In the world of postwar automobiles, Bentley’s S-Type Continental cuts one of the most elegant profiles ever penned, an early predecessor to the model that’s had two contemporary variants named Robb Report‘s Car of the Year in 2022 and 2023. The classic S-Type Continental is also among the most collectible postwar Bentleys, only giving place to its predecessor, the R-Type, of which just a few more than 200 were made from 1952 through 1955. With their box-section chassis, both R- and S-Type Continentals were all fitted with coachbuilt bodies, featuring designs by firms including H J Mulliner, Park Ward, James Young, and Hooper.
Of the S-Type Continental, H J Mulliner bodied 218, while Park Ward supplied the coachwork for 185 of the 431 total examples produced from 1955 through 1958. Powered by a 4.9-liter straight-six engine that developed about 178 hp, the fastback styled by H J Mulliner was, according to British magazine Autocar, the quickest four/five-place saloon of its day. One of these very special Bentley Continentals was formerly owned by Helmut Newton, one of fashion’s greatest photographers. And that very car will be offered at the Zoute Sale by Bonhams on October 8 in Belgium.
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One of only 26 left-hand-drive examples of the S-Type two-door saloon bodied by H J Mulliner, chassis No. BC4LBG was ordered new by Société Anonyme des Automobiles Peugeot for Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Peugeot. The latter used it for golf outings, as its capacious trunk (or more correctly for the period and place: boot) handily carried the clubs. Build records indicate that it was painted in two-tone silver and black pearl, with tan leather upholstery.
Its most famous owner by far, though, was Helmut Newton, who was born in Berlin in 1920 to Jewish parents. His family fled Germany in the late 1930s, eventually settling in Australia, and when the war ended, he became a British subject and changed his surname from Neustädter to Newton. He achieved great fame working for Harper’s Bazaar and both British and French editions of Vogue, becoming renowned for his provocative images of female models. Newton’s stature has been elevated even further since his passing in 2004.
In Newton’s autobiography, a copy of which accompanies the sale, he tells the story of acquiring his beloved Bentley and driving it home “in a state of complete euphoria.” Always aspiring to own one, but without the resources, he finally bought it in Paris in 1964 following a big payday from a photo assignment. He suffered a heart attack in 1970, and sold the car two years later.
Today, the vehicle is finished in silver with a cognac interior, which is believed to have been reupholstered by Hermès sometime in the 1980s. The original engine, No. BC4B, was rebuilt in 2011 and has logged fewer than 3,000 km (1,864 miles) since that time.
The sale will also include a signed copy of Newton’s iconic coffee-table book Sumo, the large-format limited edition published by Taschen. Supported by a Philippe Starck–designed stand, the tome weighs a formidable 75 pounds and has become famously collectible since its publication in 1999. As for the Bentley, with its storied provenance and impeccable state of preservation, it’s estimated to fetch as much as $1.6 million.
Click here for more photos of Helmut Newton’s 1956 Bentley S-Type Continental.
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