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The Gstaad Sale / 1951 Bentley Mark VI 4½-Litre Coupe Carrosserie Graber Chassis no. B146MD Engine no. BA421

LOT 131
1951 Bentley Mark VI 4½-Litre Coupe
3 juillet 2022, 14 h 00 UTC+2
Gstaad, Palace Hotel

CHF200,000 - CHF300,000

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1951 Bentley Mark VI 4½-Litre Coupe
Coachwork by Carrosserie Graber

Chassis no. B146MD
Engine no. BA421

• One of only two survivors out of three coupes built
• Present ownership for 14 years
• Restored 'over the years'
• Many-time concours prize-winner
• Registered in Switzerland

Footnotes

The policy of rationalisation begun in the late 1930s continued at Rolls-Royce after the war with the introduction of standard bodywork on the Mark VI Bentley. Rolls-Royce's first post-WW2 product, the Mark VI was introduced in 1946, a year ahead of the Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith. Although mechanically similar to the Mark VI, the latter was exclusively a coachbuilt car, the first 'standard steel' Rolls-Royce, the Silver Dawn, not appearing until 1949. A separate chassis was retained, the same basic design being built in three different wheelbase lengths, that of the Mark VI (and Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn) measuring 10' (4.72 metres) exactly. Notable features were independent front suspension and hydraulic front brakes.

Powering the range was a new 4,257cc six-cylinder engine featuring 'F head' (inlet-over-exhaust) valve gear that permitted the use of larger valves than the pre-war overhead-valve unit, with a consequent improvement in gas flow. As a concession to the marque's sporting pedigree, the Bentley version was equipped with twin SU carburettors, the less powerful Rolls-Royce making do with a single Stromberg. The Mark VI was a genuine 90mph car at a time when such a figure was well beyond the reach of most standard road vehicles, while its interior was typically well appointed, boasting leather upholstery and walnut dashboard and door cappings. The right-hand manual gear change was a characteristically pre-war inheritance. Commencing in 1951 with the 'M' series cars, the cylinder bore size was increased to 92mm for a capacity of 4,566cc before being finally enlarged to 4,887cc in 1955. The 'M' series engine incorporated various other upgrades, while automatic transmission (a built-under-license GM Hydra-Matic) was offered as an alternative to the four-speed manual gearbox from 1952.

The Autocar magazine was highly impressed with their Mark VI test car in the spring of 1950. "Perhaps the outstanding thought from extensive driving of the Bentley MkVI built by the world's premier car manufacturers, Rolls-Royce, is that it has no single predominant feature but gains its unique position from a combination of superbly matched qualities that raise it above the level of other cars. Years of painstaking research and development with mechanical perfection as the goal show their results unmistakably. Smoothness and quietness and sheer quality are in the superlative."

Despite the popularity of the 'standard steel' body, a coachbuilt alternative remained the preferred choice of many customers, the original purchaser of this 'M' series car being one such. Indeed, if one's preference was for an open car it was the only option, there being no factory-built convertible in either the Rolls-Royce or Bentley range at this time.

This elegant two-door coupé on the Bentley Mark VI chassis is the work of the Swiss Carrosserie Graber of Wichtrach. Graber's designs were always executed to the very highest standards and his creations were necessarily expensive, costing far more than those of his British contemporaries. Son of a master cartwright, Hermann Graber assumed control of the family firm in the mid-1920s and switched production to coachbuilt car bodies. His first car, a FIAT 509 with drophead coupé coachwork, was displayed in 1927. Dropheads were a Graber speciality; he concentrated on bodying high-quality chassis and in 1929 his Panhard et Levassor 20CV cabriolet won the St Moritz Concours d'Élégance.

New chassis from the premier French makes being in short supply after WW2, Graber turned increasingly to British manufacturers. He had bodied his first new Bentley in 1934 (a drophead coupé, naturally) and would go on to complete a further 17 after WW2; indeed, in the post-war period Graber bodied more Bentleys than any other overseas coachbuilder. Arguably Graber's greatest achievement, though, was to have his design chosen by Alvis for their TC/TD/TE/TF series of high-performance coupés and dropheads. Hermann Graber died in 1970 and thereafter the company concentrated on repairs and restoration work.

This elegant right-hand drive car is the second of three four-seat coupés produced by Graber on the Bentley Mark VI chassis and is one of only two surviving. 'B146MD' was delivered new in 1951 to first owner Hans Rufener (who had previously owned another Mark VI, 'B334BH') and is recorded in marque specialist Bernard Hill's book, Bentley Mk VI, as belonging to an owner named Lietzow in Germany in 2007. Documentation on file shows that in between times since 1987 the car had belonged to Mr Peter C Docherty of Longport, New York and Scottsdale, Arizona.

Its custodian for some 14 years, the current Swiss vendor advises us that the Bentley has been restored 'over the years', benefiting from a 'good as new' complete restoration of the bodywork and a full engine overhaul (new pistons, re-bored cylinders, new clutch etc). In addition, the chassis has been restored with no expense spared; the electrics replaced; the interior re-trimmed with new leather (including the headlining); and all woodwork completely restored. The Bentley has been maintained by Classic Car Atelier AG and has won many concours prizes. Handsomely finished in two-tone white over black with beige leather interior, this rare coachbuilt Bentley Mark VI is offered with a FIVA Identity Card and Swiss 'veteran' registration papers.

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