1939 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre
Year of manufacture1939
H.D. Clark, England (acquired new in 1939)
B.M. Russ-Turner, Surrey, England (acquired circa 1960s)
Peter Michael Salmon, Cobham, England (acquired in 1987)
Nicolaus Springer, Zürich, Switzerland (acquired from the above in 2006)
Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2010)
Rétromobile, Paris, France, January 2010
The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, Carmel Valley, California, August 2011
Michael Ellman-Brown, Bentley: The Silent Sports Car, 1931–1941, chassis no. listed on p. 415
John Adams and Ray Roberts, A Pride of Bentleys, pictured and discussed on pp. 176–177
Neill Fraser and Tomas Knapek, Bentley Beauty: The Art of the Coachbuilder on the Derby Bentley, 1933–1940, chassis no. listed on p. 74
Brian Smith, Vanden Plas Coachbuilders, body no. listed on p. 144
The Flying Lady, March–April 2004, chassis and body nos. listed on p. 7,278
Launched at the Olympia Motor Show in October 1933, the resurrection of the Bentley nameplate, now under Rolls-Royce ownership, introduced the world to the Silent Sports Car. Rolls-Royce quality and refinement coupled with Bentley performance and handling won legions of fans upon introduction, not the least of whom was W.O. Bentley himself, who remarked, “Taking all things into consideration, I would rather own this Bentley than any car produced under that name.” This example, chassis B25MX, benefits from the continuous improvements made during the production run and is one of the last 200 equipped with an overdrive transmission as well as the Marles cam and roller steering gear. Complementing these improved mechanicals is the rarest of Vanden Plas tourer coachwork.
Referencing the body and equipment section of B25MX’s build sheet is the notation “Dismount body from B152LS & remount on B25MX.” So equipped, this car shows a delivery date of March 29, 1939, with H.D. Clark listed as its first owner. According to Bentley Beauty, the definitive tome on Derby Bentley coachwork, Vanden Plas was responsible for approximately 200 bodies on the Derby Bentley chassis. Available body styles included fixed-head coupes and saloons, open dropheads and all-weather tourers, and the most desirable four-place tourer, of which 65 were produced. Four tourer variants were offered, the scarcest among those known as a “Swept Wing” design. Vanden Plas company records identify this as design no. 1459, with B25MX carrying body no. 3619, one of four Derby Bentleys so equipped.
Distinguishing features of the Swept Wing design include a prominent raised crease atop the center of the fenders complemented by a raised edge outlining the bottom of the fenders. The spare tire assembly, tastefully positioned at the rear of the car, is another visual cue that allows for an uninterrupted flow to the front fenders.
For many years, B25MX was owned by Bentley enthusiast B.M. “Rusty” Russ-Turner of Surrey, England, before passing to Peter Michael Salmon, also of England, who acquired it in 1987. The car then moved to Nicolaus Springer of Zürich in 2006, followed by its current owner, a noted collector of fine automobiles, who acquired this tourer in May 2010. Restoration began that year and was entrusted to noted Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialists P & A Wood of Dunmow, England. This thorough and exacting effort spanned more than two years with receipts in excess of $250,000.
The car is now finished in a very pleasing grey-blue hue with matching leather upholstery. The painted wheels framed by blackwall tires complete the subtle presentation suggesting purposeful motoring. Its canvas top folds flush with the body’s beltline, but when raised reveals a wider rear-quarter panel that hides the folding-top framework mechanism. Vanden Plas’ trademark cut down door echoes the drape of the front fender and the fold-down windshield provides the option of true wind-in-the-hair motoring. Notably, some time prior to 1971, this Bentley’s original engine, S9BV, was removed and replaced with 4 1/4 engine R5BW, which remains installed. Engine S9BV was recently acquired by the consignor and accompanies B25MX at auction, awaiting either preservation or refitting by its next owner.
At the top of the Derby Bentley pecking order lies the 4 1/4 litre overdrive car. The .85:1 top-gear ratio provides long-legged cruising at more leisurely rpms. Land speed record holder Sir Malcolm Campbell, who owned three Derby Bentleys during his lifetime, best summed up their roadworthiness, “The engine, steering, suspension and brakes are absolute perfection. I have never driven a car that holds the road so well. The 4 1/4 Litre Bentley is the most amazing proposition which it has ever fallen my lot to handle.”
This car has all the mechanical boxes checked, plus commensurate visual appeal courtesy of a most desirable Vanden Plas Swept Wing tourer body style, all presented in authentic condition prepared by marque experts. Combined, these elements make for the ideal and ultimate interpretation of the Silent Sports Car. Whether at rest or at speed, it eagerly awaits its next driving assignment.