1954 Bentley R-Type
A new arrival to Oldtimer Australia is this very elegant Australian delivered, factory right hand drive 1954 Bentley R-Type saloon.
The build sheets on file for this car confirm that it was delivered new on the 31st March 1954 to Rolls-Royce Lillie Hall in Fulham, London. They also note that this car was sold through York Motors Pty Ltd in Sydney and that Mr GRM Graham Esq from Killara in New South Wales was the first owner. The car was originally finished in black pearl with red and silver pin striping. The interior was finished in grey hide upholstery (VLL 3230) with grey piping and grey carpet.
Importantly, the build sheets also confirm that this car is a ‘matching numbers’ example where the chassis, engine and body numbers all match.
In 1962 Mr AC Wilson from Forbes, NSW, acquired this Bentley R-Type Saloon through York Motors. At that time the car was registered as APU 852 and it had travelled 43,000 miles. There is a fascinating write up from Wilson on file where he described how fastidious the first owner was about his car, up to the point where he insisted that only one mechanic, Alec Brown, in the York Motors service department could work on his car!
There are invoices on file from York Motors dating back to the 27th November 1963 at which time the odometer on the car read 50,080 miles. Subsequent York Motors invoices are dated 29th December 1966, 17th May 1967, 28th June 1968 and 28th September 1971 at which time the odometer read 83,951 miles. Wilson used and enjoyed his car which is confirmed by a note on file dated 11th May 1995 which read: “ . . . this car is used by this family for touring holidays and has taken us from West of Ayers Rock to Mt Kosciusko”. He also mentions taking the car to western Queensland and the Northern Territory and on all the trips the car behaved faultlessly. If only these cars could talk!
In 1976 the odometer had reached 100,000 miles and with the original paint work wearing thin, Wilson decided to have the car refurbished by Alec Brown who by that time had started his own business, Marvalex Motors, specialising in Rolls Royce and Bentley motor cars.
There is an invoice on file which confirms that the car was completely stripped, prepared and repainted in its original colour. Wilson subsequently enjoyed his beloved Bentley for many more years. The most recent invoice on file issued in his name is dated 20th May 1994 and on that invoice the odometer reading is noted as 21,373 miles (which is most likely 121,373 miles).
The car was then sold by a subsequent owner in 2009. After enjoying the car for a few years its then owner decided to go on the journey to cosmetically restore the car. A friend of his is the custodian of a stunning 1952 Rolls Royce Silver Dawn which is finished in two tone green. The light colour is Rolls Royce ‘ice green’ and the darker colour Bentley ‘racing green’. He loved that colour combination and decided to repaint his Bentley in the same colour scheme. The interior was retrimmed in beige leather with contrasting beige carpets. This work was completed in c2012.
Post restoration the car was used sparingly and it has now passed down through the family who has decided that the time is right for this ‘grand old dame’ to find its next keeper.
Today this lovely Bentley R-Type saloon presents really well.
The two tone colour combination suits the car perfectly and it accentuates the very elegant lines. Despite the car having been repainted some 10 years ago, the paint is still in excellent condition. It is crisp and retains a strong depth of colour with a deep gloss finish. The wheels, which are painted in the same ‘ice green’ colour are in great condition. They are shod with period correct Michelin XCA Plus 6.50R16 tyres. The chrome was all redone by Wizard Classic Chrome in Narangba as part of the restoration in 2012 at a cost of $5,000 and it is still in excellent condition. The external trim, including the lights, lenses and the spotlights as well as the glass is all in good condition. For safety reasons, the car is fitted with a set of after market indicators below the rear bumper. The roof mounted aerial mast is missing.
The interior of the car presents well and its condition is consistent with the exterior. The seats present beautifully with no rips, tears or marks to the leather upholstery. The rear seats have probably never been used since the car was retrimmed. All the seats are firm and supportive. There are two foldaway timber tables in the back of the car which are a real feature and in excellent condition. The dashboard, instruments and controls all present well. The instruments appear to be in good working order with the exception of the fuel gauge and the odometer. The timber on the dash also presents well and fortunately it has not affected by the harsh Australian sun. The sunroof is easy to operate and opens and closes easily.
The current family has owned this Bentley R-Type Saloon for 14 years and during this time it has only had limited use.
On our recent test drive the car drove with all the grace and sophistication one would expect of such a car. Following recent work to the starter motor, the car started easily. You use the delicate small key to unlock the ignition barrel. To start the car you put the small ignition lever in the centre of the dashboard to the on position, then you push the bigger lever underneath it to the on position, you wait a few seconds for the fuel pump to feed the carburettors and then you press the starter button. This car starts at pretty much the first press of the button. After taking a breath it soon settles into a smooth idle.
Out on the road this Bentley drives nicely. Yes, it is almost 70 years old . . . which is really quite incredible! The engine is quiet and it feels strong. With a prod of the right foot the car accelerates effortlessly and it easily keeps up with modern traffic. The automatic gearbox is relatively smooth and it shifts up and down the box as required. The steering is surprisingly light and the car is very easy to drive. The brakes also do their job and pull the car up effectively and in a straight line.
This Bentley R-Type has not been driven much in recent years and as a result will require some work to be done to make it a reliable Sunday driver. The car would benefit from a general service, including a fluids change. We recommend replacing the coolant hoses which look old and are a little swollen. The exhaust system is also showing its age and needs to be repaired or possibly replaced. Whilst the car drives well, some of the front suspension bushes are looking a little worse for wear and probably should be replaced. The bump stops are also badly worn and need to be replaced.
Accompanying this car are the Bentley build sheets, a partially complete history file with invoices dating back to 1966, spare wheel, jack, pump and torch mounted in the engine bay. This car also has the ‘often missing’ original boot (luggage) straps.
This car definitely has a presence about it. We did get a lot of ‘thumbs up’ on our test drive and positive comments from the ‘car spotters’ that dropped in on our photoshoot.
We have a soft spot for these cars and being the end of the MkVI line they are the most advanced model of this era. We also prefer this car to bigger early S-Types and think they are a fabulous entry level classic Bentley.
- Australian delivered, factory right hand drive Bentley R-Type Saloon.
- Matching numbers example.
- Very elegant colour combination.
- Interesting history file.
- With some tinkering will be a very usable and enjoyable entry level classic Bentley.
The Bentley motor car company was founded back in 1919 by brothers W.O. and H.M. Bentley. The Bentley brothers were involved in the motor industry having acquired the agency to sell French built DFP (Doriot, Flandrin & Parant) cars in 1912, however, they desperately wanted to build their own cars. So that they did and the first Bentley motor car, being just a chassis with a dummy engine, was shown at the 1919 London Motor Show and in late 1921 the first production Bentleys were built and delivered to their new owners.
Bentley got the formula right and their cars proved to be luxurious, reliable and fast thus attracting buyers from the elite of society in period. The cars were also incredibly successful on the race track with Bentley achieving the ultimate success winning Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930.
The difficult economic times in the late 1920’s had a major impact on Bentley and they stopped motor racing soon after winning Le Mans in 1930 and ultimately fell into receivership in 1931. Rolls-Royce acquired the assets of Bentley in late 1931. In this period Bentley produced some fabulous motor cars including the 3 Litre, 4½ Litre, ‘Blower Bentley’, 6½ Litre and 8 Litre models that are all today highly sought after by enthusiasts and collectors all over the world. The first new Bentley produced following Rolls Royce’s acquisition was the Bentley 3½ Litre which evolved into the Bentley 4¼ Litre. Bentleys of this era are also known as Derby Bentleys as they were built at Rolls Royce’s factory located in Derby in the north of England. Subsequent models included the Mark V, Mark VI and R-Type.
The Mark VI was the first post war model Bentley produced. It was also the first car produced by Rolls-Royce with all-steel body work and it was the first car completely assembled and finished in their factory. The Mark VI remained in production from 1946 until 1952 and it was superseded by the R-Type.
The R-type was available with a standard steel body or as a coach built version by companies like HJ Mulliner & Co, Park Ward, Harold Radford, Freestone and Webb, Carrosserie Worblaufen and others.
The Bentley R-type was very similar to the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn, however, the Bentley was the more popular of the two cars. 2,323 Bentley R-Types were built from 1952 through until 1955, of which 295 of these were bodied by specialist coach builders. Interestingly, Rolls-Royce only built 760 Silver Dawns from 1949 through until 1955.
- Bentley R-Type
- 24,349 miles