This supremely stylish and elegant example of master coachbuilder Gurney Nuttings work on the 4¼-Litre Derby Bentley chassis featured as 007s personal transport in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again and starred at the Pebble Beach Concours in 2003 following a ground up restoration costing in excess of $450,000.
Although Rolls-Royces 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 marques 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 20/25, the 3½-Litre Bentley was slightly shorter in the wheelbase at 10 6 and employed a tuned (115bhp), twin-SU-carburettor version of the formers 3,669cc overhead-valve six-cylinder engine. Add to this already remarkable package a synchromesh four-speed gearbox and servo assisted brakes, and the result was a vehicle offering the driver effortless high performance in almost absolute silence. The Silent Sports Car, as it was quickly dubbed, had few peers as a tireless long-distance tourer, combining as it did traditional Rolls-Royce refinement with Bentley performance and handling. An increase in bore size upped the capacity to 4,257cc in 1936, the move coinciding with the adoption of superior Halls Metal bearings. The new 4¼-Litre model offered more power than before while retaining the well-proven chassis with its faultless gear-change and servo-assisted brakes.
The Derby Bentley was, of course, an exclusively coachbuilt automobile. Of the 2,442 manufactured, almost 50 percent were bodied by Park Ward in a limited number of styles. Most of the other great British coachbuilding firms offered designs, many of them unique, on the Derby Bentley chassis. Some of the most widely admired - like that of the car offered here - were the work of J Gurney Nutting, a company associated with the Bentley marque from its earliest days and a supreme practitioner of the coachbuilding craft in the late 1930s. Founded in Croydon, Surrey in 1919, Gurney Nutting had bodied its first Bentley before moving to Londons fashionable Chelsea district in 1924, and within a few years was established as the Cricklewood firms foremost supplier of bodies after Vanden Plas.
This fruitful association continued into the Derby Bentley era of the 1930s, Gurney Nuttings most famous designs of this period being the limited series of fabulous sedanca coupés commissioned by the London-based Bentley and Rolls-Royce agents H R Owen Ltd. Chassis number B129JY, the car offered here, is one of the exclusive handful of 4½-Litre Derby Bentleys bodied in this unusual, yet most elegant, three-position drophead coupé style, each of which was unique. Included in the cars history file is a letter (dated July 16th 2002) from designer John Blatchley, identifying the body as one of his designs while at Gurney Nutting and revealing that it was one of the first to incorporate the new helmet style of front wing.
Chassis number B129JY was finally tested at Gurney Nutting on July 15th 1937 and sold new via H R Owen to first owner Miss Josefina Tarafa, of Havana, Cuba, for the recorded purpose of touring in Europe, being shipped to France in November 1937. Among the special features of John Blatcheys creation were a set of fitted luggage and the continuation of bonnet louvres through to the bulkhead. After WW2 the car passed into the ownership of Mr Jack Hamson, of Newton Mearns, Strathclyde, Scotland, who retained it until its purchase by Mr Ivor Gordon in 1972. As proprietor of Frank Dale & Stepsons, one of the worlds best known Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialists, Mr Gordon maintained the car in first class condition for the next 20 years as part of his personal collection. During this time B129JY participated regularly in Concours dElegance and other events of the Bentley Drivers Club, and was featured in numerous books on the marque. The Illustrated Rolls-Royce and Bentley Buyers Guide commented: This very pretty sedanca was built by Gurney Nutting in 1937 on chassis B129JY. Stylish open coachwork of such individuality brings top prices. Mr Gordon estimated that he covered over 12,000 miles touring Europe in the car.
One of the major episodes of the Bentleys recent history occurred when it was selected to star in the 1983 James Bond blockbuster: Never Say Never Again. Sean Connery, in his role as Bond, drove the car in several scenes, enhancing its prestige and placing it on that most exclusive of lists: that of Bond cars. The Bentley has also featured in the television series Magnum, P.I. driven by Tom Selleck, appearing in Déjà Vu, aired in September/October 1985.
In 1992, the car was sold to Mr Gert Kaiser, of Stuttgart, Germany, a well-known Rolls-Royce and Bentley collector. It returned to England in 1994 to the hands of another established Bentley collector, Anthony Moody, of Hong Kong. The car was then acquired from Mr Moody by the current American owner in December 2001.
Shipped from England, it arrived in the USA in January 2002 and was delivered to D & D Classic Auto Restoration, of Covington, Ohio to be returned to its former glory. This lengthy and painstaking process is recorded in detail in accompanying photographs depicting every stage. Also included in the sale are copies of the original chassis cards, sales sheet, dynamometer tests and coachwork drawing, assorted photographs and the 1949 continuation logbook recording change of ownership from Jack Hamson to Frank Dale Ltd.
Completed late in the summer of 2003, the ground up renovation included a total engine rebuild, complete chassis strip down and repaint, removal of body panels and complete rebuild of the timber framework retaining original wood wherever possible. During disassembly the cars original dark blue colour scheme was rediscovered. Shortly before completion in 2003, B129JY appeared at the famous Pebble Beach Concours dElegance, where it was awarded second in class, and the Louis Vuitton Classic at Domaine National de Saint Cloud, Paris, France. Following these outings the finishing touches were put to the cars restoration, bringing the total cost, excluding purchase of the car, to no less than $480,000 (£261,000).
Presented in concours condition, B129JY represents possibly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a unique example of one of the most celebrated series of bodies on the Derby Bentley chassis, offered fresh from a no-expense-spared, concours-standard restoration, with a fascinating cinematographic history.
Please note that VAT at the reduced 5% rate for historic cars will be applicable if the car remains in the EU.
- VAT at 5% is payable on the purchase price for this car