The R-Type was the epitome of British luxury in the 1950s and the first car to carry the Continental nameplate. Despite having a uniform style, each car was unique in detail. Unlike almost every car of the period, the Continental had an all-aluminum body.
The R-Type was the second series of post-war Bentley automobile, replacing the Mark VI. The front of the saloon model was identical to the Mark VI, but many had custom coachwork. The Continental model was produced specially for continental Europe, with many coachbuilt by H.J. Mulliner. This would be the first appearance of the famed Bentley Continental name.
All R Type models used an iron-block/aluminum-head straight-6 engine fed by twin SU carburettors. The basic engine displaced 4.6 L (4566 cc/278 in³) with a 92.08 mm (3.6 in) bore and 114.3 mm (4.5 in) stroke. The Continental had a larger bore of 94.62 mm (3.7 in) for a total displacement of 4.9 L (4887 cc/298 in³).
A 4-speed manual transmission was standard with a 4-speed automatic optional.
1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback Sports Saloon by Franay BC51LC – sold for €700,000 One of three Franay-bodied R-Type Continentals in this design. Only example delivered in left-hand drive and equipped with a desirable central manual gearshift. A very well-known car; owned by enthusiasts since new. Extensively documented recent mechanical sorting. Rolls-Royce Foundation and RREC Hunt House documentation. The grandest of British tourers, with Gallic flair. Auction Source: 2014 Monaco by RM Auctions
1953 Bentley R-Type Continental H.J. Mulliner Sports Saloon BC24B – sold for €525,083
The example offered here – right-hand drive chassis number ‘BC24B’ – was retailed new by Edwards & Co Ltd of Bournemouth and first owned by one G E Lambert. Accompanying build history shows that the car was equipped with the manual transmission and originally finished in black with red leather interior trim, while special features included veneered dark walnut woodwork, sliding front seats with tipping/adjustable backs, and ashtrays front and rear. The car’s original UK registration was ‘NPU 10’. Auction Source: 2013 Les Grandes Marques du Monde au Grand Palais
A right-hand drive, manual transmission model, ‘BC64C’ was built to special order for first owner P McDonald, who specified the ‘sporting’ package that included lightweight bucket seats and a right-hand gearchange. The Bentley was subsequently owned by the Kent and England cricketer Godfrey Evans, whose Wisden entry describes him as ‘arguably the best wicket keeper the game has ever seen.’ In April 1976 the Continental passed into the ownership of Ted Dexter, the Sussex and England cricketer who first captained the England side in 1961/62 on their tour of India and Pakistan. Known as ‘Lord Ted’, he last captained England in 1964 and after retiring from 1st class cricket served as Chairman of the England Cricket Selectors, a post he held from 1989 to 1993.
‘BC64C’ was acquired by the current owner via Frank, Dale & Stepsons on 14th June 1985, at which time the recorded mileage total stood at 50,218. Since then it has spent most it the time in southern Spain. The present recorded mileage is 55,337. The car is finished in Shell Grey with blue hide interior and is offered with current MoT.
1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback BC62LC – sold for $753,500 Bought new by Laurence Rockefeller as a gift to his wife Mary French Rockefeller. The fastest production car of its time. One of 193 Fastback Continentals; one of only 43 delivered with left-hand drive. Automatic transmission and air conditioning. Always fastidiously maintained, without regard to expense. Auction Source: 2011 Monterey Auction by RM
1955 Bentley R-Type Continental Franay Coupé BC.9.LE. – did not sell for €475,000 The last R-Type Continental built. Ex-Paris Salon l’Automobile 1955. One of only 208 R-Type Continentals and just five Franay-bodied examples. One-off coachwork; the last designed by Marius Franay. Rare left-hand drive car and one of only nine with automatic gearbox. Restored to original specification, shown at Villa d’Este in 2003. The fastest production four-seater in the world. Auction Source: RM 2011 Villa d’Este Auction
Retaining its original interior trim, the car shows only the slightest signs of use over the last 54 years. Its recorded mileage of about 135,000 is thought to be correct, an average of under 2,500 miles per annum. Entrusted to respect Bentley specialists Messrs. Hunt and Keale, who maintain the rest of the vendor’s fine collection, BC22B was recently stripped to bare metal and repainted in the correct Masons Black scheme while the interior wood trim was removed and expertly polished. The seat squabs were also re-trimmed using new old stock hides in the correct ‘light tobacco’ colour. The only modification undertaken is the logical repositioning of the outside mirrors from the front wings to the A-pillars.
In 2007, BC22B’s mechanicals were comprehensively overhauled and it has traveled only several hundred kilometres since the work was completed. According to the vendor, it drives “incredibly well” and feels tight and responsive, as confirmed by a recent road test. The total mileage is believed to be 135,000 miles as supported by an extensive service history dating back over 30 years. The car is therefore presented in ‘ready to enjoy’ condition, freshly MOT’d and requiring no further expenditure of time or money before taking to the highways of Continental Europe.
The original left-drive example offered here, BC66LC, is one of a mere 77 Series C cars, and is one of only three examples originally constructed with left-hand drive and an automatic gearbox. Listed in The Continental Register, its provenance is very well documented. It was first dispatched to J.S. Inskip, Inc. in the United States in May 1954, and was immediately sold to Mr. John Dimick. Mr. Dimick retained the car until January 1964, when it was sold to Mr. B.R. Franko-Filipasic. In turn, Mr. Franko-Filipasic sold the car to Mr. Di Curio in 1980. In the early 1990s, Mr. Di Curio started a lengthy and exhaustive restoration that took some eight years to complete. In 2004, BC66LC was sold to a West Hollywood car dealer who quickly sold it to a noted actor, and upon his purchase, a complete engine rebuild and mechanical sorting was commissioned.
Today, the car is reported to be “on the button”, and although the cosmetics are nearly ten years old, they remain excellent in overall presentation. A chrome strip along the beltline, a pair of fender-mounted chrome side view mirrors, and a set of rear fender skirts complement the rich burgundy finish. Appropriately, this stately yet sporting automobile features a set of burgundy painted steel wheels with chrome plated center caps, trim rings, and a set of period correct wide whitewall tires. Inside, the luxurious yet functional passenger cabin is trimmed in tan leather upholstery with burgundy piping, and contains an impressive wooden dash with beautifully inlaid edges and complete instrumentation. Meanwhile, the beautifully detailed trunk is trimmed in tan carpeting, and the expansive engine bay is carefully detailed as well.