The years immediately following WW II in Europe were marked by great change, socially and economically, and Rolls-Royce was no exception, with the company transferring its motor car division from its traditional home in Derby to its wartime “shadow factory” at Crewe. The Mark VI debuted soon after in 1946 as the first postwar Bentley model, with the Rolls-Royce Silver Dawn following shortly after. While prewar models from Bentley and Rolls-Royce were produced in bare-chassis form and exclusively bodied by the top custom coachbuilders of the era, the Mark VI and Silver Dawn marked a revolution of sorts, being designed and built as complete cars, primarily with standardized factory coachwork. The Pressed Steel Company of Oxford built the majority of the bodies, which bore styling quite reminiscent of the Park Ward-bodied Bentley Mark V of the late 1930s, while ex-Gurney Nutting Chief Designer John Blatchley applied the necessary styling refinements and detail features for the new cars.
Despite the mundane-sounding “Standard Steel Saloon” nomenclature, the Mark VI and Silver Dawn were constructed, trimmed, and painted to a standard rivaling the finest custom coachbuilders of the era. The 4.3-liter (4,257 cc) F-head inline six-cylinder engine was similar to the B60-Series engine of the preceding war years, yet simplified with a one-piece cylinder block casting with integral crankcase, plus a fan belt-driven electrical generator and water pump. Combined with a four-speed manual gearbox and independent front suspension, the Mark VI and Silver Dawn were robust performers, capable of heady speeds approaching 100 mph.
Despite the brave new era of increased standardization, coachbuilders nonetheless continued to apply their expertise to designing and creating handsome and luxuriously appointed custom bodies for the Mark VI and Silver Dawn. One of the most successful of them all was Park Ward, established in 1919 in Willesden, northwest London, and eventually acquired by Rolls-Royce in 1939. Park Ward’s four-seater Drophead Coupe body style is particularly attractive on the 120-inch wheelbase Mk VI chassis, with the coachbuilder offering two versions – one with standard-length Mk VI front fenders, and another with the front fenders extending through the doors and terminating at the rear fenders.
Bearing Chassis Number B452LEY, this particular 1949 Bentley Mk VI is documented by Bentley authority Bernard King as one of just 45 examples originally fitted with Park Ward Design No. 100 Drophead Coupe coachwork (Body No. B603). A rare, original left-hand drive example, it came “off test” was shipped to the United States via J.S. Inskip. The first recorded owner was Robert F. de Graff, a co-founder of Pocket Books, Inc., publisher of the first mass-distributed paperback books in North America. The next known owner was Dale Powers, with whom the Bentley was photographed in 1982 for The Flying Lady, the official publication of the Rolls-Royce Owners Club (RROC). Mr. Powers retained the rare Mk VI until January 1993, when he sold it to a fellow RROC member and New York resident, who retained the vehicle in his extensive collection until recently. A concours-level restoration resulted in winning Amelia Award (Bentley) honors at the 2012 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.
This very rare Park Ward-bodied Mk VI exudes a dashing and luxurious presence with its Bright Silver paintwork accented by red Connolly leather upholstery, a high-quality Grey cloth convertible top, red top-boot cover, and the striking chrome bumpers, handsomely shuttered grille, and upper bodyside trim. Other highlights include a single Lucas fog lamp, rarely-seen twin encased side-mounted spares, electric door window lifts, and a factory radio. Handsomely patterned door panels and beautifully finished Walnut trim appropriately finish the passenger compartment, which also features a factory tool kit neatly housed within a walnut case that is artwork in itself and thoughtfully mounted underneath the dash panel for easy access.
As offered, this handsome Park Ward-bodied 1949 Bentley Mk VI Drophead Coupe benefits from an extensive, concours-quality restoration that continues to look fabulous today. Documents include a desirable original owner’s manual, copies of the factory chassis records, and copies of articles from The Flying Lady. Additional items include the aforementioned factory toolkit and a trunk-mounted case containing the factory-supplied roadside jack assembly and wheel tools. Crisp, highly attractive, and well detailed throughout, this 1949 Bentley Mk VI Drophead Coupe by Park Ward retains its matching numbers engine and provides an eminently practical and ideal choice for Bentley Driver’s Club touring events or concours display.
Offers welcome and trades considered