10-11 March 2017
A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith
1953 Bentley Mark VI Cabriolet Conversion by Graber
- Chassis no. B184MD
Sold for $253,000
- A rare example of subtle Swiss coachwork on the Bentley Mark VI chassis
- High-quality, award-winning restoration; beautiful lines
- Wonderful period-correct accessories, including fitted luggage and a picnic hamper
- Correct professional conversion to an open cabriolet
Swiss coachbuilder Hermann Graber of Basel worked on virtually every fine chassis from the 1930s through the 1950s but became especially highly regarded for the gentle elegance of its designs on Rolls-Royce and Bentley. This included several similar drophead coupes produced on Mark VI chassis, known for their smooth, modern “pontoon”-fendered lines, with integrated headlamps and flowing slab sides, giving them an appearance reminiscent of Talbot-Lago.
The example offered here was ordered as a chassis through the renowned Geneva agent, S.A. Garage de L’Athénée, by Monsieur A. Walter Gemuseus of Zurich, a prominent Swiss banker, with Graber noted as the coachbuilder of record. Special features requested included a steering column in the lowest possible position, suiting the first owner’s build, as well as a metric speedometer, “no horns or fog lamp,” and double-filament headlights, as well as provision for the installation of a special Swiss long-wave radio.
It should be noted that build sheets for the car, as well as Bernard L. King’s book, Bentley Mark VI, describe it consistently as a “two-seater coupe” or “fixed head coupe,” to a unique design.
Factory records indicate that delivery of the car was made to Monsieur Gemuseus on 1 June 1952. Later ownership is not recorded, aside from a Mr. Singh of California, from whom it was purchased by longtime Rolls-Royce and Bentley connoisseur, Gene Epstein, in the early 21st century. By this time, the car had been converted to its present cabriolet configuration.
Mr. Epstein endeavored to complete a ground-up restoration of the car, in which the body was removed from the chassis, and the frame itself taken down to bare metal, repaired as necessary, and properly refinished. The engine and all mechanical components were carefully rebuilt. The body was refinished in a beautiful forest green and black two-tone, with high-quality tan leather upholstery. The steering column, steering wheel, and instruments were removed and correctly restored. Proper Marchal headlamps, as original, were fitted, along with a pair of matching fog lights. Importantly, the top was also remade, to authentic Graber designs, including custom-machined hardware.
Typical of Mr. Epstein’s restorations, the result is quite brilliant and was much-appreciated by Mr. Smith, who enjoyed driving this car regularly. Nonetheless the finish of the body and interior are still excellent and show-quality, as is the flawless interior woodwork; as marque expert Diane Brandon noted when inspecting the car, “its cosmetics are superb.” The driver’s door contains a cubby with two crystal decanters and four glasses, while the luggage compartment contains proper sets of hand and road tools, a period Norelco Sportsman electric razor in its original box, a Coracle wicker picnic hamper with full complements of flatware and plastic food boxes, and a three-piece set of period fitted luggage.
Lovely in its presentation and the subtle elegance of its lines, this is among the most beautiful Graber designs on the Mark VI chassis and awaits a new home on either the Swiss Alpine roads or a concours field.
AddendumPlease note that this title is in transit.
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