15-16 August 2014

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Lot 117

1953 Bentley R-Type Continental Sports Saloon by H.J. Mulliner

  • Chassis no. BC20A
  • Engine no. BCA19

Sold for $1,210,000

178 bhp, 4,887 cc overhead inlet and side exhaust valve inline six-cylinder engine with twin SU carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front suspension with open helical springs and hydraulic shock dampers, semi-elliptic rear suspension with controllable hydraulic shock dampers, and servo-assisted hydraulic front and mechanical rear brakes. Wheelbase: 120 in.

  • The 1953 Geneva Salon show car
  • Factory “seats and spats,” with manual gearbox
  • Numerous bespoke special-order items
  • Original engine and factory tool set
  • Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club documentation


In the early 1930s, Rolls-Royce began to experiment with aerodynamic designs, often based on the chassis of the Bentley, “The Silent Sports Car.” After World War II, streamlined prewar prototypes such as the Mk II (“Scalded Cat”) and Corniche were revisited, and H.I.F. Evernden and H.J. Mulliner designer J.P. Blatchley conspired to create a lightweight, aerodynamic Bentley capable of carrying four adults in the highest comfort. They aimed “to produce a car which would not only look beautiful but possess a high maximum speed, coupled with a correspondingly high rate of acceleration, together with excellent handling and roadability.”

Body, window, and seat frames would be built of light alloy, resulting in a four-place body that weighed only 750 pounds, less than 4,000 pounds together with the chassis. Frame, suspension, steering, and brake components were shared with the Mark VI series and the later standard R-Type, with final modifications and tuning at the Rolls-Royce Lille Hall service depot in Earls Court, London. While coachbuilt bodies were being built and fitted, Bentley representatives reportedly visited the panel-beaters, ensuring that all work was being done in a workmanlike manner, and Bentley Motors thoroughly tested and inspected the cars prior to delivery to their original owners.

The resulting R-Type Continental, the first production Bentley to wear that now-famous name, is perhaps the most desirable postwar Bentley, combining superior performance with glorious design and advanced aerodynamics. Memorably described by Autocar as being “a modern magic carpet, annihilating great distances,” it was best remembered with the streamlined H.J. Mulliner bodywork that Blatchley had originally penned for the chassis. This streamlined fastback Sports Saloon became the iconic coachwork for the R-Type Continental, and of the 207 chassis built between May 1952 and April 1955, 193 were bodied by Mulliner.


The R-Type Continental was produced in five series, A through E, with the A cars representing the earliest and purest version of the design. Chassis number BC20A was the 19th car produced in the A series, and therefore, the 19th R-Type Continental produced. (Superstitious in the charming way that British automakers often are, Bentley skipped chassis number 13.)

Original build information supplied by the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts' Club, copies of which are on file, record this car’s well-equipped custom specification. Like most of the Mulliner fastbacks, it was equipped with full “spats” over the rear wheels; desirably, it was also equipped with the lightweight adjustable seats, making it one of the rare early “seats and spats” examples. Other special-ordered equipment included flashing-type turn indicators with amber glasses, double-filament headlamps with convex lenses, high-frequency horns with a muting switch, a speedometer in kilometers, and two fog lamps! Heavier front shock dampers and a special steering gear were specified, to improve handling, and a 17-inch high-speed engine fan and unique radiator were ordered to improve cooling. A radio was fitted; this was included in the R-Type Continental’s standard price, but in an effort to save weight, would only be installed at the owner’s request.

According to the RREC, the car was shown at the Geneva Salon in the spring of 1953, shortly after its delivery on February 19th to Louis Schneiter, Esq., a resident of Villa “Bois-Fleuri” in Coffet, Vaud, Switzerland. It remained in Europe until January 1, 1960, and was then acquired by its first American owner, Lamont Haggarty.

Eventually the car was acquired by the late Anthony “Bud” Korteweg of River Edge, New Jersey, founder of The Coachworks, a well-regarded Rolls-Royce and Bentley restoration facility that won numerous awards over the years in national competition. He remains the only person to have won the Rolls-Royce Owners Club Best in Show award three times. A man who believed in what he restored, Mr. Korteweg collected Rolls-Royce and Bentley himself, eventually amassing seven well-kept automobiles in the imposing Tudor-style garage of his home. The R-Type Continental was completely restored from the wheels up to its original appearance in Mr. Korteweg’s capable care, and it was the final automobile restored for his personal use.

Not merely a well-kept show car, this R-Type Continental is also a splendid driver. Recently test-driven by an RM Auctions specialist, it was reported to “idle smoothly, with a soft burbling exhaust note at speed, with brakes that work well. It rides and handles as well as any automobile I have ever been inside!” Offered with original tools and owner’s manual, it remains the perfect high-speed tour car for today, a testament to the greatness of the Bentley tradition.

Offered today as it stood at Geneva in 1953, this car assures its next owner of many proud years of ownership, as well as invitations to the most prestigious car events and concours in the world—events that can be reached quite swiftly and comfortably behind the wheel of the original Continental.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

+1 519 784 9300
Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more