The Bentley 4¼-Litre offered here carries Sedanca Coupé coachwork by the celebrated British company, J Gurney Nutting, 'coachbuilder to the maharajas'. A company associated with quality marques - Bentley in particular - from its earliest days, J Gurney Nutting had been founded in Croydon, Surrey in 1919. A supreme practitioner of the coachbuilding craft, Gurney Nutting had already bodied its first Bentley before moving to London's fashionable Chelsea district in 1924, and within a few years was established as the Cricklewood firm's foremost supplier of bodies after Vanden Plas.
Gurney Nutting's work had a sporting flavour from the outset and succeeded in attracting the attention of society's upper echelons; the Prince of Wales and Duke of York were clients, and the firm gained its Royal Warrant in the early 1930s. Daimler and Rolls-Royce had been added to the Gurney Nutting portfolio in the mid-1920s, and the fruitful association with the latter continued into the succeeding decade. There was no coachbuilder better qualified to fulfil London-based Bentley distributor H R Owen's requirement for a series of exclusive bespoke models.
Ordered by H R Owen 'for stock', chassis number 'B171HM' was despatched from the factory via LMS goods train on 10th November 1936 and after bodying by Gurney Nutting was delivered on 7th January 1937. The Bentley's first private owner was Charles Edward Olliff-Lee of Orme Square, London W2 and the original UK registration was 'DUC 305', which it retains. Copies of the original and continuation logbooks show that Olliff-Lee kept 'DUC 305' until July 1940, when ownership passed to John Edwin Hardie-Duckworth, and bought it back from Mr Hardie-Duckworth in 1946.
Copy chassis cards on file list three subsequent owners, the last of whom, J Elliott Esq of Hyde Park, London W2, acquired 'B171HM' in July 1953. Bentley Motors' last note, dated 29th June 1956, states that the car had been 'involved in an accident' and 'salvage taken over by insurance co'. Also on file is a copy of a Surrey County Council letter listing other and subsequent owners of 'DUC 305', which concludes with an addendum naming two in the USA: Mr C Wright Hooper of Tulsa, Oklahoma followed by Mrs Victoria Tennant Wright of Dallas, Texas, the latter its owner from 16th March 1967. C W Hooper had purchased the car from Jack Compton Ltd of London SE27 in May 1965, and appears to have had the braking system overhauled at the factory the following September. While in Mrs Tennant Wright's ownership, the Bentley placed 1st in the Classic Car Club of America's concours held in Dallas in July 1968 (copy Judging Form on file). Mrs Tennant Wright appears to have kept the car until at least 1985, while the next known owner is a Mr R Hatfield of Ecclesfield, Sheffield as evidenced by an invoice from Ristes Motor Co Ltd dated November 1988.
Gordon Willey acquired 'B171HM' in September 1991 from Brian Classic Ltd of High Legh, Cheshire, which had purchased the car from Mr Hatfield. Gordon immediately despatched the Bentley to marque specialists P&A Wood of Great Easton, Essex for extensive refurbishment, the works being listed in their detailed invoice dated 30th April 1992 for £35,711.70, while in May/June 1994 the car was repainted by Classic & Performance Cars of Barthomley, Cheshire. There is a V5C registration document on file together with a solitary MoT certificate, which expired in July 1999, while in more recent years the Bentley has been off the road in storage at P&A Wood. Boasting coachwork by one of the most exceptional coachbuilders, and possessing a well documented history, 'B171HM' remains a rare and significant representative of one of most exclusive and desirable of all post-Vintage British thoroughbreds: the 'Derby Bentley'.