6 September 2017

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Lot 144

1955 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback Sports Saloon by H.J. Mulliner

  • Chassis no. BC56D
  • Engine no. BCD55
  • Body no. 5785

Sold for £826,250

Documents: UK V5

  • 2017 Bentley Drivers Club Concours Best in Class winner
  • Offered from single-family ownership since 1983
  • Formerly owned by Victor Gauntlett; known history from new
  • Matching-numbers factory 4.9 engine, manual transmission and lightweight seats from new
  • Excellent condition, with a recent engine rebuild and a lovingly patinated interior
  • Offered with copies of factory build sheets and bespoke Continental Touring Spares box

In the early 1950s, there was no other automobile quite like it in the world, which made it attractive for connoisseur heads of state, captains of industry, as well as the burgeoning jet set. James Bond drove a version he had Mulliner re-body from a wreck in the 1961 novel Thunderball. Famously, in the words of Autocar magazine, it was ‘a modern magic carpet’. In the words of modern BDC members: ‘Best car I have ever owned.’ ‘Hope to take it to Heaven with me!’ ‘Would not swap it for a thousand camels, even in the middle of the desert.’ It was the fastest four-seat production car in the world – and the most expensive – cementing its exclusivity with only 207 made.

The example offered here, a well-developed ‘D’ series model of 1955, was delivered new with the most desirable features of the model, including the largest and most powerful 4.9-litre engine, manual gearbox and lightweight seats. As noted in the Bentley R-Type Continental Register, it was first allocated to London dealer H.R. Owen for the N.I.G. Manufacturing Company. This order was cancelled and the car was instead sold to P. Carrington, of H.M.F. Carrington, on 4 February 1955 and registered PXC 163.

The Continental subsequently passed in 1958 to the Nibbler Paper Mill Company, then in July of that year to Douglas Cory-Wright, who would maintain it for the next 20 years. John Donner, a well-known Bentley collector, acquired the car in 1978, memorably registering it in his ownership as ‘JD 12.’

In 1982 the Continental was purchased from Mr Donner by Victor Gauntlett, the immensely successful petroleum dealer and avid automobile enthusiast, who famously helped rejuvenate Aston Martin as its chairman and main financial backer during this era. Despite his presence at the helm in Newport Pagnell during this era, Gauntlett was a Bentley partisan who owned several important vintage examples of the marque, including the prototype R-Type Continental, ‘Olga’. During his ownership, he re-registered this Continental ‘X 111’. He sold chassis number BC56D in 1983 to the brother of the current owner, and it has remained in their family now for 34 years.

The car has had power steering installed and was exhibited at the Continental 50th Anniversary Celebration at Silverstone. More recently, the engine was rebuilt and electronic ignition installed, and the engine bay today presents in beautiful condition, as does the glamorous yet understated Silver Chalice finish of the bodywork. Within the car the interior has a lovely patina, with the appearance of having been driven and enjoyed – just as a Continental should look. Accompanying the car are copies of its build records, as well as its valuable original Continental Touring Spares kit and correct tools. It should also be noted that the original registration number PXC 163 has been reinstated.

A lovingly maintained and desirably equipped Continental from excellent long-term care, this beautiful gentleman’s machine recently won its class at the 2017 Bentley Drivers Club Concours, continuing a two-decade-long history of success in BDC Concours. It is ideally suited for continued enjoyment, offering splendid performance and fine style in the best Bentley tradition, as a very fine example of one the greatest post-war road cars.

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

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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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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Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

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David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

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Michael Squire

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Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

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Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... 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