A NEW APPROACH IN AN AGE OLD BUSINESS+44 (0) 1926 691 141
Sold for: £21,375
Imposing, handsome and dignified, the Bentley R-Type is one of those cars that just exudes class from every well-turned angle. And it doesn't just look good, as Autocar pointed out: "Years of painstaking research and development, with mechanical perfection as the goal, show their results unmistakably. Smoothness, quietness and sheer quality are in the superlative."
Introduced at the 1952 Earls Court Motor Show, the R-Type was a subtle reworking of its MkVI predecessor and would have been called the MkVII had Jaguar not just appropriated the name for their flagship saloon. Effectively a more practical, longer booted version of the MkVI, it was powered by a silky-smooth 'Big Bore' 4,566cc straight-six engine with twin SU carbs and an aluminium cylinder head. The excellent 4 speed Automatic transmission was offered for the first time, resulting in a far more relaxing driving experience. The majority of cars were factory-built 'Standard Steel Saloons', as here, but coachbuilt versions were offered by H. J. Mulliner, Park Ward, Harold Radford and Freestone and Webb amongst others.
Despite weighing nearly two tons, it was a spritely performer, achieving 106mph in near silence and reaching 50 from standstill in just 10 seconds. Servo assisted drum brakes provided the stopping power while the suspension was independent with coil springs at the front and leaf springs at the rear. Enjoyable to drive with a light sure-footed feel, it had enough power to give even contemporary sports cars a serious run for their money.
Inside things got even better, the lucky occupants were cosseted in acres of hide and walnut that truly justified the cliche of "a Gentleman's Club on wheels". Just 2,320 examples were made before the R-Type was replaced by the much larger S1 in 1955. All the more surprising then, that they are such good value today, being more or less in the same price bracket as a relatively humdrum Mk2 Jaguar – a situation that we feel sure cannot continue much longer.
This particular example is fitted with the desirable four-speed automatic gearbox and offers a unique opportunity. It was first registered on 12th August 1954 and the DVLA records state that it remained with this owner until his passing in 1982. Within the very substantial history file is a written offer from Frank Dale & Stepsons, dated 3rd November 1982, offering to purchase the car for £2,500 and this valuation was used for probate - the mileage then being 46,329. The car was inherited from that first listed owner to a Mr Giles Clarke. Mr Clarke then owned the Bentley until it directly joined our vendor's collection on 31st May 2013. Our vendor acquired the car via Sargeants of Goudhurst, a three-generation family business that had specialised in the Bentley marque since the late 1950s. Mr Clarke first took the R-Type to Sargeants on 16th September 1992, when the mileage had risen to 52,742. These very well respected specialists were then entrusted with looking after the car for the following 20 years and there are substantial records of it being serviced every year by them, up until the last, dated 23 October 2012. Like many, Mr Clarke was struck by the infamous Derby Bentley "Honeysuckle" and was so taken by the car's colour that he commissioned Sargeants to change the R-Type from the existing Black and Silver to the closest match they could obtain to Honeysuckle's 1930's golden hue. This work totalled nearly £9,000 - a substantial sum at the time and was completed in October 1994, at 53,347 miles and still looks sensational today. The original 'Honeysuckle' was invited to the Pebble Beach Concours last year, to celebrate the Bentley Centenary and caused such a sensation that it was purchased almost immediately whilst there and now resides in the United States.
The amazingly well preserved dark brown leather interior remains untouched and it's rare to have survived these days. There is also a quantity of MOT Certificates on file, dating back to 1991, at 51,809 miles and certainly, both the interior and completely original bulkhead/engine bay are commensurate with such low mileage. The car is running extremely well and this June has just received a full 3,000-mile service, together with a new fuel pump, battery and distributor cap, leaving mainly the braking system that still needs to be 'run through' before returning to the roads, after the last six years kept on display.