Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by James Young & Co.
The S1 Continental The culmination of a careful four-year development and testing program, the new Bentley S-Type debuted for 1955 alongside its Rolls-Royce counterpart, the Silver Cloud, as the successors to the R-Type and Silver Dawn. Both marked the first completely redesigned post-war models from Bentley and Rolls-Royce, and they would be the last to employ traditional body-on-frame construction.
While both the S-Type and Silver Cloud were most frequently presented with factory-made steel saloon bodies, a limited number were cloaked by external coachbuilders. Of those few bespoke examples produced, the most desirable are based upon the high-performance Bentley S1 Continental chassis, available from October 1955 and offering a shorter radiator grille, tuned engine, and higher rear-end gearing. As implied by its name, the Continental provided nearly effortless long-distance, high-speed capability with brisk acceleration and over 120 mph on tap. Offering sports-car-like performance while carrying up to five passengers, plus luggage, with uncanny ease, the S1 Continental remains a watershed model and a true object of desire today.
This Car This wonderful example, chassis BC23LEL, features particularly elegant and sporting handbuilt aluminum coachwork by James Young & Co. to design no. CT29, and it is one of three left-hand-drive examples built. At the time, James Young produced the highest quality and most luxuriously appointed examples of the Continental. Often coined the James Young “Flying Spur,” these cars garnered finer detailing than their H.J. Mulliner contemporaries. Commanding in all respects, its original cost was £8,295, making it the most expensive Continental model available. It was imported new to the US by J.S. Inskip and delivered to Mobile, Alabama. Further, it was the first S1 to enter the US with factory-fitted air-conditioning.
Purchased in 1992 by the current owner, BC23LEL underwent a meticulous ground-up restoration to factory-correct specifications over the next three years at Vantage Motorworks, the internationally acclaimed Miami firm. Its colors, while not factory-original to the car, were thoughtfully chosen according to the available period options. The exterior was finished in rich Velvet Green lacquer and the interior was trimmed in tobacco Connolly leather with contrasting leather piping, dark green Wilton wool carpeting and floor mats, a West of England cloth headliner, and exquisite woodwork.
Beginning in 1996, the S1 Continental garnered an exceptional string of awards. Under RROC scrutiny at Atlantic Regional and National Concours, it received Best Post War, Best in Show, First in Class, and three Special Senior Awards. At the 1997 and 2001 editions of the Greenwich Concours d’Elegance, it received Best English Coachwork and First Place – European, respectively. First place awards followed for British Coach Built at Quail Lodge in 2004 and British Coach Work at Amelia Island in 2005. Next, the impressive restoration was prepared for display at the 2006 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The detailed restoration was continually bettered after each showing, with an aim to fix any minor fault in aspiration of a perfect score.
Now offered after 21 years of exceptionally fastidious and knowledgeable single ownership, BC23LEL remains excellent and clearly benefits from temperature-controlled storage and very light exercise. In addition to its prolific and highly successful show career, this S1 Continental has graced several editions of The Flying Lady, the official publication of the RROC. According to the owner, BC23LEL will be accompanied at auction by an incomparable selection of documentation, tools, maintenance and restoration documents, photographs, judging reports, trophies, and ribbons, not to mention an exceedingly rare spares travel kit and James Young model brochure. As one of three produced and the sole example known to exist, this left-hand-drive James Young-bodied 1958 Bentley S1 Continental exemplifies the ultimate bespoke motorcar of its era and the postwar high-water mark of Britain’s world-renowned coach building industry.