As pub boasts go, being able to tell your friends that you own the most expensive car in the world is a pretty good one. And while this may be the sort of factoid that gets delivered with a smirk, there’s more than a kernel of truth within the subterfuge: back in 2001, when this Bentley Continental R Mulliner was on the market, it was the most expensive production car on sale in the world. (‘Production car’ is a malleable term, of course – just 131 of these cars were built.) And the £225,000 sticker price was fully justified, as this was essentially a car that could do it all: brutally fast, built to handle, and yet sumptuously appointed and impeccably comfortable. A crisp design crafted by artisans for unrivalled quality, and something even more desirable now than it was then.
This special spec came in towards the end of the model’s run; the Continental R was built in various states of evolution from 1991-2003, and is particularly sought-after for the fact that it was the first Bentley since the sixties not to share a Rolls-Royce body-shell. This was a car for marque purists, and the package didn’t disappoint: taking the engine from the Turbo R, the venerable and boosted 6.75-litre V8 served up 325bhp at launch, and this was later tickled to 360bhp thanks to some head work by Cosworth.
From early 1999, something really alluring entered the catalogue: the car you see here, the Continental R Mulliner. By this stage, power was up to 420bhp owing to a new charge-cooler and assorted other revisions, and this was all backed up by a frankly ludicrous torque figure of 650lb.ft. That’s more than enough torque to ruck up the tarmac like a hallway carpet, and of course still deployed in sumptuous luxury and refinement. The Mulliner spec was, at its core, an effort to build a version of the Continental T (which had the more powerful 420bhp engine in a sporty shorter-wheelbase body) in a full-length touring body – the upshot of which was 170mph, 0-62mph in 5.6 seconds, and space for four adults (plus luggage) to waft across continents in comfort. Which, of course, is what the Continental nameplate has always been about.
What’s particularly interesting about this Continental R Mulliner is that it’s effectively a Le Mans-spec car in all but name: Le Mans variants were built under the Personal Commission programme (there were 46 Continental R Le Mans and just 5 Continental T Le Mans), distinguishable by the green Bentley badges, chromed quad exhausts, starter button, side wing vents and Union Jack plaques – and all of these features have been specced on this Mulliner, reportedly at a cost in excess of £20,000. Indeed, the only difference is that it doesn’t say ‘Le Mans’ on the sill plates!
The current owner has had this car in his possession for around four years. Having been looking around for a perfect example of this particular model – no mean feat considering the tiny production numbers – he found this one to be in excellent original condition and with a full and comprehensive history. Throughout his tenure it’s been garaged (in fact, he’s never had it out in the rain) and used for general touring including occasional trips down to Goodwood. He’s kept it serviced and maintained in a no-expense-spared manner, and the simple fact is that it’s not getting used very much these days so it’s time for the car to move on to its next keeper.
There’s a large and impressive file of documentation accompanying this car, and perhaps most pleasing and intriguing is the build sheet which details the full list of factory specs and options. We can see that this car was ordered with the desirable wide-body arches, in Silver Pearl paint with a black hide interior, and all of the details are itemised so we can see that everything about the car is exactly as it was when new. Furthermore, the dossier contains extremely detailed invoices and receipts for all of the maintenance work and servicing that’s been carried out on the car.
In addition to all this, the Bentley also comes complete with its original handbooks and the fully stamped service book, as well as the manuals for the aftermarket stereo system and the trickle charger.
The inside of this car really is a fabulous place to be. The original owner specced it very well, with the sumptuous black hide extending to every conceivable surface, the tasteful black dash and console accentuated by neat chrome details. The seats are all superbly comfortable and supportive, as you’d expect of a high-end car with such low mileage; the leather on the front seats is just starting to show some gentle patination, but this is nothing a good feed wouldn’t remedy. The reclining seats for rear access work perfectly – they’re fully motorised so they slide themselves back and forth automatically, and this is all working just as it should. There are no marks, scratches, scuffs or other issues, everything is presented beautifully, and every button, gauge and control does what it should. The current owner has replaced the standard head unit with a quality Clarion stereo, a subtle single-DIN with a flip-out touchscreen for sat-nav, Bluetooth, iPhone integration and various other features.
We can see from the build sheet that this car was originally optioned with the (very expensive!) lambswool mats, which aren’t presently fitted – the owner still has these items and they will come with the car; the only reason for removal was that he found them less comfortable to drive with than the thinner overmats which are currently fitted.
In the boot, you’ll be pleased to note that the two original-option umbrellas are still mounted inside the boot lid – unused and still in their plastic wrapping! Under the carpet we find everything dry and solid, and the spare wheel is also unused and still in its protective wrapping. The boot carpets are in superb condition, the warning triangle is present behind the flip-down bulkhead cover, and there’s connectivity for a trickle charger.
The wide-body option for this model is a marvellously imposing choice, and it looks fabulous in this crisp shade of Silver Pearl. The bodywork is entirely free from corrosion, dents, dings, scratches, stone chips – we’d go as far as to say it’s in showroom condition, thanks to having been lovingly looked after, garaged, and used only in favourable weather
The paperwork file indicates that some remedial work was carried out to repair corrosion in the rear wheel arches at a cost of over £4,200 in 2018, and this work really is superb – there’s no visual evidence of it, the fresh steel and paintwork is seamlessly integrated to make everything look as-new.
All of the correct badges, trim and brightwork are in place, the window glass is in unmarked condition with good seals, the panels sit perfectly straight – everything’s as it should be. The wheels are the correct original items, shod in quality OE-spec Pirelli P-Zero Asimmetrico rubber.
This car has always been fastidiously serviced by respected specialists, with the most recent service being carried out in June of this year.
The mechanical package in this car is breathtaking, with the turbocharged 6.75-litre V8 offering mighty performance, delivered in effortless fashion thanks to those vast swells of torque. The engine is mated to a GM 4L80-E automatic transmission which shifts with supreme smoothness. The suspension is a self-levelling hydraulic system with adaptive dampers, and the brakes have twin callipers at the front. The owner reports no issues whatsoever with the engine, transmission, suspension, steering or brakes – everything is working as it should. Which is what you’d expect of a car of such quality which has been so carefully maintained.
The sheer unfettered magnificence of this car is what acts as its keenest selling point. Naturally there’s the fact that it was, when it was new, the most expensive car that money could buy, which makes it look like remarkably good value these days. But perhaps even more important than this is the fact that the Continental R Mulliner wears its class with such aplomb: sure, it’s a striking profile, but it doesn’t shout about its presence – it’s fancy without being showy. The sort of car that could casually ooze down the high street and all but blend in except to those in the know.
The fact that it’s also something of a polymath makes it all the more intriguing: this machine is staggeringly fast, with a handling setup that was universally praised by road-testers in period for an agility which belies the car’s not insignificant mass. Furthermore, it’s a Jekyll-and-Hyde chassis which can be sporty on demand, but also sumptuous and cosseting when you want to waft. And crucially, the condition of this Bentley – both aesthetically and mechanically – is utterly sublime. A stellar example of a super-rare curio. Of course, there’s also the fact that you can tell your friends in the pub that you own the most expensive car in the world. This will probably mean that it’s always your round, but it’s almost certainly worth it.
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