1957 Bentley S1 Continental

Highlights


  • 1957 Earls Court Motor Show car
  • 1 of 13 RHD examples built
  • Desirable full-length sunroof
  • Over £14,000 spent on mechanical recommissioning 
  • Over £7,000 spent on interior refresh


The Appeal


The S1 represented an interesting time in Bentley’s history. Built from 1955-59, this was the marque’s final separate-chassis model, derived from the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud and powered by a silky-smooth 4.9-litre straight-six. It was longer and lower than the outgoing R-type, with improvements to ride quality and braking – and when the chassis-only Continental spec was offered, this was an opportunity for buyers to enjoy a lighter and more powerful S1 with coachbuilt bodies by the likes of James Young, H.J. Mulliner & Co, and Park Ward.

The car we have here is a 1957 James Young-bodied S1 Continental – one of thirteen right-hand-drive examples built to Design No. CT29 (a further three being built in left-hand-drive), and reportedly one of four built in 1957. Supplied new by Jack Barclay Limited (who owned James Young), the car was bought by Sir Brian Mountain of the Eagle Star Insurance Company when it was on display at the Earls Court Motor Show – Jack Barclay continued to service and maintain it through Mountain’s tenure, and all of these period records are present in the car’s history file.

After a life well lived while being fastidiously maintained throughout, the Bentley went to the USA with its fifth owner in 1985, living in Massachusetts before being repatriated in 1988, and more recently its latest UK owner has been using it sporadically as a wedding car, taking no payment but instead inviting donations to the children’s charity Plan UK.

The car is offered in wonderful original specification, delightful condition, and is supremely smooth to drive. Furthermore, the history which comes with this car is outstanding, detailing all of its period servicing and maintenance in incredible detail.

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The History and Paperwork


  • Huge history file
  • Correct V5 present
  • Copies of original documentation from the car’s 1957 commissioning, build and delivery
  • Correspondence with Rolls-Royce Motor Cars and Beaulieu Motor Museum confirming that it was the Earls Court Motor Show car
  • Copies of correspondence between Sir Brian Mountain and James Young / Bentley suggesting improvements and alterations to the car when new
  • Bills for minor bodywork repairs in 1958, 1959, 1960, 1963, 1964 and 1967
  • Comprehensive service and maintenance history through the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s
  • 2004 – receipt for full recommissioning totalling £14,679 (including full chassis overhaul, brakes, wheel cylinders, strip-down of fuel and coolant systems)
  • 2005 – receipt for full interior strip-down and rebuild totalling £7,471 (including stripping and re-lacquering all wood trim, new headlining, new ignition switch, radio rebuilt to receive FM/MW)
  • 2005 – receipt for new rear dampers and overhaul of lighting systems
  • 2005 – receipt for carburettor rebuild
  • 2006 – receipt for new fuel pumps



The Interior


  • Original leather seats
  • Wood trim restored
  • Desirable full-length sunroof
  • Headlining replaced
  • Original tool pack

Superlative comfort was the S1’s calling card, and this Bentley’s cabin is a very relaxing place to reside. Impressively the car still has its original leather trim, which has worn the years well and earned itself a charming patina. The passenger seat base could perhaps do with rebuilding as you do sink very low into it, but the rest are all very comfortable indeed.

The car is fitted with a full-length sunroof, which opens, closes and secures just as it should and provides this already airy interior with a full open-top experience. There’s also a tinted flip-down panel ahead of the sunroof to act as a shade for front occupants, and the sun visors have pull-out tinted shade panels too; the headlining has been professionally replaced. All the original cigar lighters are in place (and, being a 1950s Bentley, there’s a few of them!), along with the pop-out ashtrays either side of the rear bench.

Another extremely impressive element of this interior is the quality of the wood trim; it’s often the case with these cars that they either get sun-baked and crazed or they suffer from moisture ingress that peels the lacquer, but the wood in this car is fabulous having been professionally stripped, re-lacquered and polished.

Aside from the fitment of an aftermarket stereo under the dash and a pair of speakers on the parcel shelf (all of which could be easily removed), it’s all standard spec in here. Pleasingly, the push-button radio works well – and if you look closely, you’ll spot the presence of the original His Master’s Voice dog logo on the central button. This has also been rebuilt using solid state panels to receive FM and MW frequencies.

Inside the boot it’s all tidy and correct, with the proper spare wheel and jack and a recent battery. There’s a very rare find when you pull out the tool drawer – the tray is still filled with all the original tools and bulbs! And perhaps it’s just us being geeky about the details, but the gearing of the window winder mechanisms really is very pleasing indeed – the windows can be fully lowered with just one rotation of the handle.

The Exterior


  • Beautiful James Young coachwork
  • Excellent chrome
  • All-original specification 

Well, what a striking and elegant piece of design this is. Resplendent in lightweight aluminium coachwork, this rare four-door James Young body is inarguably one of the finest forms to grace an S1 chassis, and the fit-and-finish speaks of the quality you’d expect of this coachbuilder: the doors shut with proper solidity, there’s a reassuring feeling of quality. 

The bodywork is in good order too, with just a smattering of minor corrosion beneath the paint on the wing ahead of the front nearside door, plus a couple of tiny blemishes on the nearside front wheelarch and offside sill. We can see from the history file that there have been some minor bodywork repairs at various points through the 1950s and 1960s, which are unspecified but relate to the front and rear wings so most likely refer to parking dings and suchlike; a slight rippling to the front offside wing may bear evidence to these period repairs. 

The originality of the spec is crucial here, with the lightweight aluminium James Young panels giving this Bentley real road presence. The details are very good as well, with the chrome trim presenting well and the window glass and light lenses all complete. The wheels wear the correct hubcaps, and are fitted with General Ameri G4S tyres which act as a throwback to the car’s time in the USA. 

The Mechanicals


  • Very smooth drivetrain
  • Comfortable ride quality

Smoothness is the watchword with an S1, and this one wafts down the road just as it’s supposed to, like riding on a magic carpet. The straight-six fires easily and idles whisper-quietly, and its torque-rich power delivery feels pleasingly effortless – it just gets on with the business of spiriting the occupants along with no stress or drama. 

The automatic transmission is equally smooth, the column-mounted shifter allowing you to hold onto individual gears if you so desire. The gauges are all functional, and everything was doing what it was meant to do on our test-drive. The ride, of course, is extremely comfortable. That’s what 1950s Bentleys are meant to do.  

Summary


The Bentley S1 is a thoroughly attractive proposition for any serious collector, even in ‘standard’ guise (if such a thing can be said to exist). But this particular example really is a cut above: one of just thirteen Continentals built in this particular specification by James Young, it’s a richly-textured and supremely endearing slice of 1950s coachbuilding culture. 

It’s an absolutely lovely car to drive, and the condition is charming throughout. With its tasteful body design, original trim, attractive sunroof and period appointments, it’s a truly fabulous automobile.

Notice to bidders

This item is sold on an ‘As is Where is’ basis. The condition of this item is the opinion of the seller and may differ from your own opinion. Photos and listing descriptions are for guidance purposes only*.** Car & Classic do not warrant listing accuracy. Full inspection is recommended. Viewings are at the seller’s discretion. Buyer is responsible for delivery and collection of any item purchased.*

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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1957
  • Make Bentley
  • Model S1 Continental
  • Colour Silver
  • Odometer 27,821 Miles
  • Engine size 4887
Auction Details
  • Seller Type Trade
  • Location London
  • Country United Kingdom
Bidding history
16 bids
  • KK•••• £61,000 01/02/23
  • je•••• £60,500 01/02/23
  • KK•••• £60,000 01/02/23
  • Go•••• £58,000 01/02/23
  • je•••• £57,500 01/02/23
  • Go•••• £57,000 01/02/23
  • Jo•••• £55,000 01/02/23
  • 4W £47,750 01/02/23
  • Ad•••• £47,250 01/02/23
  • 4W £47,000 31/01/23

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