Continentals were lightened versions of the standard steel-bodied cars, built for high-speed cruising
The post-war heyday of Bentley was with the Continental models, from their introduction in 1952. The combination of sporting performance and a beautifully clothed chassis made for the ultimate in long distance luxury touring. The name itself became synonymous with elegance.
With the arrival of the 4.9-liter S1, the final edition of Crewe's historic straight-six, there came enhanced power with an increased compression ratio, and larger carburetors and inlet valves. Bentley would never say directly how much more power the S1 made, admitting only to a 13-percent increase in output. A "long" rear axle held down the revs at high speed, while well judged improvements to suspension, steering and braking insured that road manners kept pace with performance.
Later came Park Ward's supremely elegant and longer, slightly lower coachwork in both fixed and drophead form. It used advanced technology with high-duty alloys in the structure supporting the aluminum shell. The suave new shape was nearly 12 inches longer than before, with greater luggage space, optional electric windows, power steering, and a more elaborate climate control system.
This excellent example was first delivered to a P.G. Swiffen in March 1958. According to its old log book, in the early 1960s it was finished in silver, and from 1966 resided in the Bournemouth area through four owners. In 1973, it was purchased by Dr. Sidney Whitteridge of London and then Inverness, and remained in his ownership until 1994, when it was sold at public auction following his death.
It had languished in a lengthy period of storage, and was subsequently recommissioned for the road at the behest of the new owner, Eddie Shah. The Continental passed to the present owner in 1996 when it was acquired at the Rolls-Royce Enthusiast Club annual rally.
Upon acquisition, the car was committed to Jack Barclay for a thorough service and overhaul. Thus began a regular maintenance and revision of the car's condition, later at noted Rolls-Royce and Bentley experts English Automotive of West Molesley.
Over the last eight years, work completed has included a respray to the present green color, refurbishment of the bodywork and sills, and continued maintenance of the mechanicals. Today the car is offered in tidy and usable order.
|1958 Bentley Continental S1
|431 or 432, depending on sources
|Original List Price:
|Tune Up Cost:
|Chassis Number Location:
|plate on the firewall
|Engine Number Location:
|upper front corner of the left side of the crankcase
|Bentley Drivers Club, 16 Chearsley Road, Long Crendon, Aylesbury, Bucks, HP18 9AW, U.K.
|1956-1958 Ferrari 250 GTE, 1958-1963 Aston Martin DB4
This 1958 Bentley S1 Continental sold for $72,944 at the Christie’s London auction, held Dec. 7, 2004.
There has long been a difference between sports cars and cars of a sporting nature. No one would accuse a Bentley Continental of being what we normally think of as a sports car, yet, as a sporting car, the Continental is at the top of the list for cars built just after World War II. To Europeans, the name itself denotes high-speed, long-distance touring, as Bentley made it known that its Continental was “the fastest four-seater in the world” at the time-a boastful claim for any vehicle.
The Continental debuted in 1952, a derivative of the R-type sedan, which itself was adapted from the 1946 Mark VI. It employed a 4.5-liter straight six, developed from the venerable Rolls-Royce motor that dated to the 1922 Twenty. Just 208 of these H.J. Mulliner-bodied fastbacks were produced over three years, stunning cars that expertly blended aerodynamics and beautiful Italian design with staid, English traditionalism.
Continentals were built to be a touchstone among Bentleys. In his excellent book Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque, Johnnie Green writes, “The Bentley R-type Continental became a classic in its own time, and a collector’s piece without experience of which no connoisseur of motoring can consider his life complete.”
The S1 Continental was introduced in 1955, featuring a larger bore that pushed displacement to 4.9 liters. The commensurate increase in power was certainly appreciated, as by that time many Bentley customers were ordering their cars with automatic transmissions, power windows, and power steering, features that added to the weight of the car. The great V8 era of the 1960s had not yet begun, and S1 Continentals could still make do with this enlarged six-cylinder. (This wouldn’t last for long-although many purists might disagree, the later S2 and S3 Continentals sorely needed their V8s for the era of high-speed motorways, autoroutes and interstates.) The S1 Continental’s purported top speed of 110-120 mph was certainly adequate, if not unexpected for its time.
The Continentals were designed by in-house Rolls-Royce stylist J.P. Blatchley, and developed primarily by Ivan Evernden. They were built for speed, lightened aluminum versions of the standard steel-bodied cars, fitted with lighter bumpers and seats. When the S1 was introduced, both Park Ward and Mulliner produced coupes, while only Park Ward had a catalogued convertible. Of course, as with any European luxury car of this era, a number of specialist coachbuilders bodied, or in some cases rebodied, Continentals.
While production of the standard steel S1 Bentley totaled 3,072 cars (plus 35 long-wheelbase models), only 431 or 432 S1 Continentals were built. It has since joined the R-type Continental as the most collectible post-W.O. model, with the SCM Price Guide listing S1 Continentals between $52,500 and $300,000, depending largely on body style, with left-hand drive drophead coupes topping the range.
The Bentley S1 Continental pictured here was bodied by Park Ward, the lowest S1 Continental iteration on the value scale, at between $52,500 and $90,000. It can be best described as a “road restoration,” with evidence of plenty of work done, but at no time did the car appear to have been comprehensively disassembled for a nut-and-bolt restoration.
The interior was very well fitted and done correctly in the original style. Although there was light wear to the seats, the wood and carpets appeared quite nice, despite the overwhelming smell of wool that had been wet one time too many. More time could have been spent on the paintwork, and indeed the bodywork, but for a driver, the car showed acceptably.
As with many European-owned Bentleys, this S1 Continental appears to have been used in the manner for which it was designed-crossing continents at a brisk pace. Even though it is no longer the fastest way to get from Amsterdam to Zaire, at this price everyone wins. A reasonable car for reasonable money.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)