1949 Bentley Mark VI Drophead by Hooper
Britain’s first postwar luxury car, Bentley’s Mark VI reaffirmed that despite the war, certain aspects of Great Britain were still very much intact. The car was built with consummate attention to detail, and to the highest standards using traditionally British techniques. Included among these was the use of a separate frame so that customers seeking individual coachwork could buy a rolling chassis and have it shipped to the coachbuilder of their choice to be fitted with a custom body. The majority of cars received standard steel saloon bodies but for the discerning client demanding something extraordinary, distinguished body builders like H. J. Mulliner, Park Ward, James Young, Vanden Plas, Freestone and Webb, and Hooper were happy to oblige. Regardless of body, all cars employed the excellent twin SU carbureted 4 ¼ liter inline-6, a flexible, quiet, and well-engineered unit backed by a synchromesh 4-speed manual transmission.
This is one such example, an exceptional car fitted with Hooper Drophead Coupe coachwork in accordance with Hooper’s drawing number 8100. Understood to be one of three examples built, this is an extremely rare car which has been cherished its entire life and is extremely well-documented. Its extensive history file includes hundreds of pages of correspondence from the build process, including many letters between Hooper (and their Chief Designer), Bentley Motors Ltd., Glovers of Ripon & Harrogate (the original supplying dealer), Thornley & Knight (suppliers of paint regarding the supplying of samples during the color selection process), built sheets from Bentley Motors, and sales estimate from Hooper detailing the configuration and build of the body in extraordinary detail. Perhaps one of the most intriguing notes, dated 3rd June 1948, reads “...it is not possible to put this body in hand for several months. In fact we must wait until all the royal cars and show work are out of the way before we can think of taking on this job.”
The car was ultimately completed and supplied to its first owner, Mr. B. Pumphrey, Esquire on the 18th of June 1949, who retained it for more than 9 years before selling it to Dr. A. J. Edgcomb on the 24th of November 1958. Included among the documents are correspondence relating to early service visits during the car’s first year of life. The car’s third owner was Mr. L. J Friedman of Lynrbook, New York and he acquired it in 1979. Its current owner acquired the car in 1999 and has continued to preserve and maintain it. Service records are included from the last 23 years and include routine maintenance and an engine overhaul which was completed in 2003 at a cost exceeding $30,000. This included new pistons, rings, and pins, new valve springs and valve guides, reground valve seats, polishing valve stems, surfacing the head and block, restoring the rockers and replacing rocker shaft, new main, cam, and connecting rod bearings, magnafluxing and grinding over crank and connecting rods, boring the cylinders over, polishing the cam lobes, replacing the head studs, overhauling the crankshaft balancer, overhauling the oil pump, replacing oil and coolant lines, and grinding and lapping the pushrods. Additionally, the accessories were renewed at this time as well, including recoring the radiator, overhauling the carburetors, starter, and dynamo, water pump, and distributor, replacing motor mounts and clutch, relining the fuel tank, renewing the porcelain coating on the exhaust manifolds.
The car has covered less than 1,000 miles since this work was performed but has been driven regularly since and functions extremely well at this time. Its most recent service was in March 2021 and included new battery, brake bleed, new front brake lines, four rebuilt wheel cylinders, and rebuilt master cylinder.
The car runs and drives extremely well. It starts easily hot or cold and idles and carburates evenly, both at idle and underway. The hand throttle works correctly as does the mixture control. The engine pulls well and makes good power, with the even, torquey power delivery that characterizes the lovely inline-6 powerplants used by Bentley and Rolls-Royce during this period. The gearchange is positive and easy to use, with effective synchromesh on all gears except first, which is unsynchronized. The clutch takes up without fuss, in a smooth and confidence-inspiring manner. The steering is precise and light once underway, with little play, while the suspension functions well, providing good body control and ride comfort. The instruments function properly with the exception of the fuel gauge, which is not functioning. The radio tray slides about when accelerating or decelerating. The trafficators function properly.
Cosmetically, the car is largely unrestored. It was resprayed from its original color of medium gray to its current and very handsome two-tone green color scheme to complement the striking green interior. The paintwork was renewed decades ago, prior to the current owner’s acquisition in 1999, and shows aging in places but remains serviceable, with an even patina that mirrors the condition of the remainder of the car. The metal trim is excellent and the brightwork shows some loss of luster but is still quite handsome. The glazing and lights are in excellent shape.
Inside the car, the leather upholstery is generally in good shape with some patina and a tear in the driver’s seat back. The carpets are in very good condition and are finished in green to match the upholstery. The interior brightwork is in good condition with some aging present. The wood trim appears to be original and shows some age. The instruments are in similar condition.
Included with the car is a thick sheaf of documentation. This includes extensive correspondence from the build process, 1999 email correspondence with the owners of the other two Mark VI Hooper Dropheads, and 23 years of service records. Also included are the original handbook in excellent condition, jack, hubcap removal wrench, service torch, grease gun, and a small box of miscellaneous spare parts.
This is an exceptional opportunity to acquire a wonderfully-preserved and obviously cherished open coachbuilt Bentley. One of just three built, this Hooper Drophead has never needed restoration, but instead possesses a wonderful patina that acknowledges its age without feeling worn-out. It functions extremely well, is extremely well-documented, and is ready to be enjoyed by its next enthusiastic steward.