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24 Jan 2022

What We Dislike
Huge steering wheel
Brake pedal has a lot of free play

The 1958 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur is an immaculate-conditioned vintage car that's easy to drive and love.

Every, or almost every, car enthusiast has had the golden opportunity to test drive a vintage car. It's a dream come true, almost like an awakening of sorts. And if you were to ask me, that's just the beauty of it.

In my most recent trip to Beverly Hills, U.S.A, I had the privilege to test drive the 1958 Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur, which sort of makes it an undoubtedly priceless experience. Considering I haven't been travelling much for the past couple of years, this trip is certainly a memorable one with that drive.

Driving old is driving gold

The modern and vintage Bentley: Like everything else, these two have their pros and cons
That drive. Yeah, that drive that made me realise why old is gold. My time with the Bentley S1 may have been short, but it was long enough for me to better understand the very fundamentals of what being behind the wheel of a car should feel like.

Don't get me wrong, the Bentley Flying Spur Hybrid that I was in Los Angeles for is a far bigger and better car in more ways than one, and it's easier to drive too. But the S1 presents itself as a car that's raw, undisguised and unpretentious.

Raw. That's what it should feel like. It has been awhile since I've had this feeling, the sort that leaves a very bitter aftertaste in your mouth simply because you know it's the last time you'll ever be driving a car that's charming, appealing and temperamental all at the same time. It's like that first kiss with the woman you know you'll never marry, even if you really love her. I know, typical.

4.9-litre six-cylinder engine is a sturdy unit
I could go on about my emotional appeal for most things old, but nothing quite up there for something this immaculate, inside and out. The 180bhp 4.9-litre in-line six powerplant remains strong and smooth despite being 64 years of age, which goes the same for the brake pedal, even though there was a tad too much free play for comfort.

Still, all things aside, it has to be the optional four-speed hydra-matic automatic transmission that's the icing on the cake when it comes to effortless nature of machinery at work. The gears glide through one after another like a hot knife through butter, which makes the car pure poetry in motion as I was driving through the roads.

Needless to say, I have absolutely no idea what the century speed of the S1 Continental Flying Spur is. Not that it matters anyway, since the car is best enjoyed in a calm and dignified manner. But if you find yourself behind the wheel of one, you could try and test out its 192km/h top speed, which I have no doubt it'll still achieve.

Luxe barge then, still a luxe barge now

Seats are supple and extremely comfortable
It'll also fulfil its ability to ferry four on board in comfort. Not quite the sort of comfort and luxury you get in a modern Bentley, of course, but it'll definitely be on par if we were to turn back the clock to the 1950s.

The seats are beautifully soft and supple, which could be due to its age. No extra lower back support or electric arrangements here, but you nicely sink into them - just like that seasoned and sturdy leather armchair that has been around the family home for the past 20 years.

You sit at the helm and you're faced with an over-sized steering wheel. It makes the seating position simply ridiculous. Cars weren't made with short people in mind then, I suspect. Still, a clear view ahead is obvious, and that's despite the limitations of my height.

Ornamental fixtures and that huge steering wheel add up to make this car a classic beauty
Such is the beauty of the Bentley S1. Everything seems well thought out here. The angle of the seats, which creates more legroom, the expansive windscreen for pint-sized drivers like me to look out of and the ornamental fixtures and lacquered wood fittings that remind you just what a luxe barge this car was back in its heydays.

Priceless example

Because of that, this very Bentley S1 Continental Flying Spur example that I drove cost some £8,034 (approx. $14,650) then, which would have been 10 times the average U.K. salary at the time.

What this figure translates to or what the current value is of the car, I have no idea. As a matter of fact, in all honesty, I do not quite care because there's just no price on a car like this, especially in Singapore where it's almost impossible to get one.

And if you were to ask me, that's just the beauty of it.

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