Exclusive Followup! 1956 Derham Continental

Photo by Michael Furman Studios

Once published, BarnFinds features sometimes take on a life of their own, with readers contributing amazing personal stories and first-hand technical details that turn a “what if?” reckoning of a car for sale into an entertaining and fact-filled point of reference for similar cars. So it happened with an unusual customized 1956 Continental we featured in 2017, after a reader named Gene posted a comment saying he bought the car and restored it to better-than-new condition. We had to find out more about this barn find success story, and Gene graciously agreed to an exclusive interview.

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What is likely the world’s only 1956 Continental Derham Victoria Coupe may have simply become a curiosity at some local show ‘n’ shine without the intervention of Mr. Gene Epstein. Epstein’s love of the automobile began at an early age, and led to much personal success. Gene and wife Marlene have shared a lifetime of partnership, a love of automobiles, and notable generosity as philanthropists. Epstein’s book entitled Lemon Juice: The Confessions of a Used Car Dealer – a Metamorphosis includes a host of stories that any automotive enthusiast will enjoy.

Epstein had never heard of the Derham Continental, but he knew that anything from coachbuilder Derham deserved special attention. After some research and negotiation, Epstein bought the Continental soon after we featured it. The Continental’s journey from as-is barn find to award-winning show car took three years. No newcomer to vehicle restoration, Epstein confessed that no car has proven more challenging, with numerous steps requiring multiple iterations to get everything right. Every inch of the car was stripped to bare metal and every part refurbished, repaired, or replaced to perfection. The undercarriage is as flawless as the interior and body.

The Continental Division built cars intended to surpass Roll Royce luxury, and the striking two-tone leather and stunning black paint elevates this Derham Continental to an even grander level.

Originally commissioned by an avid golfer, the Continental had to be modified to accommodate four golf bags. The factory Continental trunk housed a spare tire at the rear of the compartment under a functional bulge in the trunk lid, forcing an awkward lift over or around the tire. Derham solved this shortcoming by moving the spare tire to (what else?) a Continental Kit resting in an extended rear bumper that includes a counterbalanced mechanism that swings away, allowing easy access to the trunk. Brilliant!

When Epstein purchased the car, a scrap of plywood covered this decanter set that Derham ingeniously built into the vacant spare tire well. Talk about “one for the road!”

Even with the tailored luggage and golf seat, there’s plenty of room for your foursome’s bags. While Epstein has entertained substantial offers for the only known Derham Continental, it’s likely to remain in his possession for some time. What’s your barn find success story?

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  1. leiniedude leiniedudeMember

    Great story Todd! Sweet ride.

    Like 9
    • Todd FitchAuthor

      Thanks leiniedude! It didn’t look like much the first time I wrote it up, but it’s top-shelf now for sure.

      Like 9
  2. Scotty GilbertsonStaff

    Wow, that’s a fantastic story and follow-up article, Todd! What a car, wow! – and what an interesting and fulfilling life Mr. Epstein has had.

    Like 6
    • Todd FitchAuthor

      Thanks, Scotty! Gene is a class act and the car couldn’t have gone to a better home.

      Like 7
      • David D. Taylor

        Todd – makes my mouth water! Just proves what dep pockets can accomplish.

        Like 3
  3. Oldog4tz Oldog4tz

    The proportions and design elements that appeared so awkward pre-restoration now have Derham elegance.

    Like 4
  4. Nevadahalfrack NevadahalfrackMember

    Henry Ford may have been the reported narcissist we’ve heard rumors of, but he was very good at executing his ability to limelight his company. This is a magnificent car and the obviously very learned owner is a smart and lucky man.
    Todd, you have outdone yourself with this follow up. You and all the BF contributors always show your understanding of your readers, but this story is a classic example of why we readers appreciate you guys.
    I’m new to this forum but if this is an example another point on the BF compass please stay true to the course and don’t steer away-it’s great stuff.

    Like 13
  5. MattR

    Incredible transformation from the car shown in the original BF post. The paint and interior changed – from or back to original? Gorgeous all the same.

    I would love to see pictures of some of the restoration process.

    Like 4
  6. Chris In Australia

    I’ll pass. I’m not a fan of 1) The original Continental. 2) Continental kits with ghastly extended bumpers. 3) the unaltered door glass lines. A raked forward line would work much better. No complaints about the workmanship though.

    Like 5
    • Skorzeny

      The car would look INFINITELY better with the spare in the trunk.

      Like 7
  7. Bob_in_TN Bob_in_TNMember

    Great story, and amazing piece of cost-is-no-object car restoration.

    Like 1
  8. James427

    Was this the one that was maroon and sold in dusty condition a few years ago?

    Like 3
    • Gene

      Yes it was the same car that looked atrocious and the dust and dirt were the pluses.It was the most frustrating car to do the only way that I will accept c car and that is to be the best that it could be../Even down to the padded roof one sticking line was off lease than 1/4 inch so I have the padding and covering removed and done once again..Surprisingly I found in the classic Car Club records for Derham photos of my car and the original stitching was totally cockeyed.
      I am glad that my upholsterer put up with my desire for perfection …and everyone else that participated in bringing it back to life …Photo was taken at the Simeone Museum by Internationally renowned Photographer Michael Furman to be included in an upcoming book….FYI After hitting $300,000.00 we stopped counting…This is the last car that
      I intend to restore ….however I have designed my personal 1956 Lincoln Premier sedan (H.J.Heinz car with 12,000 original miles) to have the same roof line as my Derham by removing the rear window and small Ver shaped vents and filling with sheetmetal and landau top…

      Like 5
      • Gene

        Pardon my several typos

        Like 3
      • Nevadahalfrack NevadahalfrackMember

        Gene, you are a class act.
        Thank you for sharing this with us through Todd-art isn’t just canvas and paint, it’s anything done well and appreciated by others.

        Like 0
      • MattR

        Hi Gene –
        I’m enjoying your book ‘Lemon Juice.’ I just read the chapter on Estate Liquidators. That was ingenious.

        I love bootstrap books. I have a book recommendation that you would enjoy if you haven’t read it: ‘Twenty Years of Hus’Ling by J.P. Johnston. It’s a very old book, but it’s out there on the web: https://www.amazon.com/Twenty-Years-Husling-J-P-Johnston/dp/1511864931

        Thanks for writing your book.


        Like 0
  9. James427

    Yup, just looked up the original post. I saw this car advertised on Craigslist here near Tampa Florida for $28,000. I was tempted but already buried in cars. Then it went to ebay and I do not know what it sold for there. Then to Gene I guess. I am very glad to see it went to the right man for the job and what an exquisite job he and his crew have done.

    Does anybody know what the ebay selling price was? Just curious. I follow that sort of thing.

    Like 6
  10. Patrick

    Exquisite work ! Please – what is the…well… stick with handles in the trunk ?¿?

    Like 0
    • Howard Kerr

      The ” stick with handles ” is the golf seat. You can see the strip of leather connecting the ” handles “.
      Golf seats are very minimal constructions.

      Like 4
  11. Kenny Anderson

    Beautiful car. I love seeing old cars getting back on the road again. I wish I could do the same to my classic Ford. My honey has been sitting for too many years as life and now my disabilities have put it on the back burner .if I don’t find a windfall soon you’ll probably be seeing my old 69 Ford woody on here. Nice job and comeback on the rare Continental.

    Like 5
  12. ChingaTrailer

    You end your piece asking for our Barn Find success stories – while I have yet to find a car via this website, I’ve had some generic barn find successes such as the 36th Griffith 200 built, found in a New Mexico back yard with weeds growing up in it where it had languished for nearly 50 years, I found the first Radford Countryman built on a Bentley S1 chassis in a Portland, Oregon warehouse, I discovered Mike Couper’s last class winning 1953 Monte Carlo Rally Bentley in Nevada, I came upon an old school bus barn in Paradise, California (years before the fire) containing an 11,000 mile 1953 Bentley, a 1934 Rolls Royce that had been untouched for 50 years and the “King Tut’s tomb” of brand new Bentley parts. Another Paradise find was a rare Simca coupe. I found a running Tatra 603 in Colorado and so it goes.

    Like 10
    • Todd FitchAuthor

      Wow, ChingaTrailer, that’s some good stuff. Thanks for your comment, and be sure to submit a tip if you discover any other great finds – we’d be happy to write them up.

      Like 2
  13. Geo
  14. John S Dressler

    From the front quarter shot, that is a stunningly beautiful car, no matter what your preference of manufacturer for a luxury car is.

    Like 4
  15. Sam Dibitonto

    YEARS ago Edsel Ford and I were goood friends because I was the Continental specialist for Lincoln Mercury West (worked for the first Lincoln dealer) Maywood facility to help iron out production blips that accompany any new model..my focus was on the V12 which I new well because I was one of a few that had improved the HP with cams. carbs and headers.
    That led to my customizing mods that were featured in Car mags….Feels good to know I was part of the scene..

    Like 9
    • Todd FitchAuthor

      Thanks for the comment Sam D! What’s been your personal favorite used car “find” over the years?

      Like 3
      • Sam Dibitonto

        A 300sl Gullwing

        Like 1
  16. Steve

    Gotta love a car with a bar! as if that wasn’t a cataclysm waiting to happen

    Like 3
  17. chrlsful

    kept the nice lines of the hrdtop.
    Those R special vehicles alright.
    Wish we hada link to “the maroon one” as that’s the ‘before’ (and it WAS written up here).

    Like 0
    • Todd FitchAuthor

      Hello chrlsful. Link is in the first paragraph. As a Public Service Announcement all the dark red bold words are links to something relevant to performance or other supporting references! Same goes for “Golf Seat” near the end.

      Like 3
  18. trgolf55555 trgolf55555

    You guys did a story on this car back in 2017 when it was a barn find. Here is a photo and the link. https://barnfinds.com/blocks-since-85-1956-continental-derham/

    Like 3
  19. Terry

    The Nash Metro had a better-looking Continental kit. Otherwise, this car is gorgeous.

    Like 0
  20. Gene Epstein

    I am amazed and very pleased with the positive response that your article generated about my 1956 Continental Derham victoria Coupe. It was an exhausting experience that I never intend to do again. Yet when I looked at it at a major Concours in classes with magnificent vehicles cometeting I am glad that I did the work . The icing on the cake has been the crowds that admire it at events and the judges that love the style,uniqueness and the quality of the work .Excellent article….nopw what is next? Gene

    Like 2
    • Todd FitchAuthor

      Thank you Gene; it’s been a pleasure to see the Continental go from an unknown “find” to a truly unique masterpiece. Let us know if you have any other projects cooking that begin in a less-than-collector state, even if there’s not a barn in the story. :)

      Like 0
      • Gene

        If you want a super classic car/ car show murder mystery then get “The Driving Passion Murders on Amazon
        BTW Every penny goes to food banks

        Like 1
    • BLH

      I have an article from a 1964 Continental Comments that has your car in it. Two photos and a small write up. Happy to send them to you if desired.

      Like 1

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