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Bentley 4¼ Tourer 1939


1939 Bentley 4¼ Tourer

Coachwork by Dick Brockman in the style of Vanden Plas

Chassis no. B 136 MX
Engine no. T6BF

4,257cc OHV 6-Cylinder Engine
Twin SU Carburetors
Approximately 100bhp
4-Speed Manual Transmission
4-Wheel Servo Boosted Drum Brakes

*Appealing combination of light coachwork and sporting chassis
*Attractive Vanden Plas style coachwork
*Well sorted example
*Eligible for many motoring events around the world


By the end of the 1930s the Derby Bentley, introduced towards the beginning of the decade following the firm's take-over 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 25/30 Rolls-Royce 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 coachbuilt automobile. Of the 2,442 manufactured, owner-driver saloon and Drophead Coupe bodies, mostly by Park Ward, were the norm. Very few cars were bodied with more sporting bodywork. 

For the swan song of this superb motorcar, Bentley produced 200 uprated examples referred to today as the "overdrive cars". This model's four-speed transmissions featured a .85:1 over drive gear resulting in significantly lower rpms at highway-speeds. 3000 rpm produced 78 mph versus 62 mph on the standard car. The other big improvement was a Marles steering box with cam and roller mechanism. This change gave crisp and significantly lighter steering than the previous models. A modern thermostat for engine temperature regulation, 17" wheels with wide 6.50 tires and subtle changes in the instrumentation are the other features of "overdrive cars". 

Today these "overdrive" models are revered and the most sought-after Derby Bentleys for road use and touring due to their superb driving characteristics.


According to factory records B163 MX was delivered on 10th of July 1939 to Mr. John Archdale. Adorned with the popular but staid saloon coachwork by Park Ward. The car was part of the Jockey Collection and Conrad Karros Collection prior to acquisition by James Leake in the 1980s. Mr. Leake, a noted collector from Texas, commissioned English coachbuilder Dick Brockman to craft a top-quality replica of the iconic Vanden Plas sports tourer. Brockman was well versed at this body style and had produced several others for Bentley and Alvis motorcars. Brockman finished the car in silver over dark red leather interior. The instruments were fitted in a burl wood veneer dashboard. 

The VDP tourer is the iconic and most desirable offering of the Derby Bentley range. Designed in conjunction with Malcolm Campbell, it is beloved for its great looks and wonderful driving positon. The cut down door makes a huge difference in the driver's comfort during spirited driving. This body style is rare on any Derby Bentley but very few "Overdrive" cars were fitted this way from new, as documented in the definitive book on the subject Bentley The 1938/1938 Overdrive Cars" by Mervyn Frankel and Ian Strang. 

Mr. Leake's ownership ended in 1988 when Mr. Edgar Eaton, former president of Rolls-Royce Owners Club, purchased the car. During this ownership, the car was featured in the "Flying Lady" in January of 1994. After Mr. Eaton, the car found its way into William Lassiter's famous collection, and during this time, it was campaigned regularly. 

Offered today in fine mechanical order. A recent demonstration by a Bonhams specialist found it to be a well sorted and easy car to drive. Benefitting from a taller rear end ratio from stock, it further takes advantage of the overdrive gearbox. The car motors along at high speed with little strain on the engine. The cosmetics are likely original to Brockman's coachwork and have held up quite well. The coachwork is further enhanced by the full disk wheel covers. A full set of side curtains accompany the fitted top and boot.

The "overdrive cars" are revered for good reason. They seldom come to market and are rarely seen with light and sporting coachwork like this. This is a great opportunity to acquire a very user-friendly sporting Bentley.


Bentley 4¼ Tourer 1939


SOLD US$ 197,120


  • Model: Bentley 4¼ Tourer
  • Year: 1939
  • Coachbuilder: Dick Brockman
  • Designer: style of Vanden Plas
  • Seller: Bonhams
  • Country: USA
  • Contact: www.bonhams.com
  • Auction: Bonhams Amelia Island Auction
  • Auction date: 08 March 2018
  • Tags: 1939, Bentley, Bonhams, Brockman, Vanden Plas

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