1956 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe by Park Ward
Sold For $1,077,500Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.
RM | Sotheby's - ARIZONA 17 - 18 JANUARY 2019 - Offered on Friday
- Offered from a prominent private collection
- The most desirable coachwork on this chassis; one of 31 left-hand-drive examples
- Well-known, fascinating ownership history; single ownership for nearly 30 years
- Documented with Rolls-Royce Foundation and Hunt House build information
- Offered with complete sets of road and hand tools
- An exceptional S1 Continental
Please note that the title is in transit.
The most desirable catalogued body style on the S1 Continental chassis was the drophead coupe by Park Ward, style no. 700. Unlike the majority of Bentley convertibles produced in this era, this style was not an “adaptation” from factory design stampings, but rather a fully custom body, built from the ground up by Park Ward’s craftsmen, hand-crafted in aluminum. It is distinguished by smooth, subtle body lines, with the long, fully “flow through” fenders that flow from the front to the rear “hips,” and rear fenders that kick up slightly to form tiny tailfins.
Park Ward built this design on only 31 left-hand-drive S1 Continental chassis, and the survivors are among the most fiercely prized of all post-war Bentleys, featured in some of the world’s finest collections of grand touring automobiles.
The example offered was delivered on 3 June 1956, to Annandale, the palatial estate of Mary Stevens Baird of Bernardsville, New Jersey. Mrs. Baird was an heiress to the prominent Stevens family of inventors and entrepreneurs, responsible for early innovations in steam locomotives and for establishing the U.S.’s first patent office, and was a philanthropist deeply involved in correctional reform, a longtime family cause. Her niece, the iconoclastic future U.S. Representative Millicent Fenwick, was raised at Annandale by Mrs. Baird.
As originally supplied, the car was finished in Tudor Grey over Green, with sealed-beam headlamps, a radio, Windtone horns, U.S.-specification instrumentation, and other typical North American features, such as deletion of the reverse button on the gear lever and a “Made in England” plate. Interestingly, a note was made for “owner’s mascot,” a silver fox, though it has since been supplanted by the classic ‘Flying B.’
In June 1964 the car passed to its second owner, Dr. Theodore Griggs III of Summit, New Jersey. It enjoyed several other East Coast enthusiast ownerships during the 1970s and 1980s, including being shown in Rolls-Royce Owners Club events by Dr. Halsey G. Bullen and Harold Porter. In 1990 it was acquired through Richard Gorman’s Vantage Motorworks for a prominent private collection, one of the world’s finest assemblages of coachbuilt Rolls-Royce and Bentley automobiles, and has remained in the collection for nearly 30 years.
Today the car is a well-preserved restoration in Masons Black with a Dove Gray leather interior piped in black and a properly fitted black top. The interior’s burled walnut trim is rich and harmonious, with the dashboard carrying original gauges and an updated modern stereo system, which fits nicely into place; all is overseen by correct “purdah” smoked glass sun visors. Finishes under the hood show some driving and use over the years, with minor patination visible throughout, but are in general correct and attractive. The original sets of proper road and hand tools are still stashed under the floor of the boot.
Examples of the Park Ward drophead coupe seldom become available for sale, and fewer still are those with this car’s distinguished specification and provenance. It is a lovely machine, offered from one exceptional home to another.