1951 Bentley R-Type Sport Saloon - $59,900
     
  • Overview & History
  • Specifications
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There are some very, very minor signs of use, but the car has been driven only about 7500 miles in the last 30 years so it is extremely well preserved.

It's a mistake to think of Bentleys as Rolls-Royces with a different grille. In later years, perhaps, but when this beautiful 1951 Bentley was built, it was more of a 4-door sports car than luxury car, offering a significant increase in performance over its Rolls-Royce cousin without losing any of the bespoke luxury that came with it. Today, Bentley owners are passionate about their cars—not just owning, but actually getting out and driving them as intended. Bentley events are often grueling, long-distance hauls designed to test man and machine equally, and if you're going to set out for a cross-country trip in an old car, there aren't many better choices. Double-redundant systems abound, designed to keep the car running no matter what; after all, this car was ostensibly an alternative to rail travel. With a beautiful frame-on restoration, rebuilt engine, a beautiful interior, and extensive documentation, this fantastic Bentley is ready to enjoy at almost any venue.

You'll note that we've hesitated in identifying the model of this 1951 Bentley. Most of the paperwork suggests that it is a Mark VI Sport Saloon, and the factory records confirm that it was built in October 1951 and delivered December 12 of that same year. However, at some point it received bodywork for an R-Type, which includes the larger trunk that most enthusiasts find more desirable. When this happened or why, we don't know, but it appears to be a very long time ago. One expert we consulted suggested that the car was possibly returned to Crewe to be refitted with the newer bodywork shortly after it debuted. Given the specification of the bodywork (colors and the original gray leather back seat match factory records) and the fact that the undercarriage still looks highly original, we can draw no other conclusion other than it was rebodied very early in its life. It is worth noting that it does still carry its original engine, B210M, which is of 4.25-litre specification. You will have to draw your own conclusions, but please don't let that dissuade you from enjoying this exceptional motorcar.

Paint and bodywork were refreshed several years ago, but it retains its original black roof and hood with "shell metallic" (silver) sides and fenders. The combination accentuates the sweeping bodywork, which was built in-house for the first time following the war. There's no mistaking the rounded Bentley grille up front nor the typically British coachwork, which echoes the pre-war era but updates it with smoother lines, more compact dimensions, and neatly integrated details such as the door handles that blend into the side trim and a hidden gas tank filler. Finish quality is excellent and the car fits together as well as you would expect from a Bentley. The doors close with a reassuring ker-CHUNK and the hood, which opens from the side, pivots easily on well-oiled hinges. Shut lines are tidy and the paint job, while done some time ago, is in fantastic condition, offering a brilliant gloss and no signs of unwinding—a sure sign of quality work. There are some very, very minor signs of use, but the car has been driven only about 7500 miles in the last 30 years so it is extremely well preserved. Most of the chrome was restored when the mechanicals were overhauled, so it just sparkles. From any angle, this is a very appealing automobile.

You will note in the factory documentation that this car was special-ordered with a bench seat, and it remains in place today. The front seat has been reupholstered at some point in the not-too-distant past, while the rear seat appears to be wearing its original leather, which remains in excellent condition. The doors are correctly upholstered in matching gray leather and the carpets are in good, if not perfect, condition. All of the timber in the car, including the veneers on the dash and garnish moldings, is in excellent condition with no cracking or delaminations. The big Smiths gauges are all fully functional, and factory switchgear feels expensive and substantial as it goes through its motions. The big steering wheel shows a few surface cracks but nothing substantial and all the controls on the center hub are operational. The factory tool kit remains tucked under the glove box and floor mats with the Bentley winged B logo have been installed recently. Both the front and rear seats enjoy a fold-down armrest, with the back seat also receiving a drop-down tray table and compartment, complements of the special-order front bench seat. There's also a factory sunroof overhead, along with what is likely the original gray wool broadcloth headliner. The larger R-Type trunk affords an impressive amount of cargo space, and here you will also find a spare tire, wheel cover wrench, and factory jack assembly.

This is the car's original, numbers-matching 4.25-liter inline-6 engine. Everything forward of the firewall (including the firewall itself) was restored and rebuilt by noted Rolls-Royce/Bentley expert James Jaworski of Berea Motor Works. The work was done in 1989, but the car has traveled only 7500 miles since then, so it remains in first-class mechanical condition throughout. It has been properly and regularly serviced by Mr. Jaworski, and today delivers sparkling on-road performance. We have dozens of restoration photos showing the entire process, and almost everything was renewed, including the carburetors, the engine itself, water pump, radiator, oil pump, bearings, and more. It was also highly detailed, including painting the firewall and all ancillary components, correct fittings and clamps, and re-plating any brightwork. Get the settings on the steering wheel correct and the engine springs to life easily and idles well, smoothing out as it warms up. Bentleys received twin carburetors while Rolls-Royce only used one, so performance is notably improved. Add in the 4-speed manual gearbox, and this Bentley is a lot of fun to drive.

As I mentioned, the undercarriage appears to be largely original. It has been maintained and it does not appear to have spent any time in winter weather, but it is not shiny and detailed. The original gaiters are still on the springs, the front end was rebuilt, the brakes were rebuilt, the steering gear was rebuilt, and the bearings were serviced, so it rides and handles like a Bentley should. There's also a new clutch in front of the 4-speed manual transmission so it shifts cleanly and thanks to 3.73 gears in back, performance is lively. The torquey six-cylinder engine pulls it around with authority and the suspension is compliant yet competent, so it doesn't mind hustling a bit. Factory wheel covers are appropriately subdued and it wears recent 6.00R16 Coker blackwall radials that look right and really improve the on-road performance.

Documentation is extensive. We have all the original build sheets and Works Instruction pages detailing the car's original specification. There's also detailed ownership information showing just four owners from new, and there's correspondence from the two later owners with the original owner in England. There are also extensive receipts and photos from the comprehensive mechanical overhaul performed by Berea Motor Works showing that no corners were cut.

This is a beautifully finished Bentley that's ready to drive and enjoy. Again, we can't explain the body swap, but that seems to be the only demerit (if you can call an upgrade to the R-Type bodywork a demerit). With a great history, wonderful road manners, and a very contemporary feel from behind the wheel, it won't take long to convince you that this Bentley has always been cherished by its owners. Call today!

Vehicle: 1951 Bentley R-Type Sport Saloon
Price: $59,900
Stock Number: 116001
Mileage: 91,682
VIN: B21MB
Engine: 4.5-litre inline-6
Transmission: 4-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.73
Wheelbase: 120 inches
Wheels: 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps
Tires: 6.00R16 blackwall radial
Exterior Color: Silver and Black
Interior Color: Gray leather
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