A World War II veteran’s musty old Bentley that was left sitting in a garage for three decades sold for $600,000 this week, much more than was expected. But the amount paid may have been more of a tribute to the owner than the car.
To be sure, the 1936 Bentley 4 1/2 Litre Vanden Plas Tourer is rare. It’s just 1 of 6 like it made, and the only one left with its original body. No one really cared much about that when retired Royal Air Force navigator and pilot Charles Blackham purchased it from its original owner in 1952 for £260, fixed it up and turned it into his daily driver.
Blackham had been a member of the bomber squadron that targetted the area around Hitler’s “Eagle’s Nest” retreat in April 1945, and he later made food drops in Europe after the fall of the Nazi regime.
He used the Bentley until 1988 when it became too much trouble to keep it running, and parked it in the garage at his home near Manchester, where it sat rotting away until his death in January at age 96.
It was unearthed by his estate and put up for auction, fittingly, at the H&H Classics event held in the Imperial War Museum in Duxford. The auctioneers originally estimated the “unusual” lot would sell for no more than $250,000, but the bidders had different ideas.
H&H head of sales Damian Jones told The Sun that he thinks it will take a “6-figure sum” to get it back into shape, but that “18 months down the line you could have something very special.”
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This story has been edited to clarify the location of the bombing raid.