1934 Bentley 3½-Litre Drophead Coupé Coachwork by Salmons & Sons Registration no. AXM 17 Chassis no. B85AE
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 in 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 sportscar 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. The Derby Bentley was, of course, an exclusively coachbuilt automobile and as befitted its sporting nature was almost always fitted with owner-driver saloon or drophead coupé coachwork, the 'standard' designs being the work of Park Ward. Of the 2,442 examples manufactured (including the subsequent 4¼-Litre model) almost 50% were bodied by Park Ward. That offered here though, boasts three-position drophead coupé coachwork by Salmons & Sons of Newport Pagnell, one of the most commercially successful of all British coachbuilders and originators of the 'Tickford' all-weather saloon body. Originally a saloon, chassis number 'B85AE' was bodied in its current form in 1937 and is featured on page 170 of Nick Walker's book, 'A - Z of British Coachbuilders'. A beautiful sporting thoroughbred with delicate rakish lines, the car was restored in 1999 and is finished in cream over black with black mohair hood, the paintwork being in patinated though excellent order. Similarly patinated, the interior is upholstered in good stone leather with matching carpets and good woodwork. We are advised that the front seats are set forward to suit a driver of smaller stature and would need to be moved back to enable comfortable driving by a larger person, a relatively easy task. The engine bay is well detailed with all original large tools present and correct. There is a capacious trunk mounted at the rear and the car comes with matching luggage bags for the fold-back roof arms. The tool kit is located inside the trunk in two foldout trays containing a full complement of items, including the often misplaced feeler gauge. The Bentley has been in the current ownership for over a decade, benefiting from considerable expenditure to keep it in good order. Some £28,000 was spent on the engine at noted marque specialists RR&B Garages only 8,000 miles ago while more recently the radiator surround and slats were re-chromed. Numerous bills on file attest to the care this car has received. Starting instantly and pulling very strongly, the combination of a rebuilt engine and lightweight coachwork making for spirited performance. It has seen regular but sparing use over the last couple of decades, which accounts for its condition. A lovely 'Derby' Bentley, elegantly bodied by one of Britain's foremost coachbuilders, 'B85AE' is offered with copy chassis cards, sundry restoration invoices, current MoT/tax and Swansea V5 registration document.