1952 Bentley Mark VI Drophead Foursome Coupe by Mulliners of Birmingham
Sold For $434,000Inclusive of applicable buyer's fee.
- A one-off design; the only Mark VI by Mulliners of Birmingham
- Commissioned by Standard-Triumph Managing Director Sir John Black
- Reputedly the inspiration for Triumph’s post-war sports cars
- Recipient of an extensive 12,000-hour restoration by marque specialists
- Multiple award-winner; exhibited at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance
As England returned to peacetime after World War II, Bentley introduced its new post-war Mark VI powered by a new F-head engine with overhead intake and side exhaust valves. Built on an X-braced frame with independent front suspension, it featured a four-speed manual gearbox and hydraulically operated front and servo-assisted mechanical rear brakes. The design was further refined over the next several years, with May 1951 seeing the introduction of the more powerful “Big Bore” model with the more powerful 4½-liter engine, with full-flow oil filter and dual exhaust.
About three-quarters of Mark VI production received the factory’s Standard Steel Saloon body. Only 1,022 were fitted with special coachwork, and only five received truly one-off drophead coupe bodies; chassis no. B342NZ, offered here, was the only Mark VI fitted with bodywork by Mulliners of Birmingham, to a one-off design by Stuart Peck, inspired by French designers. The car was commissioned by Sir John Black, Managing Director of Standard Motor Cars, builders of the Standard and Triumph automobiles, who had been knighted by King George V1 for his World War II services; Standard built over 1,500 Mosquito bombers that enabled Britain’s bombings of German factories. Sir John’s impetus for ordering the car is wreathed in mystery and fable; there are rumors that he wanted a vehicle to use during the events surrounding Queen Elizabeth II’s coronations, and also that it may have been bought for design study as Triumph developed its post-war sports cars.
Two months after the new Triumph sports cars were introduced, Sir John sold his Bentley to Leslie Onslow of Bournemouth; apparently its purpose served. It subsequently traveled to California, where its owners included C.J. Gelber, who drove it for 10 years, and A. Sheratin Atkinson. Dr. Kurt Hammerstrom acquired the car in 1973 and began a restoration before storing the car for the next 37 years. It was sold by his estate to a longtime Rolls-Royce and Bentley enthusiast in California, who is a 47-year member of RROC, 38-year member of RREC, and who has spent 10 years in the Bentley Drivers Club. He immediately put the car into the hands of Bentley specialists for an extensive and authentic mechanical and cosmetic restoration, lasting five years and over 12,000 man-hours.
The only change made to the original specifications was to replace the original, sober black livery with a striking three shades of grey, highlighting its unique coach lines. The red leather seats are piped in grey, coordinating with the grey carpets and top, while the polished wood interior veneer is a rare crotch burl with ‘fiddleback’ design. The door interiors feature an Art Deco ‘sunburst’ stitch pattern in red leather. The original ‘His Master’s Voice’ Radiomobile 100 radio has been converted to AM/FM operation, with hidden speakers fitted in the doors, while the charming original hand-wound clock is still mounted on the lockable glove box door.
The restored Mark VI was displayed in the post-war Touring class at the 2014 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, then entered into several other California events. Its roster of honors includes being named Best in Class and Most Elegant Open Car at Ironstone, Best in Class and Best of Show at the Niello Concours, and Best in Class at Hillsborough. The restoration still presents beautifully, and the car will undoubtedly be a joy to use, as a thoroughly modern car that is responsive, powerful, and manageable both around town and on the highway – and remarkably impressive to show judges, as well!
Accompanying this car is a unique history of the car’s owners, construction, and restoration, prepared by the current owner, as well as the trophies from its show appearances.
Chassis no. B342NZ is a fusion of the best of all possible worlds: elegance, function, fascinating known history, and a thoroughly remarkable example of the venerable Bentley marque. It is absolutely and completely unique!