Bentley 4¼ Liter Drophead Coupe 1936
Coachwork by Park Ward
Chassis no. B57KU
Engine no. Z6BM
4,257cc 6-Cylinder Overhead Valve Engine
Twin SU Side-Draft Carburetors
4-Speed Transmission with electronic overdrive.
4-Wheel Servo Boosted Mechanical Brakes
*Originally owned by Tony Vandervell, founder of Vanwall racing team
*Factory fitted with high speed rear axle ratio
*Attractive and practical 'all-weather' coachwork
*Great car for various driving tours
THE DERBY BENTLEY
By the end of the 1930s the Derby Bentley, introduced towards the beginning of that decade following the firm's takeover by Rolls-Royce, had undergone a number of significant developments. Not the least of which was in 1936, when an increase in bore size upped the capacity to 4,257cc. Ernest Hives, who ran Rolls-Royce simultaneously while working on the Spitfire, conceived the idea of placing a tuned and modified 25/30hp engine in the chassis in lieu of the much smaller unit originally planned. It enjoyed a superior specification in Bentley form, boasting twin SU carburetors, raised compression ratio and a more sporting camshaft.
Thus, the new 4¼-Liter model offered more power than before while retaining the well-proven chassis with its faultless gear-change and servo-assisted brakes. It was the construction of modern highways in Continental Europe, where the car had been extensively tested by W.O. Bentley, that enabled him to suggest multiple improvements. This unlikely synergy gave birth to 'The Silent Sports Car', a car with unique qualities of precision construction and exceptional handling in a package which represented a true pinnacle of elegance.
The Derby Bentley was, of course, an exclusively coach-built automobile. Of the 2,442 manufactured, owner-drive, mostly by Park Ward, being the norm. The attractive and versatile drophead coupe being a particular popular style.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
According to Factory records this 4 1/4 Derby Bentley was ordered new by Vandervell Brothers, the concern run by Guy 'Tony' Vandervell, who later founded the Vanwall Racing team. The car was delivered in September 1938. It is listed on the build sheet as a saloon, but this is believed to be a mistake, which is not unheard of as orders could change with the whims of the orderer! The current Park Ward drophead is certainly original coachwork and the car is not known to have ever have been in any other form. In line with this thought, the chassis does not appear to have any additional mounting holes. Of particular interest, is the note that the car was ordered with a custom high-speed rear end, a feature which cost £360, a large amount of money, not least as the chassis itself only cost £1,150.
Information on file traces the car later passing into the ownership of The Earle of Tweeddale in Scotland, and remaining in that ownership for a number of years, before making its way to Sweden. While in Sweden, the car was owned by a very enthusiastic owner, who had used the car extensively, even installing a modern heater, so the car could be used comfortably in cooler weather. He also fitted a Laycock overdrive that further enhances the car's high-speed touring ability.
The consigner purchased the car from Sweden in 2015. At that point, it was in good order but not quite to the current owner's taste, which has resulted in a large amount of work being carried out in the last two years. This has included: the engine being fitted with a new cylinder head and high capacity oil pump, both from Fiennes Engineering; a new top, top boot and the upholstery has been redone in black leather, along with new carpets; the wings were stripped and repainted, and the under chassis extensively detailed; the radiator was also re-cored and its shell was re-plated. Added to the package is a modern heater core that makes for a true all-weather touring car.
Anyone who has ever driven a well-set up Derby Bentley will comment that they offer a refined, fast, and extremely well-balanced driving experience. Today, as a result of its refinements over the last few years it is reported to be in very good order. The benefit of its factory ordered high-speed rear axle, now combined with additional overdrive is that it makes this an unstressed and usable car for long distance events, such as the various Bentley Drivers, Rolls-Royce Owners or other club tours. All the while, it is undeniably elegant enough to grace the lawn of any Concours.
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