Like many large classic cars of the time, LR2778 was put up during the war when petrol rationing meant virtually all private automobiles were rendered useless. In 1946, the LR2778 was relicensed under a new business name – yet still within the Becker clan. Young Simon Becker inherited the car and became its next long-term owner, enjoying it to the fullest while also acting as a fine custodian and ensuring its long-term survival. In 1954, Simon entered LR2778 in a Bentley Driver’s Club meet, handily winning his group and proving the car had lost none of its performance. The first rebuild followed later in 1954 and Simon continued to use the car regularly, using it for Grand Touring around Europe and even employing it as his daily driver for some time. The car was a regular fixture around London even as the value and running costs began to mount.In 1974, after thirty-seven years in the Becker family and another refresh of the cosmetics, Simon Becker consigned LR2778 to a Christie’s auction, where it sold for £17,500. The new owner, Ian Finlator, handed the car to Tony Townshend in 1978 for a ground-up restoration. As was typical of the period, some minor detail changes were made, and while not to today’s exacting standards, it was nonetheless a comprehensive project. The livery was changed again, the green body sides it wore during the entire tenure of the Becker family changed to dark red; however, it retained the black wings and bonnet that the car has worn since new. Finlator enjoyed the Speed Six for many years to come, including on the 1985 Rallye Monte Carlo historic, and it making occasional appearances at BDC concours events throughout Britain in the 1980s and 1990s. In 1994, LR2778 was chosen as the representative British car for the opening of the Channel Tunnel rail line and displayed proudly alongside a Bugatti Royale at the Place de Defense in Paris.After thirty years of ownership, Ian Finlator sold LR2778 to a German collector, and by 2010 it returned to the UK via famed dealer P&A Wood. Shortly thereafter, the current owner acquired the car and commenced a no-expense-spared restoration to original H.J. Mulliner specification with the renowned Vintage Bentley specialist Graham Moss of R.C. Moss. Before the start of the painstakingly researched restoration, Clare Hay inspected the car and found it to be a remarkably sound and original car, with the front axle being the only significant component changed (by Bentley in 1938). The engine, gearbox, clutch assembly, and rear axle were all found to be original to this car. As specified in the service records, the car retains its originally-equipped Elektron crankcase, with aluminum covers and fittings, correct to 1930 specification.For the body restoration, a tremendous amount of research went into recreating the techniques used by H.J. Mulliner at the time. No company records exist from the time, so Graham Moss carefully studied an original, untouched Mulliner body built for the 1929 Olympia motor show, as well as other unrestored cars to learn precisely how the bodies were crafted and trimmed. Every aspect of the interior was restored employing original techniques, with hidden stitching, and horsehair stuffing of the seats to ensure purity and originality. The chassis restoration was somewhat more straightforward, with the proper materials, fittings, and details a largely known-quantity thanks to the survival of factory service documents. While the chassis retained a high degree of original components, it was necessary to carefully reproduce certain items, including the previously unavailable Bentley & Draper dampers. The chassis alone is a work of art, and the restoration record includes dramatic studio photos in its bare state. Now returned to its original livery of black with ivory side panels and a marble-finished oxblood red cabin, the presentation is breathtaking. The final flourish was the addition of an original-style Lalique cockerel mascot – complete with genuine Lalique switch for the illumination, sourced by Clare Hay.With such care and attention to detail, it is of little surprise that the finished product is so spectacular. LR2778 is one of the most elegant representations of the sporting Vintage Bentley, presented in its original specification and beautiful colors, as delivered to Maharaja Man Singh II. Upon completion of the restoration in 2012, the car debuted on the lawn of the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance where it earned a 2nd in class, the coveted J.B. Nethercutt Trophy for the Most Elegant Closed Car and the Lord Montagu of Beaulieu Trophy for the Most Significant Car of British Origin. The same year, it returned to England and appeared at the Windsor Castle Concours. It remains in exquisite order and the concours success has continued, with a Best in Show and Best Bentley at 2019 Cavallino Classic Sports Sunday, and is fresh from scoring Best in Class, Pre War European at the 2019 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance.Thanks to the efforts of the long-term custodians who lovingly cared for and preserved the car without modification, LR2778 survives as one of the most elegant and visually arresting Vintage Bentleys extant. The meticulous, painstaking restoration and complete history have been documented by Dr. Clare Hay, presented in a beautiful leather-bound book matching the upholstery. In fabulous running order, and a sure entry into virtually any event worldwide, the Maharaja’s astonishing Speed Six will stand as the crown jewel of any collection.
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