Replacing the R-Type, Bentley launched the S1 as their predominant luxury car. Among these was the Continental which was meant for custom coachbuilt bodies in the same theme as the R-Type Continental. To underline the sporting potential, Bentley fitted a shorter radiator, higher transmission ratios and an optional manual transmission. These were some of the most expensive cars produced in the period.
When launched the S-seires Bentley was almost identical to the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud I, except for the front radiator treatment. Both models used the same 4.9-liter inline-6 which could power the car up to 120 mph. The chassis was built from box-sectioned sheet steel and could support a variety of different bodies.
In October of 1955 the Continental chassis became available for custom coachwork. In total, 431 S1 Continentals were manufactured and the bulk of the bodies were built by H.J. Mulliner as a fastback sports saloon.
1956 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe by Park Ward BC54LAF – sold for $1,155,000 Fully custom body built from the ground up by Park Ward’s craftsmen. Originally delivered to Thomas D. Neelands Jr. by New York dealer J.S. Inskip on May 11, 1956. restored by the respected firm of Vantage Motorworks in Miami, Florida, which included being the finished in its present attractive combination of Scarlet and Claret, with an attractive beige leather interior. Auction Source: RM Sotheby’s Monterey 2015
1958 Bentley S1 Continental Saloon BC23LEL – sold for $258,500 One of Just Three Left-Hand-Drive James Young-Designed CT29 Examples Produced. Only Known Example in Existence Today. Impeccably Maintained Concours-Level Vantage Motorworks Restoration. Striking Colors Based on Original Factory-Available Livery. Consistent, Multiple-Award Winner from 1996 Through 2005. The Definitive Bespoke High-Performance Luxury Motorcar of Its Era. Complete with Original Literature, Tools, and Travel Kit. Auction Source: Gooding & Company’s 10th Anniversary 2013 Pebble Beach Auction
The particular example offered today was sold new to a Cmdr. B.A. Russell in London. It passed shortly thereafter to the 3rd Earl of Inchcape and then to a P. Durham. It came to America sometime in the ’80s and was faithfully restored to its current superb condition in 2001 by the highly respected Alan Taylor of Escondido, California. Some $50,000 was spent, inclusive of new, show-quality paint. It was a part of the Steven Wolf Collection in Florida for many years prior to returning to the UK in 2011. It is finished in deep velvet green with beige Connolly hides in the interior and comes complete with its handbook and all original tools.
Collectors have recognised the uniqueness of its styling, and the fastback cars have experienced a great increase in demand and in prices. The Bentley S-1 fastback, of which less than 120 were made in both RHD and LHD, is a comparative bargain to its European competition and one-twelfth as common as a Gullwing, for example. This is a car to be driven and treasured for many years to come. It is truly “usable art.”
1958 Bentley S1 Continental Park Ward Drophead Coupe BC3LDJ – did not sell for $385,000 Bought new by Karl’s Shoe Store Ltd. in 1957. Owner Harry Karl was the husband of actress Debbie Reynolds. Built new for Los Angeles Auto Show. One of only 31 LHD Bentley S1 Park Ward Continental DHCs built . Automatic transmission, power steering and air conditioning. Always fastidiously maintained without regard to expense. Stunning color combination of black/silver over red Connolly leather. Auction Source: 2011 Monterey Auction by RM
Of the 431 Bentley S1 Continentals produced between 1955 and 1959, 185 were bodied by Rolls-Royce’s in-house coachbuilder, Park Ward Ltd, of which 63 were left-hand drive. Left-hand drive chassis number ‘BC48LBG’ was delivered new to Baron Empain in 1956 via Franco Britannic Autos Ltd of Levallois, Paris, the official Bentley distributor for France. In 1960 Baron Empain sold the car to a family member: the Count d’Arschot, a world famous art and antiques expert in Belgium. (A customs document dated 14/04/1960 shows that ‘Fédération d’Entreprises Industrielles d’Arschot & Cie sa’ already had the car in its possession at the time). At some point Count d’Arschot commissioned the Crewe factory to install air conditioning, headrests and safety belts.
The car’s accompanying service record history goes back to 1985 and shows that it has been maintained regularly by the Rolls-Royce factory in Crewe as well as by various official Bentley dealers in Belgium. In 1992 the Continental was completely restored by ADP Coachcraft in Perivale, Middlesex, UK, sundry restoration bills, photographs and related correspondence being present in the car’s history file. Finished in Gunmetal Grey with a green roof and green leather interior, ‘BC48LBG’ displays at total of 94,124 kilometres on the odometer and is presented in beautiful condition.