1954 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback Sports Saloon By H.J. Mulliner



United Kingdom | London, United Kingdom



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  • Supplied new to the Bolivian ambassador to France, Jorge Ortiz Linares
  • One of 207 production examples of the R-Type Continental
  • Powered by a 4.9-litre, six-cylinder engine mated to a four-speed manual gearbox
  • Long-term ownership since 2001 until now
  • Accompanied by its Bentley handbook, H.J. Mulliner maintenance book, and copies of the build sheets

When the Bentley R-Type Continental prototype was unveiled in 1951, it was revealed as a “Continental Sports Saloon”, a snapshot that fairly represented the model as a long-distance tourer. Unlike the standard R-Type, the Continental was exclusively a coach-built affair, with H.J. Mulliner producing most of those built. The public’s reaction was extremely positive, with Bentley pulling in strong demand as the order books filled up—despite the fact that this was one of the most expensive vehicles in the world at the time, with an asking price of £6,928.

When a press car was handed over to Autocar for road testing, journalists found themselves fully absorbed by the charm and sublime elegance of the H.J. Mulliner-crafted Bentley. The article said: ‘Whatever memorable motoring experiences one may have had, this was something different … this Bentley is a modern magic carpet which annihilates great distances and delivers the occupants well-nigh as fresh as when they started.’ Without doubt, the R-Type Continental was one of Bentley’s most stylish and elegant touring cars to date and was set to become a true icon of 1950s motoring opulence.

Just 207 road-going examples of the R-Type Continental were manufactured from May 1952 to April 1955, with nomenclature reflected by series escalating from “A” to “E”. From July 1954, a new 4.9-litre six-cylinder engine was introduced offering improved power and torque. Bentley’s clients could opt for a variety of options, including the choice of a manual or automatic gearbox, “lightweight” sports bucket seats or “heavy” touring seats, the fitting of “special” instrumentation and wheel arch covers (spats) over the rear wheels. The R-Type Continental was not only sublimely beautiful and graceful; it was also sporting. The car was the fastest production four-seater in the world, with a top speed of 120 mph and capable of cruising at 100 mph.

This R-Type Continental, a Series “D” example, left the Crewe factory on 25 October 1954, bodied by H.J. Mulliner as a fastback coupe and fitted with the recently introduced 4.9-litre six-cylinder engine. The vehicle was configured with a four-speed manual gearbox, left-hand-drive headlamps and lightweight seats. Chassis BC53D was supplied new to its first owner, Jorge Ortiz Linares via Franco-Britannic Motors in Paris. According to the original build sheet and factory records, this Bentley was finished in Black Pearl and upholstered with Beige Connolly leather. Additional notes on the build sheet show this vehicle was equipped with special steering, Wilmot-Breeden bumpers, a speedometer measuring in kilometres, and twin fog lamps.

Jorge Ortiz Linares was the Bolivian Ambassador to France, and his wife, Graziella, was the daughter of the Bolivian tin mining magnate Simón I. Patiño. Graziella filled their house with French decorative arts, especially silver.

Chassis BC53D subsequently passed through the hands of three additional owners in France, with all sales being conducted by Franco Britannic Motors, and was later sold to its first English owner, Mr A.E. Walker in 1965, and registered on the personalised license plate “Y 9”. According to the Bentley Continental Register, the car’s engine was exchanged by Wadham’s of Southport in the early-1970s for an alternative originally fitted in chassis BC35D. Records for BC35D car state that it was also fitted with an exchange 33/4 bore engine, ex-“N” stock, on 28 January 1959.

Later, BC53D was exported to Texas, U.S.A., where it remained for several years before returning to Europe for a short sojourn in Germany in the mid-1990s. It then re-entered England, having been acquired by known collector Mr Stephen Pilkington, who treated this R-Type Continental to an extensive cosmetic and mechanical overhaul (a number of photos of the Bentley whilst in the care of Mr Pilkington are available in the history file). It is believed that during the overhaul, the decision was taken to change the colour combination to the elegant midnight blue over oxblood, which the car still wears.

Acquired by its current owner in January 2001, via the leading historic Bentley specialists, Frank Dale & Stepsons, this magnificent “D” Series is a fine example of the majestic R-Type Continental that has had an interesting and well-travelled life. This Bentley has been regularly maintained throughout the consigning owner’s 21-year ownership, and presents as an extremely handsome example of the R-Type Continental.