16-17 January 2014

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Lot 21

1958 Bentley S1 Continental Coupe by Park Ward

  • Chassis no. BC35LDJ
  • Engine no. BC34D

Sold for $511,500

Est. 178 bhp, 4,887 cc F-head inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, and vacuum-assisted four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 123 in.

  • One of 10 Park Ward Coupes of this design on a left-hand drive chassis
  • Desirable wraparound rear window and small tailfins
  • Originally delivered to Venezuela; owned by two families since new
  • Beautifully and authentically restored and not yet shown

The Continental name evokes high-speed travel over long distances in the lap of luxury. Fittingly, that is exactly the experience that Bentley’s Continental models provided to the favored few during the 1950s.

The S1 Continental of 1955 featured the last of Bentley’s long-lived six-cylinder engine, which, being a Rolls-Royce design, was smooth and silent but also appropriately powerful. Road test figures published in Autocar recorded a top speed of 120.5 mph. An exceptionally rigid welded box section chassis was mounted on a new front suspension that had a semi-trailing wishbone and repositioned rear springs, which improved handling and softened the ride, while a three-way safety braking setup enabled sure stops at the end of those high-speed journeys. The rear suspension was electrically controlled, and it could be changed to normal or hard by a switch on the steering column.

While successive V-8-powered S2 and S3 Continentals were also offered until well into the 1960s, many viewed the S1 as the more desirable model: it is simpler, lighter, and slightly quicker, and it accomplishes all this while still being luxuriously comfortable, in the British tradition.

Numerous catalogued semi-custom and custom body styles were used to dress the S1 Continental, usually in lightweight all-aluminum, as would be expected of a performance model. The car offered here is one of the rarest iterations; it is one of a believed ten built by Park Ward, of London, to this striking coupe design on a left-hand drive chassis. This design, which was originally created for the 1957 Paris show, was distinguished by its crisp, airy wraparound rear window, large rear quarter windows, narrow C-pillars, and the audacious flair of small tailfins, which was clearly a nod to American design trends. It is one of the most striking closed bodies fitted to the S1 Continental.

This particular example, chassis BC35LDJ, is one of six of the original ten known to survive today. It was ordered through Reyreca, the Rolls-Royce dealer in Caracas, Venezuela, by Luis Enrique Pérez Velutini, and it was the only Park Ward Coupe, and almost certainly the only S1 Continental of any type, delivered new to that country. For various reasons, Mr. Pérez Velutini elected not to purchase the completed car, and upon arrival in Caracas, it was acquired instead by his cousin, Miguel H. Velutini. The Bentley would remain in the care of the Velutini family until 1996, when it was acquired from Mrs. Velutini by a Venezuelan enthusiast, whose daughter offers it here today.

The Continental has had a painstaking frame-off restoration to original condition over a period of several years, which included a bare-metal refinish in Sand and the installation of its original factory-installed engine, number BC34D, with its original, optional power steering. The interior is properly upholstered in genuine Connolly leather—a supply of which was fortunately acquired before that company closed its doors—which is accented by correct Wilton wool carpeting. As a result, the Bentley today presents in excellent overall condition, and it is accompanied by its original tool set, as well as documentation and photocopies of receipts that pertain to its restoration.

Not only does this S1 Continental carry one of the most attractive and best-designed bodies fitted to this chassis, but this particular car has also never before been shown in judged competition. This 1958 Bentley S1 Continental Coupe incorporates the best of classic elegance and Jet Age bravado, making it is a superb example of a classic British grand tourer—one that has yet to be seen on a U.S. or European show field.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

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Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

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Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more