Bentley 4¼-Litre Cabriolet 1936 by Antem
One off coachwork by Antem of Paris.
Chassis no. B260GA
Ordered new by André Embiricos
•One-off specification and a stunning design
•Well documented ownership history
•Jeff McDonald concours restoration
•Superbly presented Derby Bentley with original and unique coachwork
The unique Bentley motor car offered here was delivered new to the Paris-based Greek shipping magnate and racing driver, André Embiricos, who had owned a succession of Bentleys, including the famous aerodynamic 4¼-Litre coupé designed by Georges Paulin, commencing in the 1930s.
The Derby Bentley was, of course, an exclusively coachbuilt automobile and as befitted its sporting nature was almost always fitted with owner-driver saloon or drophead coupé coachwork, the 'standard' designs being the work of Park Ward. For this Bentley 4¼-Litre's body, Embiricos chose Jean Antem of Courbevoie, Seine. Antem had established his coachbuilding business in 1919 and over the course of the next 30-plus years would body all kinds of chassis in a wide variety of styles. Carrosserie Antem manufactured series-production bodies for La Licorne and Ariès during the 1930s while reserving his bespoke creations for quality marques such as Bugatti, Delahaye, Hispano Suiza and, of course, Bentley. Jean Antem's work is rarely encountered today; regular contenders at the most prestigious Concours d'Élégance events, these Antem-bodied cars are rare and sought-after.
When Embiricos ordered this car, the 4¼-Litre Bentley chassis, developed from the preceding 3½-Litre, was the finest that the wealthy sporting motorist could aspire to. 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, 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 braking. Land speed record holder Sir Malcolm Campbell appreciated its formidable performance, praising the 'absolute perfection' of the Bentley's engine, handling, and braking. In total, 1,177 3.5-Litre cars had been built and a further 1,234 of the successor 4¼-Litre model prior to the cessation of production in 1939.
Embiricos's passion for speed undoubtedly influenced this Bentley's specification and resulted in its wonderfully sleek styling. The overall impression of fluidity is accentuated by the surprisingly low windscreen - an Antem trademark – and the line of the body that slopes down towards the tail. The hood retracts completely within the body behind the rear seat, while its painted dashboard gives the leather-upholstered interior a sporting feel. The exhaust outlet is incorporated into the left rear wing, another subtle detail. Embiricos also specified a high axle ratio (11:43).
According to records held by the Rolls-Royce Owners Club, Embiricos exported the Bentley to the USA in April 1940, just ahead of the German invasion of France, and kept it until March 1945. The car subsequently passed through the hands of several owners in the USA's North East (all known, list available) before being acquired in the early 1960s by Mr Byron White of Rhode Island, who would own it for the next 40-or-so years. Between 1985 and 2002, Mr White had the Bentley restored to a high standard.
The next owner, Charles Morse, acquired the Bentley in 2004 and delivered it to Jeff McDonald's workshop in Oregon for restoration to concours standard. An expert in the restoration of pre-war Bentley and Rolls-Royce motor cars, Jeff McDonald is a highly respected specialist whose enviable body of work includes the 'Best of Show' award winner at Pebble Beach in 2016. Accompanying invoices show that the car was stripped down to the chassis; the body frame and panelling repaired; and all the mechanical components refurbished as necessary. In 2014, the next owner bought the car and completed the restoration, entrusting the paintwork and upholstery to Navarette Classic Design & Paint and Aquilera's Custom Upholstery respectively.
Today, this unique Bentley retains its correct period accessories, including Marchal lights, and comes with a comprehensive folder containing the (copy) build sheets, list of owners, restoration bills (inspection recommended), tool kit, jack, and an original Bentley 4¼-Litre instruction book.
This car features in R-ROC and R-REC records, and is listed in 'Bentley: The Silent Sportscar' by Michael Ellman-Brown; 'All The Pre-war Bentleys' by Stanley Sedgwick; and 'The Derby Built Bentleys' by Bernard L King. Offered with US title EU customs clearance, this beautiful 4¼-Litre cabriolet is the perfect combination of Antem's talents and Bentley's engineering excellence.
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