The Corpus Christi Old Car Museum Auction

Lot 172
1952 Bentley R-Type Empress Saloon

Selling on Saturday

1952 Bentley R-Type Empress Saloon
Coachwork by Hooper & Co.


• Exceedingly rare ‘Empress’ aluminum coachwork
• Freshly restored; original right-hand drive example
• Wonderful example of Bentley’s postwar success
• One of the finest expressions of the custom coachbuilder’s art

4,556 cc inline six-cylinder F-head engine, dual SU carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox, independent front suspension with wishbones and coil springs, live rear axle with semi-elliptic leaf springs, hydraulic front drum brakes, servo-assisted mechanical rear drum brakes; wheelbase: 120"

Debuted in 1946, the Mark VI was the first postwar Bentley automobile of Rolls-Royce design and represented a complete break from the past, being designed and built in-house as a complete car with standardized, pressed-steel coachwork. The Pressed Steel Company of Oxford built these bodies, which were reminiscent of the Park Ward-bodied Mark V of the late 1930s, while ex-Gurney Nutting Chief Designer, John Blatchley, applied the detail features. Despite its “Standard Steel” nomenclature, the Mark VI was trimmed and painted to a standard rivaling the finest custom coachbuilders of the era. This was quite a change in philosophy on the part of Bentley’s parent, Rolls-Royce, yet it reflected the reality that high-quality standardized bodies could be built in greater numbers at the new factory in Crewe.

The 4.3-litre (4,257 cc) F-head inline six-cylinder engine of the Mark VI was similar to the B60-Series engine of the war years, yet much simpler and utilizing a one-piece cylinder block casting with integral crankcase, as well as a fan belt-driven generator and water pump. Combined with a four-speed gearbox and independent front suspension, the Mark VI could approach 100 mph. By 1951, an increase in displacement yielded 4 ˝ litres, with this development of the Mark VI commonly referred to as the “big bore, small boot” model. In 1952, the chassis was lengthened at the rear and the standard saloon body was updated with a larger luggage compartment. As chassis numbers reached the ‘R’ range, the updated Mark VI was redesignated the R-Type, with 2,533 produced in all through early 1955, including 208 R-Type Continentals.

While Rolls-Royce, Bentley’s corporate parent, certainly enjoyed the success derived from adoption of Standard Steel bodies, the company’s elite clients still demanded more exclusive coach-built examples. Longtime coachbuilding partner Hooper & Co. was particularly successful with the Mark VI and subsequent R-Type, having devised beautifully flowing two- and four-door saloon bodies for these chassis. Numbered B25RS, this early-production 1952 Bentley R-Type carries four-door Empress saloon coachwork fashioned of aluminum by Hooper & Co. and now comes to market with a freshly completed restoration. Believed 1 of just 41 such vehicles produced, this 1952 Bentley R-Type marks an outstanding opportunity for committed marque enthusiasts and collectors everywhere.

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