Bentley 4 1/4 Litre
Number of seats2
c.1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre 'High Vision' Coupé
Coachwork by H J Mulliner
Registration no. GPK 222
Chassis no. B83LE
Engine no. J5BE
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. The Derby Bentley was, of course, an exclusively coachbuilt automobile; of the 2,442 manufactured, almost 50 percent were bodied by Park Ward in a limited number of styles.
Chassis number 'B83LE' was delivered in June 1938 to Robert Constantine Graseby of Venner Time Switches Ltd, Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey, a Bentley enthusiast who purchased six of the Derby-built cars, more than any other customer. Copy chassis cards on file list only one subsequent owner: Mr C C Matthews of Chobham, Surrey, from 30th December 1947.
'B83LE' is pictured on page 335 of Bernard L King's book The Derby Built Bentleys (Complete Classics, 2012) coincidentally next to another of the Gordon Willey cars in this sale, 'B95LE'. Both were bodied by H J Mulliner, this car's coachwork being in the two-door, four-light, 'high vision' style. H J Mulliner founded his company in London in 1900 and the fledgling firm soon caught the attention of The Hon C S Rolls, for whom it bodied an early Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost chassis. Decades later, Rolls-Royce would purchase the company, merging it with the already owned Park Ward to create its own in-house coachbuilder. H J Mulliner is best known for the sublime fastback body that it created for the R-Type Bentley Continental but its links with Bentley go back to the 1920s, during which decade it bodied some 240 of the Cricklewood-built cars. This association continued following Rolls-Royce's acquisition of Bentley in 1931, and for the remainder of the decade the company concentrated on bodying these two makes.
Gordon Willey acquired 'GPK 22' in February 1993 and there are two invoices on file for various works carried out by Lorenzini Autosports later that year. More recently the Bentley has been in storage with Messrs P&A Wood, whose invoice dated 12th August 2015 for minor works and storage charges is on file also. It is not known when the car was last used, though the most recent of the two MoT certificates on file expired in May 2006, and thus careful re-commissioning will be required before it returns to the road. Offered with a V5C document.