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Elton John’s Bentley, Jaguar roadster lead Bonhams' field

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Written by Auction House PR   
Thursday, 31 May 2012 13:12

Sir Elton John's 1975 Bentley Corniche convertible. Estimate: $77,000-$92,500. Image courtesy Bonhams.

LONDON – A 1975 Bentley Corniche convertible formerly owned by Sir Elton John, goes under the hammer at Bonhams sale in Oxford on June 16, estimated to sell for 50,000-60,000 pounds ($77,083-$92,500). The sale is held in Association with the Vintage Motor Cycle Club Banbury Run.

The current owner bought the Corniche when a selection of cars from Sir Elton's collection was auctioned in 2001, at which time the odometer stood at a little over 43,000 miles.

Sir Elton speaks highly of the Bentley, which was one of a handful of his cars used extensively. “I've had a lot of people in it. Princess Margaret's been in it. Everyone's been in it,” he said.

The car is one of only 45 Bentley Corniche “Series 1” convertibles built between 1971 and 1976. It was purchased new by Elton John in September 1975 and supplied finished in Silver Mink with beige interior and matching hood. In 1998, the year of his knighthood, Sir Elton sold the Bentley to his personal assistant, Robert Halley, from whom he repurchased it in 1999. During Halley's ownership the car was repainted in its present livery and updated with later alloy wheels.

Construction of these cars involved moving the body shells between the Crewe factory and MPW's Willesden plant, a process that took all of 20 weeks for the saloon and slightly longer for the more complex convertible. These exclusive cars were hand-built in the best traditions of British coachbuilding using only materials of the finest quality including Wilton carpeting, Connolly hide and burr walnut veneers, such painstaking attention to detail resulting in a price some 50 percent higher than that of the standard Silver Shadow or T-Series Bentley.

Used sparingly since acquisition, the Corniche benefits from refurbishment of the interior, carried out by marque specialists P&A Wood four years ago at a cost of more than $15,000, but otherwise is unrestored and in generally good condition. The interior is excellent. Accompanying documentation consists of Sir Elton's letter of provenance, current MoT and Swansea V5 document.

Anther interesting car rich with British automotive history is Lot 215, a 1950 Jaguar XK120 roadster, expected to sell for 70,000 to 90,000 pounds ($107,900-$138,800). This car achieved an unheard of speed for a road going car to meet a government challenge to boost exports.

“We claimed 120 mph (for the XK 120), a speed unheard of for a production car in those days” said William Heynes, chief engineer at Jaguar Cars. Told by the postwar Attlee government to “export or die,” the British motor industry responded valiantly, none more so than Jaguar Cars, soon to become the UK's biggest U.S.-dollar earner thanks in no small measure to the success of its XK120 sports car.

The work of Jaguar boss William Lyons himself and one of the most beautiful shapes ever to grace an automobile, the car was conceived as a coach-built aluminum structure for the simple reason that Jaguar expected to sell no more than 200 XK120s in the first year.

The car's heart was, of course, the fabulous XK engine. Conceived in wartime and intended for Jaguar's postwar range-topping saloon, the 3.4-liter six embodied the best of modern design, boasting twin overhead camshafts running in an aluminum-alloy cylinder head, seven main bearings, and a maximum output of 160bhp. When installed in the lightweight XK120, the result was a car with a phenomenal power-to-weight ratio and blistering performance.

Jaguar quickly demonstrated that the XK120's claimed top speed was no idle boast. In May 1949 on the Jabbeke to Aeltre autoroute in Belgium, an example with its hood and side screens in place recorded a speed of 126.4mph, and 132.6mph minus its weather protection and equipped with an under-tray.

This XK was treated to a full, body-off restoration some 12 years ago by Bridport Jaguar Restorations, including a full engine rebuild.


Sir Elton John's 1975 Bentley Corniche convertible. Estimate: $77,000-$92,500. Image courtesy Bonhams.

 1950 Jaguar XK120 roadster. Estimate: $107,900-$138,800. Image courtesy Bonhams.

Last Updated on Thursday, 31 May 2012 13:44

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