13th Mar, 2024 13:00

Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Lot 128

1960 Bentley S2 Continental Drophead Coupe
Formerly the property of the comic genius Peter Sellers CBE

Lot details

Registration No: 425 XUC
Chassis No: BC119AR
MOT: Exempt

  • 1 of just 60 examples made in right-hand drive
  • Supplied new to L.E. Lawrie Esq of Worthing Sussex during September 1960 and originally finished in Sand with Beige leather upholstery
  • Purchased by Peter Sellers the following year and believed to have been modified to a 'quad headlamp' visage in 1962 (an appreciable time before Bentley unveiled the so-called 'Chinese Eye' design)
  • Reputedly retained by Peter Sellers until 1966 and initially looked after by Jack Barclay during his tenure with delivery back post servicing to Beaconsfield and Shepperton Studios etc
  • Appears to pleasingly retain its original leather upholstery as graced by countless stars
  • A unique Bentley Continental in terms of both provenance and coachwork

Having caught John P. Blatchley’s eye with a striking Alfa Romeo coupe displayed at the Turin Salon, Norwegian designer Wilhelm Koren joined Rolls-Royce / Bentley’s in-house styling department during 1957. No stranger to the avantgarde, the drophead coupe coachwork that he devised for the upcoming Bentley S2 Continental sported a straight-through wing line, cut-back wheelarches and jet engine-inspired head / tail lights. Conscious that Project Tibet (which evolved into the Silver Shadow) would be deemed equally radical and therefore eager to test the public’s reaction to a more modern Rolls-Royce / Bentley aesthetic, Managing Director Dr Frederick Llewellyn-Smith green-lit Koren’s Design No. 991 for Park Ward.

Debuting at the 1959 Earls’ Court Motor Show alongside its Bentley S2 Standard Steel Saloon and S2 Continental siblings, the luxurious Drophead Coupe further broke with tradition by utilising contemporary aircraft construction techniques (such as an Erco 300-ton stretch press for panel forming and strengthening spot welds etc). Powered by an all-new 6230cc V8 engine allied to four-speed automatic transmission, the newcomer’s Continental features encompassed a taller 2.92:1 (as opposed to 3.08:1) rear axle ratio, inclined steering column, lowered radiator, nigh on 120mph claimed top speed and four (rather than two) shoes for its front drum brakes. While to the interior, Design No. 991 boasted a more driver focused instrument nacelle and front seats that were better suited to spirited driving. A marked success, 125 of the 388 Bentley S2 Continentals made were bodied as Drophead Coupes by Park Ward (60 RHD / 65 LHD). Among the most expensive cars available at the time, Koren’s trendsetter was priced at £8,246 2s 6d for 1960 (or more than the combined cost of a Ferrari 250GT Pininfarina Berlinetta and a Jaguar MK2 3.8 litre Saloon). Sought after on both sides of the Atlantic ocean and further afield, owners included: Sir Giles Guthrie of B.O.A.C (later British Airways), the 10th Viscount Downe, King Hassan II of Morrocco, Prince Moulay Abdullah and Yul Brynner (who apparently bought his with the proceeds of ‘The Magnificent Seven’).

According to its accompanying RREC copy build cards, chassis BC119AR was despatched to Park Ward on 11th May 1960. Handed over to first owner L.E. Lawrie Esq of Worthing, Sussex some four months later and initially registered as ‘LEL 532’, the Drophead Coupe was finished in Sand with Beige leather upholstery. Specified with a power hood, electric windows and radial tyres, the S2 Continental is understood to have covered 8,000 miles by November 1961 when comic genius Peter Sellers became its second keeper. Fastidious to the point of fanaticism, copy invoices on file show that the star of ‘Dr Strangelove’, ‘The Pink Panther’ and ‘What’s New Pussycat’ entrusted the Bentley’s maintenance to Jack Barclay Ltd with multiple claims under guarantee and a series of modifications such as the ‘smoke glass mirror with longer arm, allowing you full movement of the sun visor’ which remains in situ today. Some six decades on, the four-seater’s re-profiled front wings housing quad headlamps remain by far its most striking alteration aping (or presaging) as they do the frontal aspect of Park Ward’s S3 Continental models.

Although, there is no definitive proof concerning the date and architect of the Bentley’s facelift, a Jack Barclay Ltd invoice dated 19th January 1962 intriguingly mentions ‘In conjunction with coach shop, removing and refitting necessary lamps’. Sellers was certainly no stranger to personalisation and is widely credited with starting the coachbuilt Mini trend by commissioning Hooper to transform his Cooper during late 1962. In addition to wicker-effect paintwork and a truly opulent interior, the ‘pocket rocket’ gained Bentley S-Series headlamps. Sellers’ passion for Rolls-Royce and Bentley motorcars was sparked by a 1956 Silver Cloud that had previously belonged to fellow actor Cary Grant and which he later advertised for sale in The Times with the strapline ‘Titled Car Wishes to Dispose of Owner’. Indeed, his love of Crewe machinery, especially of the ‘Winged B’ Continental variety, grew to such an extent that even Inspector Jacques Clouseau could not have failed to notice it. Davide Bassoli’s definitive tome, ‘Every Cloud has a Silver Lining’ reveals that Rolls-Royce / Bentley had first toyed with installing twin headlamps per side as early as 1957: “A prototype, chassis 25-B, was equipped with an unusual front-end treatment, having twin headlamps, but they were positioned vertically. As the result was not satisfying from an aesthetic point of view, the project to modify the front-end design was temporarily abandoned. This intention was later reconsidered, in early 1961 to be exact, following certain complaints by customers about the lack of difference between the first and second Series”. Naturally, the Crewe manufacturer gave advance notice to both in-house and external coachbuilders of its intention to adopt quad headlamps for the Series 3 which debuted at the October 1962 Earls’ Court Motor Show.

It is speculation but given Jack Barclay Ltd’s close relationship to Rolls-Royce / Bentley not to mention various London coachbuilders, the renowned retailer may well have told Sellers about the change and accepted a commission from him to re-style the front end of chassis BC119AR. The conversion is undoubtedly professional in execution and sports far deeper recesses than the design which appeared on the S3 Continental Park Ward Fixed and Drophead Coupes. The last of the aforementioned Jack Barclay Ltd copy invoices is dated 8th October 1962 at an indicated 16,387 miles and curiously mentions retrimming the back seat for £43 10s 8d. Thereafter, Sellers is understood to have had the Bentley looked after by Richard Williams whose services he engaged not long after the latter had completed his apprenticeship with Aston Martin (and before he became lauded as the marque specialist RS Williams). Unusually, Sellers kept chassis BC119AR for the best part of five years with G.S. Edgson Esq of the Wardour Development Co Ltd of 27 Berkeley Square, London W1 seemingly becoming its third owner on 12th July 1966. Indeed, Sellers changed cars so often that his great friend and fellow Goon Spike Milligan referred to them as his ‘metal underwear’.

The four-seater’s history file contains numerous receipts covering general service and maintenance work over subsequent years but no evidence of a major restoration. The soft-top and carpets have self-evidently been replaced but otherwise the Bentley is believed to still present ‘very much as the car which Peter Sellers owned’. The upholstery is most likely original and thus has doubtless hosted an array of famous posteriors! Sellers worked with the likes of Orson Welles, Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren, Peter O’Toole, Stanley Kubrick and his second wife Britt Ekland to name but a few. Housed within the world’s largest collection of Koren-line / ‘Chinese Eye’ Bentley S3 Continentals and Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud IIIs during recent years, chassis BC119AR is now in need of recommissioning and / or restoration. Amazingly, a sister Bentley S2 Continental (chassis BC57AR) underwent a similar ‘quad headlamp’ conversion before starring in ‘The Avengers’ tv series. A unique proposition, being a subtly customised Bentley owned by Sellers while he was arguably at the height of his powers, this fascinating motor car is offered for sale with history file and assortment of memorabilia:

  • Mounted, signed photograph of Peter Sellers as "Inspector Clouseau"
  • Original 1963 movie poster for "The Wrong Arm of the Law"
  • Original 1960 12-inch mono vinyl LP "Best of The Goon Shows, vol. 2"
  • Original September 1967 issue of ABC Film Review magazine with feature on Peter Sellers in "The Bobo"
  • Assortment of over two dozen assorted original press cuttings relating to Peter Sellers and covering numerous of his roles

For more information, please contact:
Damian Jones
07855 493737


All successful bids must be paid in full by midday the day after the auction at the latest.

You can collect your new pride and joy from our venue until 1pm the day following the sale or our partners are on hand to help arrange safe transportation:


Auction: Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 13th Mar, 2024

An auction of classic, collector and performance motorcars to be held at the iconic and visually stunning Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Venue Details 

To enquire about entering your classic or performance car into the auction please call our sales office on 01925 210035, email sales@HandH.co.uk or click here: Enter Your Classic Motorcar 

All our professional valuations are complimentary and without obligation.

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Tues 12th March from 12pm
Wed 13th March from 9am

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