Any Bentley is a very special, an exclusive motorcar just for the fact that it is a Bentley. I say that having owned a few of these magical cars over the years as well as having driven these cars from the earliest W.O. examples to the very latest models.
The next level up from a standard car is one that is coachbuilt, a car that has been taken to a coachbuilder and modified to fit a specific owner’s taste. While each coachbuilt Bentley is unique, the next level of exclusivity is one with an interesting ownership history, such as those owned by celebrities or, at the top level, cars that were owned by royalty.
This Pick of the Day, a 1989 Bentley Turbo R with coachwork by Hooper, checks all of these boxes.
Unlike other Turbo R Bentleys, this one is not a 4-door sedan but transformed by Hooper into a coupe. And it becomes very special indeed when you consider that it was built for royalty, for the son of the Sultan of Brunei’s brother, HRH Prince Jefri Bolkiah.
The description of this car from the St. Louis, Missouri, dealer, offing this car on ClassicCars.com could not be more complete. According to the seller’s description, this is the story in brief:
“In 1988, Jefri’s eldest son, Prince Hakeem, while staying at the family’s Beverly Hills Hotel, went on a shopping trip with the Manoukians at the local Rolls-Royce dealership, Gregg Motors,” the dealer says in the ad. “Overlooking that he was 15 and lacked a driver’s license, the dealer was more than happy to indulge the prince and assist with his very first car purchase – for two Bentley Turbo Rs.”
It does not stop there, though.
“The young Prince considered the four-door sedans old-fashioned and wanted a two-door coupe instead,” the ad description continues. “Bentley did not produce such a car at the time, but that was nothing a few hundred thousand additional pounds couldn’t fix. A deal was made for a white Turbo R, now known to be RBK25450, and a dark blue one. Hakeem reportedly told his bodyguard, “The blue one is for my dad, and I’ll keep the white one.
“That could have been the end of the story; however, it turned out to be only the beginning. Thanks to the efforts of historians Phil Neff and Chris Summers, the story of this Turbo R, chassis RBK25450, has been uncovered. It turns out that Gregg Motors did not deliver the same cars Prince Hakeem selected that day. Instead, an order came through to the factory in the name of Tom Speigel, a friend of Gregg Motors’ owner, for a standard Turbo R Saloon in USA specification finished in Acrylic white over tan trim.
“Rolls-Royce production records indicate the car left Crewe, and instead of going to L.A., it and the dark blue one made a side trip to Hooper & Co. Coachbuilders Ltd, in London for conversion to two-door coupes as directed by Prince Hakeem. At Hooper, Prince Hakeem’s white Turbo R was painstakingly converted to two-door saloon specs, becoming the very first of what grew to be the literally hundreds of Bentley ‘Brunei Specials.’
“Hooper build sheets in the name of Rafi Manoukian detail the transformation, which included the base 2-door conversion, a limousine-style rear window, ‘NASA’- style (sic) air ducts on the bonnet, sliding glass sunroof, Hooper front spoiler, unique badging, and so much more. This extended to the interior which was completely reworked with new Hooper-style front seats and center console, custom veneered woodwork, and veneered lower map pockets.
“Connolly supplied the leather for client approval prior to fitting, and Hooper’s craftspeople covered virtually every surface in red hides, leaving no exposed fasteners and color-keying all interior plastics to match. Wilton carpets were also approved by the client, and even the mouton overmats were dyed red to match.
“Upon completion, RBK25450 was delivered to Beverly Hills and stored at the Manoukian’s residence. Prince Hakeem allegedly used his Bentley just once to drive to the beach at Santa Monica and back, then garaged it at the Bolkiah residence behind the Beverly Hills Hotel. There it remained for years under the care of the Royal Family’s attendant Steve Hui.
“In the late 1990s, just as Prince Jefri’s world began to unravel in a swirl of allegations, Hakeem’s white Turbo R got an updated title, presumably in an attempt to protect the asset. Hearing of the car through local channels, noted collector Chuck Swimmer was able to purchase it in 2000, and listed it with the Rolls-Royce Owner’s Club in 2001. In 2004, it was sold to Robert and Arlene Connolly of Pompano Beach, FL, before coming into its most recent owner’s care in 2009.
“Following a comprehensive service, the current owner has enjoyed the Bentley at club events and shows. It currently shows fewer than 10,000 original miles and remains exceptionally original, with no modifications to its original spec and offered in superbly well-preserved condition inside and out.”
This is a very special car in every way and among modern Bentleys is one of the most significant cars in existence.
Yes, all of this comes at a price, and the Bentley is listed at $239,500. That is a lot of money for a Bentley Turbo R, but for the fact that it is the very first of the “Brunei Specials.”
That might not sound so important until you realize that the Brunei family practically singlehandedly kept Bentley in business during the time they were owned by Vickers, and that the cars from the royal family rarely come up for sale.
This is a rare opportunity to buy one of the most exclusive modern Bentleys in the world, and which would be welcomed at any concours on the planet. Exclusivity at this level has a steep price, but when you add all the facts together, this is a reasonable valuation.
To view this vehicle on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.