Monterey

19-20 August 2016

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Lot 145

1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback Sports Saloon by H.J. Mulliner

  • Chassis no. BC66LC
  • Engine no. BCC65
  • Body no. 5669

Sold for $1,870,000


Please note that Internet bidding is not available for this lot. Interested parties that are unable to attend the sale may register to bid by telephone or place a commission bid online at rmsothebys.com.

178 bhp, 4,566 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine with two SU carburetors, four-speed automatic transmission, independent front suspension with wishbones, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar; live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs; and four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 120 in.

  • A genuine left-hand drive, U.S.-delivery example
  • One of only nine LHD examples equipped with the advanced Cadillac-derived automatic transmission
  • Well-documented and distinguished provenance; five owners from new
  • Fresh, exhaustive, body-off restoration by marque specialists
  • Wonderful original color combination; matching-numbers original engine
  • Factory original handbook, tools, and rare Continental Spares Touring Kit


THE MODERN MAGIC CARPET

Even after becoming the “Silent Sports Car” in the mid-1930s, Bentley held tight to its performance heritage. Later in the decade, the company began experimenting with aerodynamic designs and eventually created the Georges Paulin-designed Corniche prototype of 1940. While the Corniche did not survive World War II, its spirit did, and after the War, it evolved into H.I.F. Evernden and J.P. Blatchley’s R-Type Continental. It is “a car which would not only look beautiful but possess a high maximum speed, coupled with a correspondingly high rate of acceleration, together with excellent handling and roadability.”

H.J. Mulliner was contracted to design and clothe the prototype Continental, which was based on the frame, suspension, steering, and braking components of a standard R-Type. Numerous components, notably including the entire body, were built of light alloy, resulting in a four-passenger body that weighed only 750 pounds and less than 4,000 pounds when mated to the chassis. After extensive road tests in France, the prototype’s overdriven top-gear gearbox was found to be unsuitable for the rpms offered by the engine, so it was replaced by a direct-ratio top gear and lower axle ratio, which was a combination that proved best for both high-speed touring and well-spaced gear changes for city driving.

Of the 207 production Continentals built between May 1952 and April 1955, Mulliner would body 193 of them to variations of their prototype design, which was dubbed the Sports Saloon. The Mulliner-bodied R-Type Continental created a space for itself that was unique. It combined the swiftness of a Jaguar XK, the driver-friendly agility of an Alfa Romeo, and the luxuriant comfort of a Rolls-Royce in one elite, built-to-order package that cost $18,000, making it the world’s most expensive series production car as well as the fastest four-seater any money could buy.

In the early 1950s, there was no other automobile quite like it in the world, which made it a “must-have” for 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.”

CHASSIS NUMBER BC66LC

Of the 193 Fastback Sports Saloons produced by H.J. Mulliner on the R-Type Continental chassis, only 43 were left-hand drive from new, and of those 43, a mere nine were fitted with an automatic gearbox, a reliable GM-based Hydra-Matic 4-speed transmission. Those who may scoff at the automatic gearbox will be enlightened to know that the automatic transmission has a higher final drive ratio, giving the automatic cars the highest top speed of any R-Type Continental – making them truly the “fastest of the fastest” four-seat production automobiles of their era.

The rare factory left-hand drive, automatic gearbox example offered here, chassis number BC66LC, was originally delivered by J.S. Inskip to prominent yachtsman John Dimick at his Constitution Avenue address in Washington, D.C. Copies of the original build documents, which are on file, indicate that the car received such bespoke features as Wilmot Breeden bumpers, sealed beam headlamps, flashing turn indicators, twin fog lamps, right-hand-door locks, and “radio delete” (to lighten the weight of the completed car).

The Bentley remained with Mr. Dimick for 10 years, after which it was owned by B.R. Franko-Filipasic of Morristown, Pennsylvania, the inventor and patent-holder to an innovative flame-resistant fabric. It was subsequently owned by longtime collector William T. DiCurcio of New Jersey, from whom it was acquired by the renowned film actor and automotive connoisseur, Nicolas Cage. Cage, in turn, sold the car in 2008 to its current owner, only the fifth since new.

During the intervening years, the car underwent a true body-off, frame-up restoration contracted out to various California Bay Area craftsmen for each important sequence, mainly Bentley and Rolls-Royce experts, with invoices and a huge quantity of impressive progress photos available upon request. Every single component was removed, cleaned, stripped, and then correctly plated, painted, or repaired; what few components required replacement were changed out for authentic original parts. The body was stripped to bare metal, revealing in the process the original and highly attractive Silver Blue paint color, which has been faithfully and flawlessly reproduced. Original Connolly hide color numbers were researched, allowing the Light Blue interior to be recreated, along with the correct carpeting, headliner, and trim. The woodwork, instruments, and interior hardware were restored and refitted by a Bentley Works-trained specialist. A Pebble Beach Bentley team judge was retained to act as consulting supervisor during restoration to warrant authenticity and accuracy of detail.

The freshly completed car is accompanied to the new owner by its aforementioned factory build records, along with an original hardcover owner’s handbook, complete sets of road and hand tools, and the rare and valuable Continental Touring Spares Kit that was available from the factory. Simply put, this rare and exquisite left-hand drive example stands ready to become the finest R-Type Continental on the show circuit, and the most beautifully, correctly restored example to be offered at public sale in recent memory.

Addendum

Please note the shift linkage into reverse has developed a problem which will be resolved post-sale at the consignor’s expense. The consignor has agreed to deliver the car to the new owner, to any location in the US 48 states.

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

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

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

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
United Kingdom

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

Barney Ruprecht

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
Ontario, Canada

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

David Swig

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
California, United States

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

Don Rose

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

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

Jake Auerbach

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

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

Mike Fairbairn

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
Ontario, Canada

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

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
United Kingdom

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

Pete Fisher

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
California, United States

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

Tonnie Van der Velden

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
United Kingdom

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