The Continental name was first affixed to Bentleys in 1952, denoting a specialized chassis and more powerful engine affixed to a lighter than average body built by specific coachbuilders under Rolls-Royce supervision. Marketing of the day touted the original Continentals as “The Silent Sports Car,” and while the Continental moniker had been used by Rolls-Royce previously, the ethos of each car that would bear the name – Rolls or Bentley – followed essentially the same formula: an automobile meant for travelling long distances in great comfort and at high speeds. Initially created for customers in Continental Europe, the formula was well received, and it made good sense to bestow the name on the sportier brand of the two companies, which had always been Bentley. Through 1965, Bentley was essentially what could be considered the M-Series or AMG of Rolls-Royce in period. Nowhere is that more evident than with the original R and S 1950s and ‘60s Continentals, ultra-lightweight cars with an extraordinary chassis, suspension, and engine combination. While they might look a little husky, they could hustle with automobiles half their size and weight, a huge accomplishment that justified their expensive invoices.
The Continental name disappeared after 1966, only to be resurrected in 1984 when it replaced the Corniche name Bentley had shared with the similarly styled Rolls-Royce coupes and convertibles. This iteration would run through 1995, and while they very closely resembled their Rolls-Royce siblings, it’s interesting to note just how few were built. For the 11 years of Continental production, only 421 were built, less than 38 cars per year on average. Prior to ‘84, when Bentley shared the Corniche label, only 11 were built. Needless to say, individually branding the Bentley version did wonders for sales demand when new, and as we’ve seen, eventually for collector car valuations.
This generation of Rolls-Royce and Bentley is likely the most universally recognized that was ever built. Used heavily in television and film production, especially during the 1980s, few cars exemplified the ultra-wealthy as well as a Rolls-Royce or Bentley, especially the convertibles. Today, these cars still exude wealth and sophistication with a dash of unapologetic conceit, all of which add to their charm. In a unique twist, though, the Bentley seems more approachable, less pompous, a little more humble – we’re not sure how they did that, but they did. And with only about 38 built per year, rarity is heavily on the Continental’s side.
This one appears to be in beautiful condition and the seller indicates that an extensive amount of work has been done to bring it up to snuff. New British Racing Green paint was applied in a bare metal respray, forever perfectly offsetting the tan top and upholstery. The Madera wood was refinished, brightening up the very original interior, which is seemingly in excellent condition. Similarly (if not more) important, Rolls/Bentley specialist Robinson Service in Springfield, MA combed through the car, replacing and repairing a number of components, including a complete fuel system rebuild, installation of a new steering box and tie rod ends, and according to the description, thousands were spent to bring the car up to excellent mechanical condition. With just 36,400 miles, the top works perfectly, the air conditioning compressor was replaced, and it seems like a well-sorted car.
Recent conventional auction sales (Silverstone, RM Sotheby’s, etc.) of these cars consistently exceed the seller’s asking price, if not delving into the six-figure range, so while it’s still a hefty sum for most people, this example seems to offer a lot for the money. Is it a great investment? We wouldn’t necessarily go that far, but there are plenty of justifications to buy for those in the market. Sure you could get a Corniche, but everyone at the club has one of those, right?