1936 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre
Year of manufacture1936
1936 Bentley 4¼-Litre Sports Tourer
Coachwork by Vanden Plas
Registration no. CXM 104
Chassis no. B52GA
"Think of all the driving qualities that make a sports car crisp handling responses, precision of control, strong acceleration, a general liveliness in demeanour and this imposing Bentley possesses them all." Mark Hughes, Classic and Sportscar.
Although Rolls-Royce's acquisition of Bentley Motors in 1931 had robbed the latter of its independence, it did at least ensure the survival of the Bentley name. Launched in 1933, the first of what would become known as the 'Derby' Bentleys continued the marque's sporting associations, but in a manner even more refined than before. Even W O Bentley himself acknowledged that the 3½-Litre model was the finest ever to bear his name.
Based on the contemporary Rolls-Royce 20/25, the 3½-Litre Bentley was slightly shorter in the wheelbase at 10' 6" and employed a tuned (115bhp), twin-SU-carburettor version of the former's 3,669cc overhead-valve six-cylinder engine. Add to this already remarkable package a part-synchromesh four-speed gearbox and servo assisted brakes, and the result was a vehicle offering the driver effortless high performance in almost absolute silence. 'The Silent Sports Car', as it was quickly dubbed, had few peers as a tireless long-distance tourer, combining as it did traditional Rolls-Royce refinement with Bentley performance and handling.
By the end of the 1930s the 'Derby' Bentley had undergone a number of significant developments, not the least of which was an increase in bore size in 1936 that upped the capacity to 4,257cc, a move that coincided with the adoption of superior Hall's Metal bearings. This new engine was shared with the equivalent Rolls-Royce - the 25/30hp - and as had been the case with the preceding 3½-Litre model, enjoyed a superior specification in Bentley form, boasting twin SU carburettors, a raised compression ratio and a more 'sporting' camshaft. Thus the new 4¼-Litre model offered more power than before while retaining the well-proven chassis with its faultless gearchange and servo-assisted brakes.
Offered here is one of the very few sports tourers to this design by Vanden Plas, and arguably the most original of the survivors. London-based coachbuilder Vanden Plas had forged its not inconsiderable reputation by a most fortuitous alliance with Bentley, bodying some 700-or-so of the latter's chassis during the 1920s, including the Le Mans team cars. The firm survived Bentley's demise and resurrection under Rolls-Royce ownership, diversifying into other makes and resuming the relationship with its old partner to produce some of the most sublime designs on the Derby Bentley chassis, of which 'B52GA' is without doubt one of the finest.
This particular Derby was delivered new in May 1936 to Miss Nora M MacCaw and registered as 'CXM 104'. It has a remarkable history. The last long-term family owners purchased the car from Carlton Autocars in Halifax, Yorkshire in May 1951. There is some delightful (copy) correspondence on file dating from this period, and even a copy of the stock list from which this special car was chosen. The Bentley was always driven in the family's local region of Perthshire and Angus, and was a familiar sight there for almost 70 years. Silver when purchased, the car was repainted green in the 1950s as this was probably considered a more suitable colour for a Scottish farmer (see photographs on file). Journeys were made in all weathers and seasons with the occupants protected by rugs and blankets, for the hood was seldom up! Many holidays were undertaken in the Highlands, and the Bentley was also used to take the children to school in Edinburgh and back again. In more recent times the car has taken the family to the North and West of Scotland, visiting a few castles and some of the smaller golf courses from Kintyre to the islands of the Hebrides.
All routine maintenance has been carried out on the family farm, for they are quite skilled and know the car rather well. For example: the Perspex side screens have been handmade, as the originals do not afford as much wind protection (the originals are in the boot wrapped in a blanket for safekeeping).
As one might expect, there is a most substantial quantity of bills on file, many of which relate to an extensive no-expense-spared restoration carried out in 2011 by Milford Vintage Engineering Ltd (inspection recommended). There is also a CD-ROM recording Milford's work. Previous restorations had been carried out by David Scott-Moncrieff (1981) and Classic Restorations Alyth (1993/1994). The car also comes with copy chassis cards; a quantity of expired MoTs; a V5 registration document; and the aforementioned correspondence.
Possessing coachwork by one of the most exceptional coachbuilders, and a fascinating history, 'B52GA' is a rare and significant representative of one of most exclusive and desirable of all British Post-Vintage Thoroughbreds: The Derby Bentley.