1935 Bentley 3½-Litre 'Continental Open Tourer'
Coachwork by Vanden Plas
Chassis no. B178CR
•First owned by Mr E K Cole, proprietor of the EKCO electronics company
•'Continental Open Tourer' coachwork designed by Oxborrow & Fuller
•An older restoration
•Previously registered 'CHK 3' in the UK
•Currently registered in Holland
Although Rolls-Royce's acquisition of Bentley Motors in 1931 robbed the latter of its independence, it did at least ensure the survival of the Bentley name. Launched at Ascot in August 1933, the first of the 'Derby Bentleys', as they would come to be known, 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 20/25hp, the 3½-Litre Bentley was slightly shorter in the wheelbase and employed a tuned (115bhp) twin-SU-carburettor version of the former's overhead-valve six. 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 sports car performance in almost absolute silence. 'The Silent Sports Car', as it was swiftly dubbed, had few peers as a tireless long-distance tourer, combining as it did traditional Rolls-Royce refinement with Bentley performance and handling.
As befitted its sporting nature, the Derby Bentley was almost always fitted with owner-driver saloon or drophead coupé coachwork, the 'standard' designs being the work of Park Ward. Chassis number 'B178CR' however, was bodied by Vanden Plas, which had forged its not inconsiderable reputation by a most fortuitous alliance with Bentley, for whom it bodied some 700-or-so chassis during the 1920s, including the Le Mans team cars.
This car's first owner was Mr Eric Kirkham Cole, founder of the EKCO electronics company, who chose a body that was one of the most advanced of its day. Designed by motor dealers Messrs Oxborrow & Fuller, and produced exclusively for them by Vanden Plas, it was known as the 'Continental Open Tourer' and combined the all-weather comfort of a drophead coupé with the low weight of a sports tourer. With its concealed window glass and fold-flat convertible hood, it was certainly one of the more elegant open designs available. One can quite understand why it appealed to a man whose business was at the cutting edge of technology, though relatively few were made.
Copy chassis cards on file list several subsequent owners, the last of whom – Peter A Rockliff of Grassendale, Liverpool – acquired the Bentley in July 1958. When sold at a UK auction in 2005, 'B178CR' was described as benefiting from rebuilds of the engine and chassis, and was said to have 'recently undergone a sympathetic restoration'. Its purchaser in 2005 was the well-known Dutch collector, Franz Van Haren, who sold the car to the current (Dutch) owner in 2009. Since coming to Holland, the Bentley has been repainted in black (from magnolia) and the interior re-trimmed in brown (from black). Regularly serviced and maintained in Holland over the last 12 years, it represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire a fine example of Bentley's 'Silent Sports Car' carrying particularly stylish coachwork of an unusual design.
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