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1961 Bentley S2 Continental Park Ward DHC

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  • Owned for 46 years by Ron Moody, who played Fagin in Oliver!
  • Presented in original colours of Ming Blue with Off White interior
  • Invoices and correspondence from 1960s to present day
  • One of only 62 RHD Park Ward Drophead Coupés
YEAR1961
MAKEBentley
PRICE£235,000

VEHICLE DESCRIPTION

With great presence and an air of luxurious elegance, plus an ownership history that includes a society host and a celebrated British actor, this is a truly exceptional example of the iconic Bentley S2 Continental.

The factory build records show that chassis number BC6CZ was delivered to Park Ward on 15 February 1961 so that it could receive its Drophead Coupé coachwork, and the completed car was supplied to Weybridge Autos Ltd on 6 July. It was finished in Ming Blue with Off White interior – the same colour combination in which it’s presented today – and its first owner was the society owner of the celebrated Hotel Skindles, Giulio Trapani.

Skindles had become famous for tea dances on the riverside lawns, where a monkey called Chico lived in a willow tree and stole spectacles and earrings from unwary guests. Visitors in this period included King Hussein of Jordan, Bette Davis and the Marx Brothers. During the 1960s, the hotel became involved in a notorious political sex scandal when it was used for trysts by the Secretary of State for War, John Profumo, and his lover Christine Keeler.

The Bentley then passed through four other owners before being acquired in March 1968 by Ron Moody, who had recently finished filming his iconic performance as Fagin in Oliver! – a big-screen adaptation of Lionel Bart’s stage musical, which was based on the Charles Dickens novel Oliver Twist

When the film was released in late 1968, Moody won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for his depiction of the criminal ringleader. Despite a long and successful career on stage and screen, as well as writing musicals and even novels, he would remain most closely associated with the role of Fagin. 

Moody bought the Bentley from HR Owen for £4650, and the history file includes the bill of sale, plus comprehensive correspondence relating to his time with the car. Although he ended up keeping his cherished S2 for almost half a century, it was used only sparingly in later years and was eventually sold via Bonhams in 2014 – the year before Moody passed away at the age of 91. 

At the time of its sale, the Bentley was said to be ‘in need of attention’ and it was duly taken to Royce Engineering. The brake system was rebuilt, the fuel system and power steering were overhauled, a new exhaust, propshaft and gearbox seals were fitted, the radiator was recored, the cooling hoses replaced and the engine block flushed. 

Since then, the Bentley has been painstakingly brought up to its current condition. A further round of work in 2015 included an overhaul of the heater system, and the owner covered 4000 enjoyable miles in the car, included visits to the Goodwood Revival, Henley Regatta and Royal Ascot.

In 2017, it was treated to a bare-metal respray by Viking Coachworks. Any corrosion that was discovered in the body was cut out and new sections meticulously fabricated, before it was resprayed in its original Ming Blue – the paint having been specially formulated with the correct 1960s grade of aluminium flecks. 

At the same time, the external brightwork was removed, taken apart and triple-chromed, and the rear springs were re-tensioned. The chassis itself was found to be rust-free. In total, the owner spent more than £80,000 on the Bentley during his time with it, and post-respray work included a new hood as well as an interior overhaul. 

The car was then sold to its next custodian, who’s continued in the same vein. Recent invoices from renowned specialists such as Frank Dale & Stepsons show that almost £30,000 was spent during 2022-23, with the result that this Bentley S2 Continental is now being offered for sale in superb condition.

It comes with the original handbook, service book and manual for the power-operated hood, plus service records going back to the 1960s, as well as maps and memorabilia from Ron Moody’s extensive road-trips in the UK and on the continent. Then as now, there would be few finer ways in which to travel.

MODEL HISTORY  

The Bentley S2 offered a charismatic mix of ‘old world’ tradition and new technology when it was introduced in 1959. It retained the separate chassis and coachbuilt options of its immediate predecessor, but replaced the aging six-cylinder engine with the latest 6230cc V8 from Rolls-Royce.

This aluminium-alloy powerplant featured hydraulic tappets for quieter running, and was shared with the Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud. With an estimated 200bhp, it propelled the standard models to well over 100mph, and the S2 also had automatic transmission and power steering as standard. 

As there had been with the earlier R-type and original S-type, there was the option of a high-performance Continental model, and well-heeled clients could order coachwork from Park Ward, HJ Mulliner and James Young. There was also a single Hooper-bodied S2 Continental.

Park Ward’s Drophead Coupé was the work of Norwegian designer Vilhelm Koren who, alongside John Blatcheley, came up with a clean shape that was defined by its ‘straight through’ wing line running from the top of the headlamps to the stacked tail lights. The hood, meanwhile, was electro-hydraulically operated and featured a padded headliner.

The S2 Continental perfectly fulfilled its brief over its short production run, before it was replaced in 1962 by the S3. When Autocar magazine tested an S2 in 1960, it wrote that the new model ‘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.’


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