1953 Bentley R Type Continental Mulliner Fastback, chassis # BC10LB

The Ian Fleming Bentley Continental

Ian Fleming

Generally considered to be one of the most beautiful Bentleys ever built, the R Type Mulliner Continental Fastback is also one of the rarest, with only 11 left hand drive examples built with a manual (column shift) transmission. This particular example is all the more special because it was ordered new by none other than Ian Fleming, the famed James Bond author. Fleming actually ordered the car for his lifelong friend Ivar “Felix” Bryce, on whom he based the Bond character Felix Leiter. Bryce and Fleming had been close since early childhood. They attended Eton College together, and later both served the British government in top secret capacities during World War II, Bryce as a spy in MI6, and Fleming in Naval Intelligence.

Ivar and Josephine Bryce

Ivar Bryce was a fascinating man in his own right. Related to the British Royal family, he was extraordinarily wealthy and had lavish homes all around the world. He married twice, each time to similarly wealthy women from high society. His second wife, Josephine Hartford, whom he married in 1950, was the heiress to the Hartford A&P Supermarket fortune. At the time of her marriage to Bryce, A&P reported annual sales of almost three billion dollars from 15,000 store locations, making Josephine one of the wealthiest women in the world. Interestingly her father, Edward V. Hartford, is widely credited with inventing the automotive shock absorber.

Bentley factory records show that chassis number BC10LB was ordered by “Commander Ian Fleming”, who specified Deep Grey coachwork with black (Connolly VM8500) hides. Unusually, most of the chrome trim, including the radiator shell, was ordered painted in body color, and finishing touches included fitted luggage, lightweight sports seats and a racehorse mascot, a nod to Ivar and Josephine Bryce’s passion for horse racing. Upon seeing the car for the first time, Fleming delightfully described the color as “Elephant’s Breath Grey!”

Moyns Park, the Bryce’s English estate where Fleming wrote From Russia With Love

Also from the factory records, we know the car was completed on April 17th, 1953 and road tested (and invoiced to Commander Fleming) on April 22nd. On June 15th, the factory delivered the car (by air) to Ivar and Josephine Bryce in Cherbourg, France. The Bryces immediately embarked upon a continental tour in the Bentley, driving through France, Spain, Italy and Austria, before returning to Moyns Park, their magnificent Tudor estate in Essex, England. In 1955, the car was shipped to Nassau, in the Bahamas, where the couple had another home. Shortly thereafter, the car was relocated to New York, where the Bryces kept a six storey town house on East 74th Street and a mansion on Long Island. Finally, in the late 1950s, the car was moved to Black Hole Hollow Farm, the couple’s country estate located on the New York/Vermont border. Fleming was a frequent visitor to Black Hole Hollow Farm, writing several Bond stories while in residence at the luxury Vermont retreat.

The Bryce’s Long Island, NY mansion
Black Hole Hollow Farm in Vermont, where Fleming spent much of the 1950s
Diamonds are Forever, The Man with the Golden Gun and For Your Eyes Only were written at Black Hole Hollow Farm

In January 1970, BC10LB was acquired by Captain Robert Emery Wanless of Carmel, California. Wanless had the car repainted in its current white livery, before presenting it at the prestigious Pebble Beach Concours on May 29, 1971, winning “best in class”. In 1975, Wanless sold the Bentley to John F. Ling, who subsequently sold it to a Beverly Hills surgeon in 1978. The surgeon kept BC10LB until May 3rd, 2002, when it was purchased by a private Californian collector, from whom we acquired the car in 2015.

Captain Robert Emery Wanless accepting his Best in Class award at the Pebble Beach Concours on May 29, 1971

In 1953, a Bentley R Type Continental Fastback was one of the most glamorous and expensive cars in the world. Capable of wafting along at triple digit speeds in supreme comfort, a Continental was very much the preserve of the rich and famous. Fast forward to the current day, and not much has changed. Continental Fastbacks remain highly prized by collectors and investors alike. The best examples trade around $3,000,000, and only rarely do they come to market. The example we are proud to offer today, while clearly in need of restoration, is one of the most historically fascinating Continental Fastbacks ever built. Following restoration, it is also sure to be one of the most valuable Continental Fastbacks in the world.

Although effectively off the road since the late seventies, BC10LB remains fully assembled and actually still runs and drives! The car retains its original matching numbers drivetrain and is fundamentally complete. It has never been restored, retaining many original components and features. In addition to the color change carried out by Captain Wanless in 1970 from Fleming’s “Elephant’s Breath Grey” to white, a more traditional Bentley radiator mascot has also been installed in place of the original racehorse version ordered by Fleming for the Bryces. Much of the interior, featuring seemingly acres of walnut and leather trim, remains original.

Our 1953 Bentley R Type Continental Fastback is available for sale “as is”, although we would also be proud to restore the car to its former glory for the new owner. The restoration of one of these magnificent machines is time consuming and very expensive, and certainly not something to be undertaken lightly. However, at our asking price, a new owner is likely to have seven figures of equity in the car once the restoration is completed. For this reason, we believe this Bentley Continental Fastback, special ordered by legendary author Commander Ian Fleming, represents an exceptional investment opportunity.

Price: $1,250,000

This vehicle is being sold “as is, where is”, with no warranty of any kind being offered by the seller. Clear, unencumbered title conveys.

Interested parties please contact [email protected] or at (512) 288 8800