1937 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre
Year of manufacture1937
Number of seats2
1937 Bentley 4¼-Litre Sports Saloon
Coachwork by Hooper & Co
Registration no. ELE 88
Chassis no. B44LS
Engine no. H5BF
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 an all-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, introduced towards the beginning of that decade following the firm's take-over by Rolls-Royce, 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, 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 gear-change and servo-assisted brakes.
It was the construction of modern highways in Continental Europe, enabling cars to travel at sustained high speeds, that had prompted the introduction of the Hall's Metal bearings and would lead eventually to the adoption of on an 'overdrive' gearbox and improved lubrication system on Bentley's peerless Grand Routier, improvements which coincided with the introduction of the 'M'-series cars in 1938.
The car offered here, chassis number 'B44LS', is recorded in Bernard L King's book 'The Derby Built Bentleys' as delivered in December 1937 to one Gilbert Davis and owned subsequently (in 1964) by someone called Marston. It carries four-door sports saloon coachwork (design number '6858') by Hooper & Co, London-based carriage makers to Queen Victoria and King Edward VII and arguably the finest of all British coachbuilders.
The car has formed part of the vendor's father's collection in Germany since 1967 and was on the road between '67 and 2004, always TüV-approved (MoT'd). In 1970 the interior was re-trimmed while more recently (in 2009) the electrical system was checked and serviced by Bosch. We are advised that the Bentley is in good, original and un-restored condition, fully working, but since 2004 has been used very rarely and therefore is now put up for sale. Accompanying documentation consists of an expired MoT certificate (1966) and German registration papers.
Featuring coachwork by one of the most exceptional coachbuilders, 'B44LS' remains a rare and significant representative of one of most exclusive and desirable of all Post-Vintage British Thoroughbreds: The Derby Bentley.