The H&H Classics
year end auction at Chateau Impney, Droitwich Spa on December 7th is something of a Christmas treat with a great selection of cars, any of which would make your day if it came gift wrapped.
There is a brace of Bristols, a great Austin-Healey, stunning Bentley Continental R in British Racing Green, and for those minded to buy a car for the London to Brighton Run there is an 1899 Phebus 2.25hp that is just the ticket.
This H&H sale includes an intriguing 1952 Bentley R-Type Straight 8 Special The Fire Engine in black and light blue. Its mechanical specification was inspired by an experimental car that the Crewe manufacturer loaned to Prince Phillip, some decades ago, which he did not want to give back. The four-seater Tourer is estimated to sell for £60,000 to £80,000.
Built by a former director of Rolls-Royce motorcars, and a professional engineer, in the 1990s as a tribute to Bentleys experimental 'Scalded Cat' cars, it is powered by a 6.5 litre Rolls-Royce B81 straight-eight engine allied to automatic transmission. The bespoke machine is a veteran of numerous rallies including the Bentley Drivers' Club's Tour of South Africa in 2003 (c.4,000 miles)
Rolls-Royce built two straight-eight powered Bentleys using the 'B'-series eight-cylinder variant of its standard six-cylinder engine (one of which was loaned to HRH Prince Philip who was apparently smitten with its performance to such an extent that he was reluctant to hand it back). These were dubbed 'Scalded Cats' and in the mid-1960s Robin Moore started to plan a similar car based on a R-Type Chassis. He was working in the experimental department of Rolls-Royce at the time and an internal memo dated August 1965 sees him asking if any ex-test cars would become available.
In the mid-1980s he bought a Harry Rose-bodied MkVI Special and his interest in a B80-engined special was reignited. He acquired a Thorneycroft Nubian Fire Engine for its powerplant and an R-Type that had rotten coachwork but a sound chassis and running gear was also sourced. The body was stripped off the Bentley and work started on modifications to the chassis. The cruciform was cut and the front section moved back in the chassis by twelve inches. The front chassis side rails were extended and reinforced to provide space for the longer engine. All of the running gear was overhauled and meticulously reinstated.
An elegant open Tourer body was designed and commissioned in traditional ash framing and aluminium panels and the car was completed in late 1992. During the development, a B81 with its larger capacity of 6.52litres had been found and this replaced the B80. The R-Type automatic gearbox was retained and an R-Type Continental back axle ratio fitted which with the 17-inch wheels, provides relaxed cruising. At this stage he was persuaded that an elegant blue and black colour scheme was preferable to the bright red he had envisaged to fit with the name.
Used and enjoyed for numerous trips around the UK, the Special also ventured as far afield as South Africa for the Bentley Drivers' Club's 2003 tour of that country which saw participants cover circa 4,000 miles!
However, the B81 engine that had been fitted was from an army training establishment and it became clear that it had had a hard life. In 2008 the opportunity came up to buy a brand new, unused B81G which is the variant of the B81 designed to run on propane or natural gas. It therefore has a much higher compression ratio - increased from 6.4:1 to 8.0:1 which modern fuels can run without any issue and provides a further boost in output to ensure that it is, in Rolls-Royce terminology 'adequate' (a standard B81 unit is estimated to develop 220bhp and 330lbft of torque).
A full and detailed history is provided with the car along with a current MOT certificate until October 2017.