Chassis NUmber: BC 61 C
Engine Number: BC 60 C
UK Registered: 6 BMC
Rolls-Royce bought Bentley Motors in 1931 and before the War they built over 2,000 sporting Bentley cars to fit in with their existing more formal range. In the austere post war world Rolls-Royce were unsure how the market would receive their first new model with ‘in house’ coachwork. In 1946, rather than risk a failure with the Rolls-Royce name on it, they launched the “Bentley Mk. VI” and in 1952 changed the name to the “Bentley R Type” as they upgraded the design.
The car proved to be a great success and the company built 7,500 of the “Standard Steel Saloon” which as the name implies was built to a standard design which was a robust upright four door saloon. It was an exceptional car but it was evident that there was also a demand for something even more special, individual, and sporting. So it was that between 1952 and 1955 Rolls-Royce came to build to specific customer requirements the Bentley R Type Continental chassis which was to be fitted with special lightweight coach-built bodies.
Almost all the bodies were produced by H.J. Mulliner in lightweight aluminium. They were only available in a two door design, were aero-dynamically styled and featured a curved windscreen, stiffened chassis and tuned engine. They were built to order and no two cars are exactly alike as owners could choose from a variety of options including colours, manual or automatic gearbox, instrumentation and cockpit layout, spats on the rear wheels, types of seats etc.
The first 25 chassis were designated as ‘A Series’ and included ‘Olga’ the famous prototype with chassis number BC 26 A. The number 13 with its unlucky association was never allocated, accordingly chassis BC 14 A had engine BCA 13. All of this first series were built for ‘Export Only’ although curiously only 4 were left hand drive.
The Bentley R Type Continental is arguably the most significant post-war car produced by Rolls-Royce. It was the fastest production four seater in the World and would cruise at 100 mph. It carried stunning light alloy coachwork and was highly exclusive with only 208 examples being built. It combined style, performance and innovation with the company’s universally acknowledged reputation for reliability.
The complete history of BC 61 C is known and documented and it is exceptional. It has matching numbers, is fitted with the desirable manual gearbox, the sought after lightweight seats and retains its original registration “6 BMC”. The interior retains the original leather and instrumentation including an impressive altimeter by the renowned instrument maker, Negretti & Zambra of London. The carpets have been renewed along with the paintwork. The car has been well maintained and accordingly is a delight on the road and is accompanied by its tools and a weighty history file that includes letters, photos, invoices and the original handbook.
BC 61 C has had only six owners:
Mr. L.C. Hudson 1st May 1954 UK
Mr. R. Melville-Smith 1st Jan 1960 UK
Mr. L.R. Maxwell-Stewart 1st Aug 1964 NZ
Mr. D.W. Bowman 1st Mar 1973 NZ
Mr. J.W. Sawers 2nd Oct 1976 NZ (34 years)
Current Owner 7th Oct 2010 UK (12 years)
The first owner was Leon Hudson, a flamboyant character whose business was famous for making the ACME Whistle, suppliers to forces and organisations worldwide. Hudson had a great fondness for the Continental and took it on a number of extensive European tours. He kept the car for six years and covered over 100,000 miles with it.
John Melville-Smith was the second owner and he kept the car until 1960. The car passed through the hands of Stanley Sedgewick and under his supervision was thoroughly overhauled by Rolls-Royce at Crewe before being exported to Mr. I.R. Maxwell Stewart in New Zealand.
The fourth owner was Mr. D Bowman who only kept the car for three years unlike the next owner, Jim Sawyers who began a 34 year relationship in 1976. In his care the car benefitted from some extensive mechanical restoration including a gearbox rebuild, new king-pins, a suspension overhaul and an engine rebuild that included a new cylinder head and re-conditioned carburettors.
When the current owner repatriated the car in 2010 it was delivered directly to Padgett Engineering and after a major service was declared to be a well maintained original car in fine fettle. Its appearance was smartened up by re-plating the brightwork and refreshing the paint. The decision was taken to preserve the wonderful original leather and this is complimented by a new set of carpets to factory specification. The final flourish putting BC 61 C back on the road was securing its original registration ‘6 BMC’ from the zealous guardians at the DVLA.
When the car was ordered it was specified with a number of additional features which are still evident:
The passenger seat is two inches wider than standard and has an integral armrest.
The Negretti and Zambra altimeter is positioned in the centre of the dashboard and the master switch re-located to the right of the steering wheel
3 way fuel pump switch on dashboard
Telescopic driving mirror
Lucas Windtone Horns
Lucas Le Mans Headlights
GB letters on boot
…and the list goes on.
The R Type Continental was conceived by Rolls-Royce to be the best car in the world. The unsurpassed reliability and performance of the R Type chassis was enhanced with power and handling upgrades and perfected by an aerodynamically designed lightweight alloy body by H.J. Mulliner. Accordingly, almost any Continental is a special car, they were after all painstakingly hand built by our nation’s finest craftsmen. BC 61 C lives up to this build up being a delightful example of Mulliner’s masterpiece in aluminium and is accompanied by a significant history file that includes its original handbook and numerous letters, photos and invoices evidencing its history. An R Type Continental is an accomplished car, supremely good looking and quietly effective. It is little surprise that they feature in a great many of the world’s greatest collections.
BC 61 C is the subject of a 9 page feature in the highly regarded ‘Rolls-Royce and Bentley Driver’ magazine that is available at all good newsagents.