|Vehicle:||1956 Bentley S1 Continental Sports|
|Tune Up Cost:||$800|
|Chassis Number Location:||Plate on left side of firewall|
|Engine Number Location:||Left side of cylinder block|
|Club Info:||Bentley Drivers Club Limited WO Bentley Memorial Building Ironstone Lane, Wroxton, Banbury, Oxfordshire OX15 6ED|
This car sold for $251,415, including buyer’s premium, at Bonhams’s auction in Oxford, England, on March 6, 2010.
Is there anyone not in love with the posh Continental, the quickest four-seater of its day that, once wound up, “is an effortless high-speed cruiser in the grandest manner,” as SCM said in an earlier report?
Almost a decade ago, a dealer told me, “Keep an eye on S1 Continental prices,” as they were due to rise sharply anytime soon. Though he would say that, as he had three salted away at the time, when a nice car was £50k (about $80k). Predicted (at least by the man with the vested interest) to take off in a big way, they never did accelerate into the stratosphere, though there has been a steady upward trend over the past couple of years. This car, however, has taken a giant $60k leap over the average auction selling price of S1 Contis last year.
Though there were 431 S1 Continentals made, against 208 R-types, only 151 were fastbacks, making this as rare a beast as it is magnificent. Mulliner’s original, stylish and slippery shape is considered the best looking (though some of us would argue for one of the elegant James Young variants). The balance is made up of 67 Flying Spurs by HJ Mulliner, 99 coupes and 86 convertibles by Park Ward, 21 various James Young-bodied cars, five rather weird hooded-headlight saloons by Hooper, and one car each by Graber and Franay.
Hard to fault this restoration
Black is a nightmare color on cars with big, sweeping expanses of metal, because the deeper and shinier the paint, the more it will discover and then highlight any tiny flaw in the underlying metalwork. With this car, there were no such worries. Following the ministrations of top Rolls-Royce and Bentley fettlers Frank Dale & Stepsons Ltd., it is dead straight, even six years on. Bonhams had the confidence to park it right next to the very reflective frosted glass back wall of their year-old Oxford showroom, and you could have used its flanks as a mirror by which to wet shave.
The dashboard, including its rev counter like the R-type’s, was as plump and shiny as a ruby (or a boiled sweet). Along with similarly unmarked burr walnut door cappings, and desirable but discreet upgrades in the shape of air conditioning with cool air delivered from vents on the parcel shelf, this car is a gem.
Further, a modern sound system hidden in the glovebox, and, way down in the bilges, power steering (using genuine factory parts), plus dual-circuit braking, aid this “magic carpet’s” driving appeal. London dealer Bramley, which was selling the car, had fitted new carpets and detailed it at the end of 2009. The mileage, whatever it was, is irrelevant, as it’ll be good to go for at least another 20 years.
This admittedly heroic price doesn’t make it the most expensive S1 Continental ever; that was BC1BG, one of ivory-tinkler Elton John’s favorites for 25 years, sold off along with most the rest of his collection in 2001 for $276,713-three times its estimate. This one was possibly even nicer, one of the best and most desirable Continentals on the market, and the new owner didn’t mind paying to get it. Fairly bought and sold, then, particularly when there is another car for sale at a London dealer asking £197k ($300k). And both are still less expensive than an R-type.