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Sold for: £83,600
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Introduced in 1991, the Continental R was the first Bentley in 26 years that did not share its bodywork with a concurrent Rolls-Royce model and was inspired by the very stylish Continental R-Type of the 1950s. The elegant two-door coachwork was styled by John Heffernan and Ken Greenley, a duo whose résumé included sports cars like the Aston Martin Virage. At £175,000, however, this newcomer was one of the world’s most expensive cars, although at least it was also one of the fastest. At launch, this latest Continental used the familiar 6.75-litre V8 with a big Garrett turbocharger and an intercooler in the same state of tune as in the Bentley Turbo R. Crewe still declined to provide official power outputs at the time, although it’s estimated that around 325bhp was on tap, along with a huge amount of torque. Top speed was governed to 145mph, with 60mph arriving in just 6.6 seconds – all in a car weighing around 2.5 tons, on a 120-inch wheelbase and with an overall length of 17.5 feet!
The rest of the Continental R’s running gear was also taken from the Turbo R, with fully independent coil-spring suspension (featuring hydropneumatic self-levelling at the rear) and power-hydraulic brakes with ABS, plus variable-assistance power steering. To add to the sporting feel of the newcomer, this was the first Crewe-built automatic-transmission car to have the gear selector in the centre console rather than on the steering column. The selector handle incorporated a Sports button, which would simultaneously quicken the gearbox’s reactions and delay upshifts while firming up the suspension.
Five years later Bentley introduced a short-wheelbase version dubbed the Continental T that was equipped with an uprated engine developing 420 hp and an impressive 650 foot-pounds of torque available at only 2,200 rpm and it wasn't long before Bentley customers were expressing an interest in equipping the “wide-body” Continental R model with the T’s more powerful engine. Shortly afterwards, the Continental R Mulliner was introduced at the 1999 Geneva Salon, its nomenclature paying homage to H.J. Mulliner, the British coachbuilder responsible for the original R-Type’s breathtaking fastback bodywork. The R Mulliner’s wide-body configuration offered spacious interior elegance restoring the rear legroom lost in the 'T', while the twin-turbocharged V-8 was capable of rocketing the car to a top speed of nearly 170 mph. Individually tailored to customer order, the R Mulliner was Bentley’s ultimate 20th-century combination of luxury and performance, produced in a modest quantity of as few as 131 examples.
If you plan to use your Bentley to attend Shareholders Meetings and the occasional funeral, this example may not be the car for you and an understated Arnage in respectful Masons Black may be more appropriate, however, if you feel the need to remind the world that 'you have arrived', this striking Continental R Mulliner may well be perfect. Finished in a 'Special Order' Silver enhanced by flared wheel arches, aerodynamic door sills, wing vents and purposeful bumpers, it appears to have been hewn from a block of solid aluminium and finely sculpted by a set-designer from 'Space:1999'.
If the car's exterior is rather special then its interior can only be described as dramatic. Bentley offered buyers of the R Mulliner a bit of a free hand when it came to the cars internal specification and, in this case, the car's first owner has created something akin to the control room on 'Moonbase Alpha'. As well as all the traditional Mulliner features including chrome instrument bezels, red starter button and drilled pedals, engined turned-aluminium panels are used extensively on the dashboard and elsewhere in the cockpit and when combined with the single-tone, Mulberry hide used in the bespoke seats, deep-fluted headlining, roll-top and steering wheel, the overall effect is more Lear Jet than passenger car.
This example was UK-supplied in right-hand drive (1/46) by P&A Wood during March 2000 and has been in private ownership since 2013 covering a warranted 39,300 miles. The service records show 11 official Bentley Dealer service stamps (most recently by Harwoods in Sussex at 36,486 miles) and during our vendor's ownership the car was entrusted to Frank Dale and Stepsons for minor adjustments, wheel alignment etc and we understand that they felt that it was 'one of the best they had ever seen'.
Unique is a word frequently misused but it certainly applies to this 'extrovert' Continental R Mulliner. These desirable models are rightfully stretching their legs in the classic car market, so don’t miss out before these rare sporting Bentleys arrive in six-figure territory.