The ex-London Motor Show

1952 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback

Coachwork by HJ Mulliner

In its day, the Bentley R-Type Continental was the world's most expensive production car – and also the fastest four seater, capable of achieving 120mph (193 km/h). Most of the 207 R-Type Continentals built were fitted with the elegant fastback aluminium body developed by HJ Mulliner in conjunction with Rolls-Royce designer John Blatchley, formerly chief designer of Gurney Nutting. Both aerodynamic and very light, this design is widely regarded as the most attractive and distinctive to grace any post-war Bentley.

Racing driver Ken Wharton perhaps summed up the Continental's appeal best when he commented: "This is the most perfect piece of road machinery I have ever driven… what fascinates me is the phenomenal restfulness of cruising at over 90 mph with the rev counter showing a mere 3000 rpm."

Over fifty years after the last car was delivered, the surviving R-Type Continentals are almost all accounted for and well documented. The list of first and present owners reads almost like a 'Who's Who' of the motoring and social worlds. It is rare for a car to emerge 'from the woodwork' having been largely forgotten for decades, but this is one such car and we are proud to have been given instructions for offer it for sale.

Chassis 'BC7A' is only the 7th Continental built and therefore belongs to the 'A' series, sought-after among collectors because of its lightweight features. This HJ Mulliner bodied fastback was completed on 12th September 1952 to design no. 7277 with body no. 5472 and tipped the scales at 3,771 lbs. The following month it wowed the crowds on the Bentley Motors stand at the 1952 London Motor Show, held at Earls Court, finished in a striking combination of 'Broken White' with red hide upholstery (reference VM 3086). What a sight it musty have been in an austere post-war Britain, still accustomed to dull little pre-war saloons. The chassis records for 'BC7A' show that in addition to its distinctive motor show colour scheme (which extended to a cream underbonnet finish), it was equipped with the desirable manual gearbox, lightweight bumpers, lightweight seats, radio, twin fog lamps, kilometer speedometer (despite the right-hand steering configuration) and six fitted suitcases. Many experts would consider this to be the ultimate specification for an R-Type Continental.

After its Motor Show debut the new Bentley was retrimmed by Mulliner in green leather and dispatched to Le Touquet by Silver City Airways on 4th November 1952, prior to delivery via French agents Franco-Brittanic Automobiles to its first owner, Senor Jonel Sanielevici, a Mexican gentleman resident at 16, Avenue de Friedland in Paris. It is interesting to note that 'BC7A' was supplied to him with a Mexican registration number ('65209') and after a short spell in the French capital, the Bentley returned with its owner to Mexico where it has remained ever since. In June 1957 it passed to Colonel Carlos Serrano and then in May 1963 to one Alain Reynaud. Third owner Mr Reynaud kept the car until 1987 when it was reported stolen from his estate in Ciudad Satelite. It was acquired in good faith by the fourth and present owner in 1988, who was alarmed to be later informed of its possible theft, and it was only in 2004 that he was able to fully confirm that he was indeed the rightful owner. The car is of course legally registered in his name in Mexico and is offered with clear title.

Over the course of the past 54 years 'BC7A' has been used sparingly: the odometer today reads just 95,231km (59,175 miles). At some point the coachwork was repainted in red and the interior retrimmed in black leather, but otherwise it is in good, unrestored condition and drives well. Accompanying the car are the Owners Handbook, chassis records, sundry maintenance bills and current Mexican registration document. This is probably one of the last opportunities to acquire an early, ex-motor show Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback to a superb specification which has remained out of the limelight for many years and may be either improved upon or enjoyed as it is.