Bentley Motors found itself in financial trouble at the start of the 1930s. This was due in large part to the depression in the United States and its effect on the rest of the world. Rolls-Royce purchased the trademark and the company assets in 1931. The new Bentley, as manufactured under parent company Rolls-Royce, was revealed to the public at Ascot in August of 1933 with the first deliveries of production cars not beginning until early 1934.
Because of pressure from the sales department, eager to satisfy their client's orders, and the necessity to keep alive the enormous goodwill created, a new model had to be developed quickly. Using the chassis and motor of the existing Rolls-Royce 20/25, the Bentley 3 1/2 Litre was developed. It featured the chassis of the stillborn smaller Rolls-Royce codenamed "Peregrine" along with a more powerful version of the 20/25 six-cylinder engine with a new cross-flow cylinder head and camshaft, twin SU carburettors, twin fuel pumps and single-coil ignition. Mated to a four-speed synchromesh transmission and a hypoid bevel rear axle (the first on a Rolls-Royce production car), the new 3 1/2 Litre Bentley offered performance of over 90 mph with considerable refinement. All told, 1,179 examples would leave the Derby works from 1933 to 1937, and Rolls-Royce would come to call it "The Silent Sports Car".
As with Rolls-Royce cars of the period, there was no such thing as a standard body style, and each and every Bentley built at the Derby factory would have a fully-functioning, rolling chassis (with the restyled and distinctive Bentley radiator in place) before being shipped out to the coachbuilder for a body to be placed upon it. Only a year after introducing the 3 1/2 Litre model, no fewer than fourteen coachbuilders - Arnold, Barker, Cockshoot, Freestone & Webb, Hooper, Mann Egerton, Arthur Mulliner, H.J. Mulliner, Gurney Nutting, Park Ward, Rippon, Thrupp & Maberly, Vanden Plas, and James Young - would all be building their own special bodies on this chassis. Over half the cars were built with Park Ward bodywork. The vast majority of cars featured bodies from the UK, but a handful were fitted with bodies produced in other countries.
This is one such car, which was bodied by Antem in Paris. It is one of just two Bentleys ever bodied by Antem, and the only 3 1/2 litre example. This car features characteristically French styling of the period, being more elegant and rakish than contemporary English designs, and also lacking running boards. The windscreen is extremely low and is hinged at the top to permit ventilation, or can be folded completely flat from the base.
The car was originally ordered by André Embiricos, now legendary for his subsequent order for the 1938 Streamline Bentley by Pourtout which was run at Brooklands and competed in Le Mans. Mr. Embiricos took delivery of the car in Paris, where it remained until he sold it back to Bentley Motors, who found a new home for the car in the United Kingdom. It remained there with a handful of long term owners, the last of which kept the car for over twenty years and had the car painted British Racing Green in the early 1960's. In 1978, the car was raced by a then seventy-eight year old Eddie Hall, in the rain with the top down. The car was repainted its original dark blue before being sold in the mid 1980's, eventually to Fantasy Junction, who imported the car to California.
Source: www.fantasyjunction.com & RM Auctions.
I am not a natural flatterer, I like to think that I "tell it like it is", politely I hope. So when I tell you that I am very impressed by the contents of your website, it is just not English politeness. I of course love the subject matter but you deal with it in an energetic and respectful manner. I am overwhelmed by the research that has gone into compiling the list of coachbuilders/bodybuilders for Europe and North America. I have never heard of the vast majority of them.
Congratulations on an excellent website.
- N. Maltby of Car Scene International
We use Coachbuild.com almost daily as our main reference source!
- Schloss Dyck Classic Days
We use Coachbuild.com all the time for references!
- Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance
We are very impressed by your website!
- Bicester Heritage UK