Description1938 Bentley 4¼-litre Drophead Coupé by Vanden Plas.
For Sale: This is a simply lovely example of a classic Derby VDP drophead, superbly restored, fastidiously maintained and absolutely welcome anywhere.
Chassis Number: #B53 LE
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.
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 whilst retaining the well-proven chassis with its faultless gear change and servo-assisted brakes.
The Derby Bentley was, of course, an exclusively coach-built automobile. Of the 2,442 manufactured, almost 50 per cent were bodied by Park Ward in a limited number of styles and most of the remainder went to other British coachbuilders including Vanden Plas. London-based VDP had forged its not inconsiderable reputation by a most fortuitous alliance with Bentley, bodying some 700-or-so of the latter’s chassis during the 1920s, including the Le Mans team cars.
We have in our showroom a 1938 Derby Bentley 4¼-litre Vanden Plas DHC (#B53 LE) that was one of two examples exported to Czechoslovakia before the war. Some years later it returned to the UK and was issued with the registration mark FUW 415.
The car was subsequently sold in the late eighties as a restoration project and the passionate team at Clanfield Coachbuilding near Witney were entrusted with returning the VDP coachwork to its pristine best and they, in turn, tasked the Nottingham-based specialists, Ristes Motor Company, with all things mechanical. When all the associated parts were reunited, it was refinished in its original Burgundy with a retrimmed Magnolia leather interior and a light Tan soft top and the associated invoices from the time (early nineties) equate to a near £100,000 restoration in today’s money.
The quality of this restoration is evident by the way it looks some thirty years later. The paintwork retains a deep shine, the panel gaps are ‘coach-builder perfect’, the Magnolia leather and cream carpets gently patinated, the cross-banded Burr Walnut veneers are exquisite, the engine bay a delight and the underside is show standard.
In 2010, B53LE was purchased by its current owner who has enjoyed 23,000 miles of club events and European Tours in the car, maintaining it to a very high standard and presenting it so well. The car has been upgraded with Overdrive and flashing direction indicators fitted however, pleasingly, the original semaphores have been retained and work simultaneously.
This is a simply lovely example of a classic Derby drop head, superbly restored, fastidiously maintained and would be welcome anywhere.