1957 Bentley S1 Continental 2-Door Fastback
Bentley's magnificent Continental sports saloon has been synonymous with effortless high speed cruising in the grand manner since its introduction on the R-Type chassis in 1952. Unlike the ordinary, factory-bodied, 'standard steel' R-Type, the Continental was bodied in the traditional manner and first appeared with what many enthusiasts consider to be the model's definitive style of coachwork - the lightweight, wind tunnel-developed fastback of H J Mulliner.
The Continental's performance figures would have been considered excellent for an out-and-out sportscar, but for a full four/five seater sedan they were exceptional: a top speed of 120mph, 100mph achievable in third gear, 50mph reached in a little over 9 seconds and effortless cruising at the 'ton'. Built for export only at first, the Continental was, once delivery charges and local taxes had been paid, almost certainly the most expensive car in the world, as well as the fastest capable of carrying four adults and their luggage. 'The Bentley is a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances and delivers the occupants well-nigh as fresh as when they started,' concluded Autocar.
With the arrival of the final generation of six-cylinder cars - the all-new Silver Cloud and Bentley S-Type - the Continental lost some of its individuality but none of its exclusivity. Eulogising about the new S-Series cars, introduced in April 1955, The Autocar wrote, 'the latest Bentley model offers a degree of safety, comfort and performance that is beyond the experience and perhaps even the imagination of the majority of the world's motorists.' Later, in October that same year, the Bentley Continental became available on the 'S' chassis. 'It brings Bentley back to the forefront of the world's fastest cars,' Autocar remarked of the H J Mulliner-styled fastback which, arguably, was the quickest four/five-seater saloon of its day. The S-Type's new box-section chassis incorporated improved brakes and suspension and an enlarged (to 4,887cc) and more powerful version of the existing inlet-over-exhaust six-cylinder engine, which for the first time was identical in specification in its Rolls and Bentley forms. The Continental version came with shorter radiator and higher gearing and, for a time at least, could be ordered with right-hand 'change, manual transmission. As had been the case with the original R-Type, the new S-Type Continental was only ever available as a coachbuilt car, the designs produced by independent coachbuilders for the S1 Continental chassis being among era's the most stylish, although – arguably – none ever improved on H J Mulliner's sublime original.
This 'modern magic carpet' was sold new to one R Hambro, very possibly a member of the eponymous banking dynasty. The car was originally finished in black with tan interior, and was first registered as 'ULP 739'. The current vendor acquired the Continental in July 1982 and has been its custodian for the last 36 years. There are receipts on file totalling £65,000 for work carried out since 1988, much if it by Bentley specialist William Medcalf of Liss, West Sussex. Significant works carried out over the course of the last 30 years include a repaint in silver in 1998; woodwork and brightwork refurbished in 2001; interior re-trimmed in blue leather with headlining and boot lining renewed in 2007; automatic gearbox overhauled in 2015; hubcaps re-chromed in 2017; and the distributor converted to electronic ignition that same year.
In recent years 'ULP 739' has successfully undertaken tours of the UK, Ireland, and the South of France, and has attended Wimbledon complete with picnic. At time of consignment the Continental performed faultlessly: the engine started promptly and ran quietly and smoothly, while the transmission worked correctly and sweetly. The height of sporting luxury in its day, this Beautiful S-Type Continental is offered with a comprehensive history file containing numerous bills for servicing and maintenance; a quantity of expired MoTs, tax discs, and insurance valuations; a V5C Registration Certificate; and MoT to July 2019.