James Bond creator Ian Fleming commissioned a left-hand-drive 1953 Bentley R-Type Continental Fastback in Deep Grey with black Connolly leather as a gift for his American friend Ivar Felix Bryce. Fleming's choice of that car was probably no accident: Bond drove an R-Type Continental in the book "Tunderball" – one he bought as a wreck and restored, and he had it done up in gray with black leather. In "Skyfall," this is the car that would have been behind that garage door. Gullwing Motor Cars recently discovered the real-life car wasting away in a garage in Hancock Park, Los Angeles for nearly 30 years.
Bryce was Fleming's inspiration for CIA agent Felix Leiter in the Bond books. The US agent showed up in six installments in the series starting with "Casino Royale," bowing out in "The Man with the Golden Gun." Just as cool as the Fleming/Bond connection is this car's connection to the Bentleys of today. This was the "Speed" of its time, and like Continental GT Speed of one today, it was the fastest production four-seater in the world. A review of the time said, "it is difficult to put into words the gulf that separates a Continental from the average car in all the qualities that have a bearing on safety at speed." And you can see where those outboard lights on today's Bentleys come from.
The Continental designation signified a power upgrade over the standard R-Type, and Fleming built it up with extras like rear spats, lightweight seats, fitted luggage, and a racehorse mascot. The Bryces flew their gift around the world to their various homes in England, Nassau, New York, and Vermont. After they sold it the coupe had several owners, ending up in the hands of a Beverly Hills surgeon in 1978, and according to Gullwing it's been sitting in a garage almost since that time. It has matching numbers and the original interior, and Gullwing says, putting it mildly, it is "an ideal restoration candidate."
The asking price is $1,495,000, which is quite the premium for pedigree. Hagerty values a pristine example at $1.4 million, and two recent pristine examples have been sold by RM Auctions for $1.2M and Bonham's for $822,000. This Fleming car one went to auction at Pebble this year with an estimate of $1.4M - $1.8M but didn't sell, so don't be afraid to ask a few hard MI6-like questions about it if you're interested.
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