A Passion for Elegance | Lot 107
1958 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupé by Park Ward
CHF1,220,000 | Sold
19 June 2021
- Among the most desirable postwar Bentleys
- Stunning coachwork; the most important design on the S1 Continental
- Finished in the original color scheme
THE S1 CONTINENTAL DROPHEAD COUPÉ
Unlike the majority of Bentley drophead coupés produced in the postwar era, Park Ward’s body style number 700 for the S1 Continental was not an “adaptation” from factory saloon stampings. Rather, it was a fully custom body, built from the ground up in aluminum by the revered coachbuilder’s craftsmen on the exceptionally rigid, magnificently well-tuned Continental chassis, a renowned “gentleman’s express” of the period.
The picture of well-considered grace, John Blatchley’s lines were a classic from the moment they were first carried out, and have long been considered one of the peaks of modern Bentley styling. Distinguishing the design were smooth and subtle curves, with long, fully “flow through” fenders that reached gracefully from the front to the rear, with a subtle kick-up forming “hips” over the rear wheels, and the very tiniest vestige of tailfins at their trailing tips. Significantly, thanks to its alloy paneling, this model also ensured maximum performance from the chassis beneath.
Only 94 Drophead Coupés were produced on the S1 Continental chassis, for an eager clientele of the most sophisticated motoring enthusiasts on both sides of the Atlantic—captains of industry, Hollywood stars, and world royalty among them. Today, the heirs to that tradition happily maintain the restored survivors.
CHASSIS NUMBER BC15FM
The Drophead Coupé offered here, right-hand drive chassis number BC15FM, was fitted when new with the present engine, number BC14F, and its wonderful Park Ward coachwork, outfitted with radio and fog lights. Bentley’s customer is recorded as Weybridge Automobiles Ltd. on behalf of their customer, J. Smit, Esq., of “K.J.” Smit & Sons Ltd. on Ely Place in London. This was in fact J.K. Smit & Sons, a Dutch firm specializing in the supply of industrial diamonds for drilling bits and other uses, and their principal was Johannes Smit.
Mr. Smit took delivery on March 10, 1958, with British registration “100FKX” which remains in place to this day. A sub-retailer was listed in Gerrards Cross, location of Mr. Smit’s other residence, Walpole House, indicating he may have intended to use the Bentley while in the country. Walpole House still stands today and has been a Grade II Listed building since 1985.
The correct livery of Shell Grey over red leather interior is just as it was delivered to Mr. Smit. Indeed, inspection indicated that the paintwork is either the original or a very old refinish, which is still very presentable for driving use. The interior has almost certainly been restored, showing only a light patina to its leather seats, while the woodwork is in splendid condition. Under the bonnet, the engine compartment is attractive but not overly detailed, as one would expect from an automobile that has continued to be used and enjoyed by its owners.
Indeed, the Bentley has, typically, been regularly exercised and very well-maintained, with the history file containing invoices dating to 2008 in the current ownership. In addition to the aforementioned invoices, the car is accompanied by copies of its build documents, supplied by the Rolls-Royce Foundation and the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club. A FIVA Identity Card was also issued in 2019.
There are few Bentleys more enjoyable for driving than an S1 Continental. While the subsequent S2 and S3s certainly offer a world of pleasures, the S1 is the true “driver’s car”—simpler in design, lighter in weight, and slightly quicker off its feet. Sailing along on its electrically controlled, adjustable rear suspension, backed by the security of a three-way safety braking setup, it rides softly but well-controlled, its passengers cosseted by fine leather and taking in an experience that can only be offered by this very automobile.
It is a softly shining gem of an automobile... something the original owner must have appreciated, in all its facets.