With the arrival of the Silver Cloud/S-Series in 1955, Roll-Royce and Bentley fully embraced the process of factory coachwork, which allowed for higher production volume and a healthier bottom-line. Of course, the factory would still accommodate special requests, and a few well-heeled individuals ordered their S-Series and Silver Clouds with bespoke bodies. Like Rolls-Royce, Bentley offered the second generation S-Series in both standard and long-wheelbase forms, the majority of which received the factory's Standard Steel Saloon coachwork. Bentley produced just fifty-seven long-wheelbase S2s, of which a mere six received custom coachwork by outside coachbuilders. The V8 engine, long-wheelbase chassis, and refined performance make these among the most desirable of the S-Series line.
Chassis number LLBA9 is a desirable long-wheelbase model, fitted from new with this incredible coachwork by Wendler Karrosserie of Germany. For years, the story of this remarkable automobile was shrouded in mystery. The origins of its extravagant coachwork and the identity of the first owner were the subject of much speculation. But thanks to the efforts of marque experts and historians, the story is now clear – and no less impressive! Documentation sourced via the Rolls-Royce Foundation shows chassis LLBA9 was ordered via the famed New York dealer J.S. Inskip. This left-drive car one of the six long-wheelbase S2 chassis delivered to an outside coachbuilder, in this case, Wendler Karosseriebau of Germany. Wendler had a long-standing tradition of building fascinating and beautiful designs of the highest quality. They made their first motor bodies in 1919, soon expanding into coachwork for commercial trucks. Their portfolio is genuinely fascinating and includes many highly advanced streamlined designs on BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and even a Ford V8 chassis. Perhaps their most famous relationship was with Porsche, for whom Wendler bodied numerous road-going 356s in addition to creating the svelte coachwork for the legendary 550 Spyder, RSK, and RS61 racing cars.
Turning back to LLBA9, the factory build sheets appear in the name of the anonymous buyer's agent, Mr. E.C. Endt. The mystery only deepened when it was revealed the address on the order form came back to that of the New York Yacht Club. Marque historians have since shown the buyer to be Mrs. Caroline Ryan Foulke, the fabulously wealthy heiress to the American Tobacco Company. Anonymity was apparently vital to her, though the thoroughly unique body she commissioned for her Bentley seems to contradict that idea. Before purchasing the Bentley, Mrs. Foulke drove a gorgeous one-off estate car based on the Mercedes-Benz 300 d "Adenauer" and built by Binz Karrosserie. When she wished to replace it with a newer model, Mercedes-Benz Manhattan politely declined her request for an estate version of the new W112 300-series, so she turned to Bentley, who was more than happy to accommodate her needs.
Once the chassis arrived at Wendler, the coachbuilder followed their client's wishes directly, creating a unique estate car (or shooting brake as it were) by grafting elements of the Mercedes W112 300 body onto the Bentley chassis. Wendler stretched, reformed, and reinforced the panels, and many of the factory Mercedes fittings were used, such as the lights and exterior trim. A significant number of parts had to be fabricated by hand to suit the scale of the Bentley chassis and the new shooting brake configuration. The result of the effort is a remarkable machine that is instantly recognizable as both a Mercedes-Benz and a Bentley, simultaneously. The finishing flourish was a medium gray paint job accented with a blue and red stripe diagonally on the front wings. Initially, some believed this livery was related to yachting, but it was later revealed that the colors were those of her horse racing stables.
Perhaps the most distinguishing features of the coachwork are the "Heckflosse" tail fins that were a hallmark of the W112, blending gracefully into the bodywork. The designer cleverly integrated bullet-style tail lights (sourced from a 1960 Buick) which better suited the shape than the square Mercedes lights. The proud Bentley radiator shell remains, flanked by a pair of vertically-stacked US-market Mercedes headlamps. The car has a dramatic, imposing presence, with fabulous detailing and genuinely superb build quality.
Follower her time with it, Mrs. Foulke gifted the Bentley to a museum (anonymously, of course) where it remained for some time before being sold overseas. It then returned to New York in the 1980s, where, amazingly, it briefly lived with its Mercedes 300 d Binz estate stablemate. From 2012-2013, in the hands of the most recent owner, LLBA9 received a comprehensive concours restoration by the respected Automotive Restorations, Inc. of Stratford, CT. It has returned to its original silver-gray color over a deep red Connolly interior, as indicated on the RROC chassis card. The quality of Wendler's construction shines through in the precise body fit, exquisite detailing, and the effortless manner in which the doors close. Paintwork is gorgeous, and the panels straight and properly aligned. Exterior trim appears to be all Mercedes; however, most pieces were handmade in period specifically for this car. It rides on a set of whitewall tires as specified on the build order, and steel wheels dressed with factory Bentley wheel covers.
Gorgeous Connolly leather, wool carpets, and exquisite woodwork define the opulently appointed cabin. Wendler cleverly blended the Bentley controls and instruments into the Mercedes-Benz dash. The dials sit in a bespoke central fascia surrounded with oak trim in place of the typical walnut veneer. The oak trim – subtle nod to the car's American roots – repeats on the windscreen surround, door tops, and the cargo area floor. Interior handles and switchgear appear to be off-the-shelf Mercedes items, but it is said that many are bespoke items made by the coachbuilder to mimic the factory parts. Other features include a sunroof and a period-appropriate Becker Europa stereo. The beautifully crafted interior melds British and Teutonic sensibilities, while maintaining a unique character that would be equally at home parked up at the New York Yacht Club's 44th St. Clubhouse, or Harbor Court in Newport, Rhode Island.
Mechanically in excellent order, LLBA9 drives as expected of a Bentley S2, with an even greater sense of solidity. The engine bay is detailed to a very high standard and shows little in the way of use. Upon completion, the Bentley debuted at the 2013 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance and appeared at other events, including Lime Rock Park's Sunday in the Park Concours.
With an intriguing history, this is an exceptional automobile that seamlessly blends opulence with practicality. It has ample room for five passengers and all the luggage they could carry, with the comfort, power, and road manners to handle a cross-continental journey. The sale of LLBA9 represents a one-off opportunity to acquire what is arguably the most distinguished Bentley S2 ever created.
Offers welcome and trades considered