I can safely say I've never driven so many cars with the hood down than I have this year - as London has had its fair share of issues to deal with over the past few months, the weather at least has been very kind!
Since I last put pen to paper the Brexit process has officially begun with the whole world looking on with great interest. And since our last newsletter Teresa May's dream of an increased majority in the House of Commons turned into a nightmare as the election results unfolded. As the political vultures from all parties surround her lame duck premiership who knows when we will see a calmer Westminster, but at least the negotiations for Brexit are now underway, a process we will all be keen to follow.
Returning to the far more pleasant world of classic cars, Frank Dale & Stepsons have been very busy over the past few months.
In April we exhibited five cars at our traditional season opener at The Essen Techno Classica in Germany which is always a tiring but fun week to take part in. We also saw some familiar faces and cars we have handled in the past gracing the lawns that border the beautiful Lake Como at the Villa D'Este concours. We are currently preparing a car for entry to the concours next year so will hopefully get to enjoy the full event in person in 2018.
As the calendar drifted smoothly into May the rally season got under way in the UK. We attended the South of England RREC Rally at Cranleigh School, Surrey in our own R Type Continental - affectionately known as KWT1 or 'Ivor's Bentley' amongst friends of old. She performed beautifully and was in good company amongst the impressive turnout on a lovely sunny Sunday.
Then it was off to the Cotswolds to attend the national BDC Annual Rally in the grounds of Sudeley Castle. We sped through the leafy lanes of Gloucestershire in our 1956 S1 Continental Coupe by Park Ward and a 1935 3½ Litre Open Tourer by Corsica. I drove the Corsica myself and loved every minute of my time behind the wheel. The added overdrive came in especially handy on the stretch of the M40 and I have to admit that driving an open Derby Bentley on a sun drenched afternoon in the heart of the English countryside is an experience very hard to beat. I believe this was the BDC's first outing at this historic venue and it was clear that the members generally approved with an increased turnout and more competition in the concours. I was delighted to present The Frank Dale trophy for the first time this year. The worthy winner was indeed a previous customer with his Bentley S2 Continental. I can assure you that I was not part of the judging process but the winner truly deserved the trophy for his beautifully turned out Bentley.
Our final rally event was at the splendid Burleigh House in Lincolnshire for the Annual RREC Rally. The weather was a little cooler than the high temperatures set at the BDC rally, but very acceptable for late June. We exhibited our 1926 Silver Ghost Playboy Roadster and an elegant Silver Cloud I Drophead Coupe by H.J.Mulliner and there wasn't a muddy field or Wellington boot in sight. These events always provide a welcome opportunity to catch up with many of our existing customers, and a number of friends in the industry and we always come home having made a few more over a glass of something cold and bubbly. With the rally events now behind us for another year, we are looking forward to a very busy August and September where you will find us exhibiting at Salon Prive at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, The Concours of Elegance at Hampton Court Palace in Surrey, the ever popular Goodwood Revival in West Sussex and The Warren Concours out in leafy Essex. We look forward to seeing some of you at these events.
So, 'how is the market?' I hear you ask
It's a question I am asked on a very regular basis. Well my honest answer is that it is stable and solid, if a little quiet. It's fairly common for things to get a bit quieter for us in the sales department between June and August each year, with people spending time with their families and also sometimes their cars too whilst on their holidays. Things usually start to gather pace again in late August as the traditional summer holiday season begins to draw to a close and the late summer events in the classic car world return to the UK. So far during 2017 we have sold a number of very valuable and exotic motor cars, breaking our own records for both pre and post war cars in terms of values achieved. It really is all about quality, the buyers in the market for a classic car want only the best example available. Fortunately we have perhaps the best selection of cars that we have had for many years and we will continue our search for more top class examples to offer for sale. And talking of our current inventory, this newsletter includes a piece I have written about one of my favourite coachbuilders.
Reflective of our current superb selection of S1 Continentals, bodied by Park Ward, it seems fitting to focus on these cars, their history, how they came about and my thoughts on these models in general. Until next time, put the hood down or turn up the air conditioning and happy motoring.
Giles Park Ward began life later than many coachbuilders in London, becoming established in Willesden in 1919 by William H Park and Charles W Ward. Initially a number of different marques were bodied by Park Ward but by the early 1930s the vast majority of their work was for Rolls-Royce. The expansion of the company ensued and showrooms were then set up in Conduit Street just a short walk from the main Rolls-Royce showrooms in London. Rolls-Royce bought a minority share in Park Ward in the early 1930s but by 1939 had purchased the remaining shares and took control of the company. After the war in 1952 the Park Ward styling department was moved to Crewe under the stewardship of legendary designer John Blatchley. Some of the Park Ward designs in the pre-war era were undoubtedly first class, as was their work on Mk VI, R Type, Silver Dawn and Silver Wraith chassis in the immediate post war era, but I feel their finest hour began in the early 1950s when Blatchley penned Design No's 647 and 648 which consisted of four drophead coupes and two fixed head coupes for R Type Continental chassis. People were familiar with the magnificent H.J.Mulliner Fastback coachwork on this chassis, which has undoubtedly become an iconic design still admired to this day, but the Park Ward designs also possessed great elegance, style and balance and are two of my personal favourites. Of the six R Type Continentals bodied by Park Ward, only five now remain as BC24D was lost in 1965 when it had an unfortunate collision with a steamroller! The four drophead coupes and single remaining fixed head coupe all reside in collections of great quality, therefore the opportunity for you or I to acquire one of them in the future is highly unlikely, however the acquisition of an S1 Continental with almost identical coachwork is far more realistic and obtainable. Design No's 647 and 648 were slightly modified in 1955 when the S1 Continental chassis was introduced. At first glance it is hard to tell the R Type and S Type Continentals apart, but there are two obvious visual differences. The mascot on the R Type Continentals was removable whilst the S1 Continentals had a fixed mascot integrated into the radiator shell. The position of the door handles is also different, set below the swage line on the R Type Continentals and above this line on the S1 Continentals. The other difference is the length of the cars, the S1 Continentals being approximately four inches longer, but this is hard to detect without the use of a tape measure. Design No's 700 and 701 were introduced in 1955 with Design No 872 following later in the 1950s and in my opinion, these examples are perhaps some of the most elegant coachwork designs constructed in the post war era by any coachbuilder, regardless of marque. With a defined break in the coachwork from end to end, the option of two tone paint also lent itself very well to these models. A very limited number of the fixed head coupes were fitted with manual gears upon request whilst all of the drophead coupes came with automatic transmission. Power steering was added in 1956 to ease movement at low speeds and make the driving experience arguably more enjoyable. The mechanical aspects were also improved in 1956 with the introduction of a more efficient braking system and larger carburettors which added further power. A correctly prepared example of either design is something to behold. They are capable of carrying four passengers at speed for hours in great comfort. And of course there is the style factor, rarely have our fellow motorists shared the road with such a beautiful mode of transport. Smiles, thumbs up and friendly questions from fellow drivers are very common. I have been extremely fortunate in owning both models in the past and I enjoyed using them immensely. In an ideal world, I would have one of both in the garage, the drophead coupe for fine summer weather and the fixed head coupe for slightly less friendly weather conditions. At present we have an excellent selection of S1 Continentals by Park Ward for sale, perhaps the best in the world, all of which are listed and briefly detailed below. Please feel free to contact Emma or myself in the sales department should any of them stoke your interest. They come highly recommended.
Our current offering of Bentley S1 Continentals by Park Ward 1957
Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe by Park Ward Chassis No BC98BG Regal red with a beige leather interior. A superb example which has been extensively restored in recent times both mechanically and cosmetically.
1957 Bentley S1 Continental Coupe by Park Ward Chassis No BC23LCH Shell grey with light grey leather interior piped dark grey. Fitted with power steering and air conditioning. Complete with tools and handbook. A very handsome example.
1955 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe (Adaptation) By Park Ward Chassis No BC21AF Dark green with a green hood and a tan leather interior. Expertly converted in the 1990's into a drophead coupe, so indistinguishable from an original it won concours prizes.
1956 Bentley S1 Continental Coupe by Park Ward Chassis No BC30BG Silver over black with a red leather interior. Restored in recent times to showroom condition both cosmetically and mechanically. A striking car with power steering fitted
1955 Bentley S1 Continental Drophead Coupe (Adaptation) By Park Ward Chassis No BC10AF Silver over black with a black mohair hood and a red leather interior. Converted by us over a two year period to a drophead and extensively restored in every way. Beautiful throughout.
We have just concluded the second quarter of 2017 and looking back over the past three months, I can honestly say we have never been busier.
With over one hundred cars through the doors of the workshop in almost as many days over the second quarter of the year, life was rarely dull. And the variation in the works required is always interesting, from a scheduled service on a Bentley GT, to a full engine re-build on an S1 Continental, to simply changing a light bulb on a Corniche convertible, the range of challenges and tasks we undertake has been very varied. No two days are ever the same, which I think is why we all love what we do here in the workshop.
I am also very pleased to see our junior mechanics coming on so well. One of our senior technicians travelled to our workshop in Hong Kong some months ago to add further knowledge to the team there. At this point I made it clear to the juniors that this was their time to step up and show us their dedication and the skills they have learnt in previous years of training. I am pleased to say that all three have flourished with their new level of responsibility and have shown tremendous ability. Long after I am retired, it is good to know that the company and the cars we look after and restore will be in very good hands.
Aside from the normal day to day servicing work we provide, we have completed a number of larger projects since our last newsletter. Those include a Bentley R Type Continental Fastback by H.J.Mulliner (see right) which is heading off to its new home on the east coast of the United States. We restored the coachwork to show standard for the new owner, in the original colour of Circassian blue which suits the car beautifully in my opinion. We also fabricated new sill strips in brass to highlight the lower line on the car, which were then chrome plated and fitted to the car. Look for this car on a concours lawn near you soon, if you happen to live in the north east of the United States.
We have also completed works to a beautiful Derby Bentley by Gurney Nutting with Sedanca coupe coachwork and an S2 Continental coupe destined for South Africa. With its destination in mind we took extra care when preparing the cooling system for this car to deal with the heat in Cape Town. Lastly we are currently wrapping up the works to an S1 Continental coupe we converted to a drophead coupe. Ongoing projects include the restoration of a Bentley R Type Continental, an S3 Continental Flying Spur, an S2 Continental coupe, an S2 Continental drophead coupe and also an S1 Continental drophead coupe by Park Ward, which we intend on showing at the highest concours standard in 2018. So watch this space for progress reports in the months to come. What I could really do with is about ten extra workshop bays, to help keep up with the demand. But who knows what the future holds, we will have to wait and see about that and I will keep nagging Giles and Emma.