6 Bent­ley S1 Con­ti­nen­tal

Much like the stately home it draws com­par­isons with, a ren­o­va­tion may be a bet­ter bet than a ground-up re­build

Classic Cars (UK) - - Top 10 Cars to Restore -

The fast­back alu­minium coach­work on the R-type Con­ti­nen­tal brought back a sport­ing edge for Bent­ley that had been miss­ing in post-war years. These land­mark clas­sics now fetch £1mil­lion in top con­di­tion, while the very sim­i­lar S1 Con­ti­nen­tal of 1955-59 makes barely half that, even for the most sought-after vari­ant. More im­por­tantly, twice as many S1 Con­ti­nen­tals were built – 431 ver­sus 207 R-types – and there are still tired cars to be found, wor­thy of im­prove­ment.

Dif­fer­ent coach­builders bod­ied the S1 Con­ti­nen­tal in a va­ri­ety of styles, both fixed-head and con­vert­ible. Some are more de­sir­able than oth­ers. One of the 120 HJ Mulliner fast­backs (clos­est in shape to an R-type) might fetch £350k in con­cours con­di­tion. Add an­other £200k to that for a Park Ward drop­head but sub­tract £50k-£100k for one of the notch­back coupés.

His­tory is im­por­tant too, as John Hod­son of spe­cial­ist Alpine Ea­gle ex­plains. ‘Em­bark­ing on some­thing like this is a dodgy game if you don’t get the right ad­vice. Think of it like buy­ing a house… when all the his­tory is there, it’s a pretty safe bet, even if you can see that as­pects of it need work. But get­ting into some­thing un­known is a big risk.’

Hod­son cau­tions that buy­ing an out-and-out barn-find can still land you with restora­tion costs that ex­ceed the car’s con­sid­er­able fin­ished value, so con­sider a par­tial re­fur­bish­ment of a well-sto­ried car as a bet­ter (and quicker) route to an en­joy­able, de­pend­able clas­sic of the high­est qual­ity.

‘These Con­ti­nen­tals are made mostly in alu­minum on a sep­a­rate chas­sis, but the in­ner sills are steel and can be a hid­den prob­lem. Mind you, the alu­minium has of­ten cor­roded by now too, though it lasts ex­tremely well once done.’

No as­pect is cheap to fix – break­ing down a restora­tion into sec­tions such as in­te­rior trim, paint or an en­gine re­build pro­duces re­peated £20k chunks. The cost of a full body restora­tion is open-ended, de­pend­ing on what’s re­vealed be­neath the paint but also on the coach­builder’s orig­i­nal ef­forts and the dif­fi­culty of repli­cat­ing them.

Do your sums on the cost of pur­chase com­pared to the work re­quired for sev­eral dif­fer­ent ex­am­ples, if pos­si­ble, but re­mem­ber that the end prod­uct is a sport­ing Bent­ley that’s even more com­fort­able, quiet and pow­er­ful than an R-type Con­ti­nen­tal – and at a frac­tion of the cost.

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