1953 Bentley R-Type SedanSOLD

RM Auctions - The Ponder Collection - Texas - April 20-21st, 2007

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ESTIMATE: $250,000 - $350,000


$253,000 Sold

153hp, 4,566cc, inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed automatic transmission, independent suspension with leaf springs and shocks, four-wheel hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 120"

The ex-Wacky Arnolt, One-Off Coachbuilt Bentley 1953 Arnolt Bentley R-Type Continental Sedan Coachwork by Bertone

In the days immediately following the cessation of World War II, Rolls-Royce took the unprecedented step of commissioning hard tooling for what would become known as the Standard Steel Saloon – standard coachwork for the majority of its model line. This move came when Board and Managing Director, Arthur Sidgreaves, recognized that new production methods and materials had outdated the marques’ traditional manufacturing techniques. Commercial success meant rethinking how the company conducted business.
The first Standard Steel Saloon bodies were introduced on the Bentley Mark VI in 1946, following the proven Rolls-Royce practice of updating its models in stages. The Standard Steel Saloon fulfilled the company’s commercial requirements, but not necessarily those of all its customers. It was for this clientele that the Bentley Continental was created.

The company revived the “Continental” designation from prewar Rolls-Royces, with about 20 more horsepower from a higher compression engine and large bore exhaust system, higher gearing and modified suspension for greater cruising speeds. Onto these improved chassis H.J. Mulliner constructed lightweight aluminum bodies shaped by Rolls-Royce designer, John Blatchley in the R-R Hucknall wind tunnel with a fastback deck, tapered rear fenders and curved windscreen, all in the interest of rapid and quiet high speed cruising.

With the four-speed automatic gearbox (based on GM’s Hydramatic) the Bentley R-Type Continental was capable of 80mph in second gear, 100mph in third and over 120mph in top gear, perfectly meeting the Bentley’s goal of being the fastest and most comfortable high speed tourer on the market. In all, 193 of these rapid motorcars found the favor of buyers during the model’s four-year production run.

Although the heyday of custom coach building had passed before the war, and the factory body was nothing short of breathtaking, it was still possible to order a bare Bentley chassis and have it sent to what surviving coachbuilders remained across Europe.

When the American industrialist S.H. “Wacky” Arnolt ordered his personal Bentley, he had the chassis sent to Bertone of Milan. Earlier that year he had partnered with the Italian coachbuilding firm to produce a series of cars built using MG chassis as the base. The custom body that would be fitted to his Bentley R-Type was in essence an enlarged version of the body being fitted to the MG. Before Arnolt took delivery of his Bentley, Bertone showcased the car beside the MG Arnolts at the 1953 Paris and London Motor Shows.
The large radiator and proportions of the Bentley R-Type lent themselves perfectly to the Italian coachwork, and the length created by the four doors aided the cars aristocratic yet sporting sensibilities. The interior was luxuriously appointed and customized to Arnolt’s specifications. Lifting up the wooden trays inserted to the rear of the front seats revealed three silver flasks engraved with the Wacky’s initials and crystal glasses. Where Mrs. Arnolt sat, on the right side of the car, the tray in its upright position, reveled a compartment specially made to hold her favorite perfume and cosmetic supplies.

It is believed that S. H. Arnolt retained possession of the Bentley until his death Christmas Eve of 1963. Following which it passed through a succession of owners. When Mr. Ponder took possession of the car in the late nineties it had been repainted black and had a red interior but was still totally complete. Photos of the car when Mr. Ponder acquired it illuminate its well-preserved condition and are available for review onsite for those interested.
Already an avid collector of all things Arnolt, Mr. Ponder was in possession of a color photograph of the Arnolt Bentley at either the London or Paris Motor Show and from that picture he could clearly see the exterior color had been gold and the interior was finished in tan. Accordingly, when Mr. Ponder commenced the total ground up restoration of the Arnolt Bentley, he had it returned it to its original specifications, including color and trim.

Still in near flawless condition from its restoration, the cosmetic and mechanical condition of the Arnolt Bentley is outstanding. The car had been routinely driven by either Mr. Ponder or his mechanic to ensure it remains in top running and driving condition. The Bentley still retains S.H. Arnolt’s monogrammed flasks and glasses, as well as much of his wife’s cosmetic accoutrements – all irreplaceable items that have remained with it since 1953.
Absolutely one of a kind, the luxurious sedan is the only vehicle in the world badged as an Arnolt Bentley. Increasing its appeal, this remarkable vehicle has never been exhibited at show or other public events since its 1953 international auto show tour. A remarkable piece of automotive history, this truly multinational vehicle would compliment a large variety of automobile collections and museums.

Reference Number 7600

as of 2/27/2007

Car 1953 Bentley R-Type Sedan
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