1938 Bentley 4 1/4 Sports Saloon
Lovely pillarless Mulliner Sports Saloon coachwork; a very original example which has seen extensive sympathetic renovation; driven to the sale; on offer from a deceased estate
The 2,422 Bentleys produced between 1933 and 1939 are known as the 'Derby Bentleys' after the Rolls-Royce factory in which they were built.
Rolls-Royce had secretly acquired Bentley Motors from the receiver in 1931 and was determined to honour the magnificent sporting heritage that came with this illustrious brand. Although the cars were based on the existing Rolls-Royce 20/25 and 25/30 models, they were much more than a badge-engineering exercise with considerably more powerful engines and a more sporting chassis which had been developed for the still-born Supercharged Peregrine project.
Universally referred to as 'The Silent Sportscar', the first Derby Bentley had a 3.5-litre six-cylinder engine with a new cross-flow cylinder head, twin SU carbs and twin fuel pumps. Feeding its 105bhp through a four-speed synchromesh gearbox, the car was good for a genuine 90mph and was widely praised for its combination of speed, refinement and handling prowess. Even WO Bentley himself was reported as saying: "Taking all things into consideration, I would rather own this Bentley than any other car produced under that name."
Faced with increasing competition from the likes of Alvis and Lagonda, in 1936 Bentley enlarged the capacity of the engine to 4.25-litres which boosted the power to 126bhp, allowed a top speed of virtually 100mph and notably improved acceleration. As before, completed chassis were supplied to the leading coachbuilders of the time and a variety of stunning looking cars resulted, marking what was perhaps the peak period of the British coachbuilders’ art. Just 1,234 4.25-litre Bentleys were made before war put an end to production in 1939.
Chassis B-5-LE dates from 1938 and has a charming history, its current long-term owner having owned the car for two periods of its life – 1959 to 1980 - 21 years and 1999 until the present day, a further 23 years.
It carries its original H J Mulliner pillarless coachwork, a refined owner-driver sporting saloon which has had plenty of work over the years. It retains a pleasing patina without being too tired and still sports the original red leather interior which remains in perfectly usable condition – and is rather lovely too.
Back in 1959, our vendor bought the car in good order and used it for high days and holidays – mainly to and from his local Church on Sundays. There is little history from this period, suffice to say that after he sold in 1980, it passed through several hands, the car turning up at Runnymede Motor Company in 1999, by then looking a bit sorry for itself. The vendor had always regretted selling it and simply couldn’t resist having it back in the family.
It was delivered shortly after to Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist Alan Dyson of Wallingford, Oxon, for remedial work. It was to remain in his workshop for an astonishing 16 years, with work taking place on a peacemeal basis as funds and other projects allowed. The aim was to ‘get the Bentley back on the road in good order, but in a way that reflects its original condition’. This was finally achieved, some (but we suspect not all) of the invoices showing that Dyson had attended to a multitude of jobs, including:
Removing the interior and petrol tank and repairing the rear body frame
Reconditioning the petrol tank
Removing front and rear axles and fully overhauling, including new brakes and pipes
Dismantling and sorting out the springs, including bindings, shackles and pins
A rewire – the wiring having been in a dangerous condition and a refurb of the dashboard and ancilliaries
Fitting a new exhaust
We are not sure what, if anything was done to the engine, but it has clearly had work done and not only starts instantly but has been running like a Swiss Watch since arrival onsite. The engine compartment is particularly clean and well presented and it looks to us like the radiator has been reconditioned. The car was driven some 30 miles to us for the sale. Modern indicators have been fitted for safety, although the original signals still function as well.
It was last MOTd as recently as 2016 which showed no advisories (and involved four brand new tyres) and has been used by the vendor’s family for local jaunts – performing faultlessly. The file includes a service manual, several old MOTs,a memory stick with a few images of the car while at Alan Dyson Restoration, associated invoices and an old-style V5 and current V5C. It has been fitted with wheel discs for most of its life, the set of four having been removed and are included in the boot. It also carries a comprehensive tool kit as photographed and the dashboard switchbox has only recently been refitted after specialist refurbishment.
Sadly, the owner of this lovely old Bentley has very recent passed away hence the reason for sale. It has been sympathetically restored and is ready for immediate use.
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