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1959 Bentley S1 Drophead Coupé Coachwork by H.J. Mulliner

Lot Number: 857

1959 Bentley S1 Drophead Coupé Coachwork by H.J. Mulliner

Believed to be one of only two H.J. Mulliner Drophead Coupés, this late production example was first delivered to the BSA Chairman Sir Bernard Docker. Sporting a delightful patina, the Bentley retains its original interior.

  • Sold for: £213,750

LIVE AUCTION: This lot was auctioned on Saturday 20th May, 2023 at 1.00pm BST at Sywell Aerodrome, Sywell, Northampton, NN6 0BN

  • Body Colour


  • Drive


  • Registration Number

    XXA 262

  • Odometer Reading

    49217 Miles


Believed to be one of only two H.J. Mulliner Drophead Coupés, this late production example was first delivered to the BSA Chairman Sir Bernard Docker. Sporting a delightful patina, the Bentley retains its original interior.


Launched in 1955 as a replacement for the long-running Mark VI/R-type, Bentley’s new S-type was more closely related to the equivalent Rolls-Royce, the Silver Cloud, than ever - radiator and badges apart, there were no differences between the two.  Under the stately bonnet Bentley’s superb six-cylinder engine was revised with a light alloy cylinder head and the new box-section chassis boasted many improvements, including hydraulic brakes all round.  The perfectly proportioned, traditional styling of the S-Type and Silver Cloud was by John Blatchley and to this day remains the very epitome of British luxury motoring. Although Standard Steel coachwork was fitted to the vast majority of chassis built, there were still a small number of cars bodied by independent coachbuilders such as H.J.Mulliner, Park Ward and James Young, however, the unitary construction of the S-Type’s successor and all subsequent models, all but ended such a traditional association.

Completed on the 4th September 1959, B20HA is one of just two convertibles styled to Body Design Number 7492 by H.J.Mulliner. Bentley Works paperwork in the file contains details of the car’s initial build. The order reference was BS:5897 and the finished car was scheduled to be delivered on 27.08.1959 so it was a week late. The car was to be finished in Shell Grey with a Putty coloured hood and Red upholstery. Specific options included “No. plates XXA 262 supplied and fitted, Radio 200R, Dunlop tubeless tyres, Electrically operated windows, Power operated hood, Hood cover, Badge bar with 4 badges, Zip-fasteners to backlight and finally, Initials ‘BD’ to doors”. We understand that the car's final cost was £7,266 which would have bought a couple of comfortable three-bed homes in 1959.

That ‘BD’ referred to the cars first owner, Sir Bernard Docker KBE, of Claridge House, London W1. Sir Bernard was the Managing Director of the BSA grup of companies, Chairman of Daimler and the Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company and was awarded a Knighthood for his work as the Chairman of Westminster Hospital. The Bentley was a present for his second wife Norah Collins, a former showgirl. She was the widow of Sir William Collins, the President of Fortnum & Mason and also the widow of Clement Callingham, the head of Henekeys wine and spirit merchants.

You have to respect Lady Norah’s perspicacity in marrying (and outliving) three millionaire husbands but, we understand, that she may have been a bit of a nightmare. Her notorious parties on their 863-tonne Motor Yacht Shemara, her outrageous spending, talking her husband into commissioning a gold-plated Daimler for her, and her outspoken approach meant that during the fifties she was seldom out of the tabloid newspapers who christened her “Naughty Norah”. There are books written about her escapades but, inevitably things started to take a turn for the worse when the Rainiers banned her from Monaco, and indeed the whole of the Cote d’Azure, a similar thing happened in Jersey when they moved there and she finally ended up in Majorca.

B20HA passed briefly through the hands of agent Neville Hamwee who managed to find the car’s next owner on 29/11/1960.(It was never registered in his name). Incredibly it was another vivacious young woman, Maureen, Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava who was equally newspaper worthy but more The Times and Country Life. She was originally Maureen Guinness, heir to the brewing family, friends with the Royal Family and the original society "It Girl" as christened by the press. She was a blonde-haired, pre-war beauty, who dated celebrities and the aristocracy, was photographed for Vogue by Cecil Beaton and was the inspiration for Osbert Lancaster's cartoon character, Maudie Littlehampton. She too had three husbands and kept her first husbands title, the Fourth Marquess of Dufferin. She owned the Bentley for 25 years until late 1985 when it was sold to James Carroll of Bexleyheath for £22,000. There is correspondence in the file between the Marchioness and Mr Carroll some of which refers to Mr Carroll’s intention to restore the car and possibly change the colour.

The next set of invoices in the file are from 1997 addressed to Mr and Mrs Carroll from P.J.Fischer Classic Automobiles of Putney. A quote from them refers to sorting out some paint issues “on lower blue section of body”. A substantial five-page invoice from them totalling £6,244.46 and dated 17/02/1997 details lots of work to the car which appears to be all mechanical and not cosmetic.

The Bentley’s next owner was Godfrey Hickton of Worcester who acquired it on 18/05/2007. Shortly afterwards it appears that he commissioned Lea Francis Cars (Barry Price) of Alcester to restore the car and return it to its original Shell Grey. There are dozens of invoices and bits of correspondence between the owner and Lea Francis, all hand-written and hard to read, but it appears that many thousands of pounds had been invested with Lea Francis with the work still carrying on over two years later. At some point in 2009, it appears that Mr Hickton sadly passed away, as the final batches of invoices were addressed to the 'Executors of R Hickton' and the V5C lists the new owner as Mrs Jane Hickton on 19/07/2010. There is an invoice in the file from Hampton Coachtrimming for £3,989 dated 17/06/2010 for a complete new hood and associated parts.

B20HA was then acquired by the legendary collector of British cars, Dr James Hull and, in common with the rest of Dr Hull’s extensive Collection, joined our vendor in 2014. There is only one further invoice in the file since then and it’s from Denyer Classic Cars on 04/06/2018 and appears to be for a service and recommission including all fluids, filters, coolant system flush, brake service (master-cylinder seals, hoses and a bleed), road test and an MOT.

XXA 262 is accompanied by old tax discs, MOTs, V5Cs, the aforementioned history file with period newspaper articles, 3 x Original Bentley Instruction Books, Smiths Radiomobile operating instructions, the Maintenance Instructions for the hood operation, and instruction booklets for the heating and air Conditioning and the automatic gearbox.

With a mileage of less than 50,000, at least two restorations and being one of only two cars built to this design, B20HA is a very desirable coachbuilt Bentley in its own right, but, for many of us, its fascination lies with its first two owners. Arriving in High Society from diametrically opposed corners of the social spectrum, these attractive, vivacious, captivating women managed to find six millionaire husbands, fill newspaper pages for a decade and are still known as ‘Naughty Norah’ and the ‘It Girl’ over sixty years later. There can’t be many society events that B20HA hasn’t attended and a few secrets it’s been asked to keep!




Lot Number
H J Mulliner
Registration Number
XXA 262
MOT Expiry
Chassis Number
Engine Number
Body Colour



For further information regarding this lot please contact Rob.






All cars must be removed from the venue between 9am – 2pm on Monday 22nd May. Full payment must be received before any items are available to be released.

Our transport partner, EM Rogers, can assist with collection and delivery. Please contact them on +44 (0) 1604 755511 or for a quote.

Any cars not collected by 2pm on Monday 22nd May will be taken to EM Rogers storage facility in Northampton for a fee of £175 + VAT. Storage will be charged at £10 + VAT per day from the Monday onwards.

A member of the administration team will contact you to confirm your transport plans after the auction. If we do not hear back from you by 9am on Monday 22nd May, we will arrange for our transport partners to collect the vehicle on your behalf.


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