Described by The Autocar as, 'A new stage in the evolution of the post-war Bentley,' the magnificent Continental sports saloon has been synonymous with effortless high speed cruising in the grand manner since its introduction on the R-Type chassis in 1952. With the arrival in 1955 of the final generation of six-cylinder cars, the all-new Silver Cloud and Bentley S-Type, the Continental lost some of its individuality but none of its exclusivity. Dependable though it had proved, Rolls-Royce's six-cylinder engine was nearing the end of its development. At the same time the company was facing increased competition from faster rivals in the vital United States market, and it was, principally, these two factors that prompted the switch to V8 power as the 1960s approached.
Introduced in the autumn of 1959, the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud II and Bentley S2 appeared externally unchanged from their Silver Cloud and S-Type predecessors, though their performance was considerably enhanced by the new 6,230cc aluminium-alloy engine, which produced approximately 25% more power than the old six. 'The Bentley S2, with its sister Rolls-Royce models, gives high-speed travel in silence and luxury, while the driver and passengers enjoy the sense of well being that only British craftsmanship can give,' enthused Autosport. 'The V8 engine, with its flashing acceleration, certainly contributes to the result and is a definite step forward in Rolls-Royce technique.' There were few significant changes to the running gear, though power-assisted steering was now standard and the manual gearbox had been dropped, Rolls-Royce's own four-speed automatic transmission being the sole offering.
The Continental version of the Bentley remained, as ever, exclusively a coachbuilt automobile. The firms of H J Mulliner, Park Ward, James Young and Hooper (with a solitary example) all offered hand crafted bodies on the Continental S2 chassis, which differed from the standard version by virtue of its four-leading-shoe front brakes, shorter radiator and, up to chassis number 'BC99BY', higher gearing. Of these four, James Young and Hooper would soon cease coachbuilding, leaving only Mulliner and Park Ward to carry on a noble tradition. Consolidating its in-house coachbuilding capability, Rolls-Royce had purchased H J Mulliner in 1959 and two years later the firm was merged with Park Ward, which had been acquired in 1939. Of the 388 S2 Continentals made, 222 were bodied in styles that originated with H J Mulliner and 125 with those of Park Ward.
Described as 'arguably the best looking' by Martin Bennett' in his book Bentley Continental, the S2 version typically cost some 40% more than the equivalent standard steel saloon and was the preserve of a privileged few. The S2 Continental represented the ultimate in luxury travel for the sporting motorist, affording a fast yet comfortable journey for four people and their luggage to glamorous destinations such as the Côte d'Azure and St Moritz.
Representing the pinnacle of bespoke taste in its day, 'BC15CZ' was supplied new in December 1961 to Brevitt Shoes Ltd of Nottingham and first registered as 'SXW 1'. The Bentley was delivered via Jack Barclay Ltd of Mayfair for the use of one A Atlas Esq, and was originally finished in Tudor Grey with red interior, the same as it is today. According to the copy build sheet on file, 'BC15CZ' was ordered with a sunshine roof, electrically controlled aerial and windows, wheel operated front vents, split cushion to rear seats, a radio, flashing headlamps with column control, luggage straps, map light, Marchal horn, and Marchal headlamps with yellow bulbs. The latter indicate that Mr Atlas wanted to use the Bentley for Continental touring, just as its maker intended. There is also an air conditioning system, believed installed during the 1970s while the car was in the USA.
'BC15CZ' spent some 15 years in the United States, with work undertaken while in California documented in the file. In 1990, the Bentley was repatriated and reallocated with its original registration, 'SXW 1'. Since the mid-1990s, the last two owners have had the car maintained by local specialists regardless of expense, as evidenced by the substantial quantity of related invoices in the most comprehensive history file. These bills detail work on the brakes, transmission, carburettors, air conditioning, interior veneers, steering, suspension, and exhaust system, together with a bare-metal re-spray. Most recently, in 2015, the engine was fully rebuilt by marque specialists RR&B Garages of Bromsgrove, since when only some 500 miles have been covered (see bills totalling circa £30,000 on file).
Well maintained and very usable, this Continental has taken part in many famous European touring events, completing them all without fault, and has received numerous prestigious awards. Offered with a V5C Registration Certificate and current MoT, 'BC15CZ' represents a rare opportunity for the discerning collector to acquire a beautiful example of this stylish and exclusive model.