1937 Bentley 4¼-Litre 'Woodie' Shooting Brake Coachwork by Vincent's of Reading Registration no. DLO 934 Chassis no. B142JD
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 result was one of the most pleasing of pre-war touring cars.
This most unusual and striking four-door Derby Bentley carries 'woodie' shooting brake coachwork by Vincent's of Reading. Founded in 1805, William Vincent Ltd bodied it first automobile in 1899 and was a regular exhibitor at the Olympia motor shows into the mid-1930s. According to Nick Walker ('A-Z of British Coachbuilders') Vincent's 'clientele was the provincial upper classes and minor aristocracy who wanted a landaulet, limousine or saloon that reflected their station in life'. When demand for such vehicles slackened, Vincent's turned increasingly to commercial body making while continuing to manufacture horse-boxes, a company speciality for many years.
Chassis number 'B142JD' was originally bodied as an all-weather tourer by Vanden Plas. The Bentley was registered as 'DLO 934' (a London number) and first owned by one Frederick Hughes. The shooting brake conversion was carried out by Vincent's in 1949/1950. The current vendor first saw the Bentley at the Pebble Beach auction some 20 years ago when it was bought by Roger Saul, founder of the Mulberry fashion house. The Bentley was kept for several years at his hotel near Bath, Somerset where it was used to convey guests on fishing trips. The current vendor purchased the car in March 2003 after visiting the hotel.
Since then, the Bentley has benefited from considerable refurbishment with no expense spared, most of the work being carried out in Germany by one of that country's leading marque specialists, Werner Mork. Works undertaken include fitting a new cylinder head and con-rods; overhauling the engine, rear axle, carburettors, front brakes, and electrics; and fitting a new radiator core, wiper motor, fuel pump, exhaust system, etc. Related bills on file and the car also comes with a (copy) UK V5 registration document.
Possessing unique yet highly practical coachwork, 'B142JD' is a rare and significant representative of one of most exclusive and desirable of all Post-Vintage British Thoroughbreds: The Derby Bentley.