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Motor Mouth articles 2012

A tale of two old Bentleys

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TWO Bentleys, parked side by side at a recent classic car auction, could almost have been before and after photos of a major restoration job.

One was a gorgeous scarlet convertible, listed as a 1949 Bentley Mark VI Sports Special, and it drew many admiring looks as it waited for the auctioneer’s hammer at the DVCA summer sale at Yenston, near Templecombe.

DVCA boss Brian Chant said: “When the coachwork goes beyond viable economic repair, post-war Bentleys lend themselves to become the basis for Sports Specials, due to their robust construction and straightforward design. They are particularly favoured for their powerful performance and the good availability of parts, and they are relatively easy to work on.”

This was one such case. Bought as an unrestored rolling chassis by a collector in Dorset in 1972, it positively invited being turned into the Special that it is today. Work got underway slowly at first, due to the owner’s other commitments, but over the course of several years, the Bentley took shape with the considerable assistance of Yeovil engineer Bert Miles.

The full-length chassis was retained and the engine-gearbox unit moved back, resulting in a rakish, vintage-looking sports car, with aluminium bodywork and two-plus-two seating.

The Bentley Sports Special made £24,200 at the auction and was sold to the trade, apparently for further development and eventual resale.

Alongside it in the auction marquee was another 1949 Bentley Mark VI saloon that may one day be as striking as its neighbour but right now looks a desperately sad sight.

Brian Chant said it was bought in 1959 by one Robert Atkins, whose son owned a car dealership in Weybridge. The car was used until 1977, when it was laid up in his garage in Teddington. Robert died in 1981 and the Bentley remained inside the garage, untouched.

Over the years, the Bentley was subjected to the elements as a result of a collapsed garage roof, and gradually declined into its present dire state. It was finally retrieved in April of this year and transported to Dorset for the auction.

“A restoration would probably not be cost-effective, but it would be an excellent basis for a Sports Special,” said Brian. It sold for £5,335 to a coachbuilder from Devon who plans to transform it into a Special. It promises to be quite a challenge.

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