced by the new 6,230cc all-aluminum engine, which produced approximately 25% more power than the old six-cylinder unit. 'The Bentley S2, with its sister Rolls-Royce models, gives high-speed travel in silence and luxury, while the driver and passengers enjoy the sense of well-being that only British craftsmanship can give,' enthused Autosport. 'The V8 engine, with its flashing acceleration, certainly contributes to the result and is a definite step forward in Rolls-Royce technique.' There were few significant changes to the running gear, though power-assisted steering was now standard, and the manual gearbox had been dropped, Rolls-Royce's own four-speed automatic transmission being the sole offering.
Built in 'S2' form from the autumn of 1959, Continental version of the Bentley remained, as ever, exclusively a coachbuilt car. The firms of H J Mulliner, Park Ward, James Young, and Hooper (with a solitary example) all offered bodies on the Continental S2 chassis, which differed from the standard version by virtue of its four-leading-shoe front brakes, shorter radiator and, up to chassis number 'BC99BY', higher gearing. Of these four, James Young, and Hooper would soon cease coachbuilding, leaving only Mulliner and Park Ward to carry on a noble tradition.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
The Bentley S2 Continental offered here is an example of Park Ward's influential and elegant 'straight through wing' body style. It is one of only 125 examples bodied in this fashion by Park Ward; of which only 65 were original left-hand drive cars like this one. BC99LCZ was ordered new in New York by Wilt 'The Stilt' Chamberlain from Rolls-Royce of New York.
As one can imagine, Wilt didn't buy off the rack—not the least of which because at 7 feet 1 inch tall, he was quite a bit taller than the rack. Copies of the build records state that the Bentley, finished in Opal over Off White hides with a Tan top, featured a radio with power aerial, power operated top and windows, Sundym glass, an altimeter (air gets pretty thin 85 inches off the ground), and a "special driver's seat to suit owner" along with 2 inch longer steering column. Purchased in his third season as a professional basketball player, Chamberlain was earning a princely $65,000 a season and by the time this Bentley was delivered on April 19th, 1962 had set a number of records including scoring 100 points in a single game, landing over 4,000 points in the regular season, snagging over 2,000 rebounds, playing 3,882 minutes of the 3,890 minutes his team was on the floor, and very likely sleeping with an untold number of women.
Delivered to his 342 Central Park West, New York City apartment with the UK registration plates '685 CGT' with a picture of Chamberlain and his new Bentley on file, the Drophead likely moved West with Wilt when the Philadelphia Warriors for which he played moved to San Francisco for the 1962-3 season. It is not recorded how long Chamberlain kept this Bentley, or how many young ladies he brought back to his place with it, but it would stay in California for the better part of its existence. Reported to have only been in two separate Southern California garages following Chamberlain's ownership, the Rolls was reported to have been retrimmed in the 2000s to its current Caribbean Blue over Beige leather and matching blue piping.
Today, this elegant, hand-built Bentley Continental presents nicely throughout, and remains in its original left-hand drive configuration. Acquired by the current owner about a decade ago, it has been on static display since purchase and will require mechanical recommissioning before cruising to the next game or lounger. This elegant, celebrity owned Bentley S2 Continental Drophead Coupe would be a pleasurable summer motoring companion to the Côte d'Azur, Madison Square Garden, the Chase Center, and other such delightful destinations, and hails from the very end of coach built Bentley motorcar production. Whether it will make you a better basketball player or pickup artist remains to be seen.