Following World War II, Rolls-Royce transferred production of its motor cars from Derby to its wartime aero-engine facility at Crewe. For the first time, the company built complete cars rather than chassis only. The first postwar Bentley to be built was the Mark VI, a virtual duplicate (sans radiator shell) of its sister, the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn. Standard bodies were styled by the company’s own designers with ex-Gurney Nutting Chief Designer John Blatchley adding refinement. This was quite a change in philosophy by the parent company Rolls-Royce, yet it reflected the reality that standardized bodies could be built in greater numbers at its new factory in Crewe, England. Custom coachwork was, of course, available at the owner’s discretion.
Engine capacity was increased to 4,566 cc in 1951, and the standard saloon body was revised with a longer boot in 1952. At the same time, chassis numbering had reached the “R” series, causing this model to become known as the R-Type in late-1952. This also marked the arrival of an optional automatic transmission and twin SU carburetors which replaced a single Stromberg unit. A total of 2,325 R-Types in all configurations were produced through 1955.
Recalling the formidable Brooklands racers of the ‘Roaring Twenties’, this wonderfully re-constituted R-Type is the work of Bob Petersen Engineering based at Beaworthy, Devon, a company renowned for the rebuilding, restoration and recreation of classic Bentley motor cars. The car, which is UK registered ‘GVH 173’, is featured in Ray Roberts’s famous book, ‘Bentley Specials & Special Bentleys, Volume II’ (pages 699 and 703) and is very well known in Bentley Drivers Club circles.
This car was built in 2003 (Petersen reference ‘RP2013R’) on a modified 1953 R-Type chassis of 9′ 9″ wheelbase (3″ shorter than standard) and is powered by a modified Rolls-Royce B81 6½-litre straight eight, a unit belonging to the B-series of engines developed towards the end of WW2 for military and commercial purposes. Maximum power output of a standard B81 was around 195bhp at 3,750rpm, though this particular unit, which is fed by a Petersen BM supercharger and red-lined at 5,500rpm, is estimated to produce in excess of 400bhp. Power is transmitted via a Salisbury limited-slip differential to the 84-spoke 19″ wheels, which are shod with 700×19 Dunlop racing tyres. The two-seater aluminium body is crafted in the style of the Brooklands racers while other noteworthy features include dual-circuit hydraulic disc brakes, fully adjustable suspension and ‘170mph’ speedometer. The 1,400kg (3,080lb) weight is distributed 50/50, front/rear.
Sold at the Beaulieu Autojumble auction in 1992, ‘B2RT’ was recorded at that time as having remained in single family ownership from 1962 ‘until recently’, and had been in storage for many years. In January 1993 the Bentley was acquired by its next owner and immediately sent for restoration, a necessarily expensive and lengthy process that took the next 10 years to complete. The current vendor purchased the car at Bonhams & Butterfields’ auction at Westport, Connecticut in September 2010 (Lot 337).
Finished in two-tone black/grey livery that accentuates the body’s sweeping lines, ‘B2RT’ boasts an interior re-trimmed in black leather and is not only a very rare and attractive car by design, but also one whose condition is equally appealing. This rare coachbuilt Bentley R-Type is offered with current MoT and Swansea V5C document.
1953 Bentley R-Type 4½-Litre Drophead Coupé – sold for €108,720
As usual, the R-Type could be ordered in chassis form for bodying by specialist coachbuilders, this manual transmission example being the work of Rolls-Royce’s subsidiary, Park Ward Ltd. It is one of only 25 R-Type’s bodied in this style by Park Ward. Between November 2000 and November 2002 the car was totally restored, both mechanically and cosmetically, at marque specialists Taylor’s of Birdham, near Chichester, the work including a full engine overhaul and conversion to ‘unleaded’ compatibility. This ‘body off’ rebuild was carried out to the very highest standards, resulting in ‘NYK 292’ receiving 1st place awards at both the R-REC and Bentley Drivers Club national concours in 2003. Finished in claret/ivory with ivory leather interior, the car is described as in generally excellent condition and offered with Taylor’s detailed restoration invoices (totalling £129,234), current road fund licence, MoT to March 2011 and Swansea V5 registration document. Auction Source: 2010 Collectors’ Motor Cars at Goodwood Revival by Bonhams
1952 Bentley R-Type 4½-Litre Saloon B4SR – sold for €20,700
This early R-Type was sold new to Reynolds & Parnell Ltd, Buckinghamshire in 1952. In January 1961 the car was sold to an F W Corke, London and subsequently exported to Texas, USA, returning to the UK in 1991. Its next UK owner was a Mr Coster followed by David Binks, who acquired the Bentley in 1995. Restored at around that time, it was subsequently purchased by the current vendor and treated to further refurbishment, which included fitting a stainless steel exhaust system and general servicing. Described as in generally very good condition and driving beautifully, with silky manual gearchange, ‘LXO 765’ is offered with sundry restoration invoices, C&E Form 386, MoT/tax to August 2011 and Swansea V5. Drive away classic motoring. Auction Source: 2010 Collectors’ Motor Cars at Goodwood Revival by Bonhams
This car, chassis number B2RT, was the first R-Type chassis ever produced. It was sent to E.D. Abbott Ltd. of Farnham, Surrey in June of 1952. It was given a two-door coupe body that was penned by Abbott’s chief stylist, Peter Woodgate. The body had originally been intended for an early Mk VI, but was a perfect fit for the new R-Type chassis. With a tall axle ratio, a powerful straight six engine, and relatively lightweight Abbot body, allowed the car to reach speeds in excess of 100 mph.
The Abbott-bodied coupe was displayed at the Earls Court Motor Show in October 1952. Although the next Abbott-bodied R-Type was not constructed for several years, a small run of approximately 15 or 16 cars were produced until the introduction of the S1 in the mid-1950s.
After the car’s show debut, the right-hand drive Bentley was registered in France on January 30, 1953. It returned to Britain a year later where it received the registration number UPB 153. A new owner purchased the car in 1962, and would retain the car for the next 3 decades. It was offered for sale in 1992; a year later, the new owner treated the car to a sympathetic restoration that continued for nearly a decade. The body was re-painted in its current two-tone livery. The cylinder head was overhauled and the largely original interior was refurbished only as needed.
1953 Bentley R-Type Freestone & Webb – sold for $12,100
The 1953 Bentley R-Type offered here, chassis B121SP, is one of just 29 examples with the sweeping and dramatic four-door saloon coachwork by Freestone & Webb, which was among England’s smallest and most distinctive custom coachbuilders. More recently, B121SP was depicted as an important example of custom coachwork in the Rolls-Royce and Bentley Buyer’s Guide by Paul Woudenberg. Finished in blue over grey with tasteful brightwork and a grey interior with smart blue piping as well as rich woodwork, this rare Bentley is further enhanced by a center-mounted driving lamp and whitewall tires. This rare automobile has an older restoration and recently emerged from a period of extended storage. It would require some mechanical attention to return it to proper running order. For the Bentley enthusiast who appreciates its sheer rarity and desirability, its offering is a unique opportunity indeed. Auction Source: 2009 Meadow Brook Concours