The ex-Mervyn Frankel, MR-Series 1939 Bentley 4¼-Litre Vanden Plas Style Tourer Coachwork by James Pearce Registration no. NSJ 625 Chassis no. B164MR Engine no. H4BA
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. 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 former's 3,669cc overhead-valve six-cylinder engine. Add to this already remarkable package an all-synchromesh four-speed gearbox and servo-assisted brakes, and the result was a vehicle that offered 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.
By the end of the 1930s the 'Derby' Bentley, introduced towards the beginning of that decade following the firm's take-over by Rolls-Royce, had undergone a number of significant developments, not 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 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, enabling cars to travel at sustained high speeds, that had prompted the introduction of the Hall's Metal bearings and would lead eventually to the adoption of an 'overdrive' gearbox and improved lubrication system on Bentley's peerless Grand Routier, improvements which coincided with the introduction of the 'M'-series cars in 1939.
With its 4¼-litre engine, overdrive gearbox and Vanden Plas-style tourer coachwork, 'B164MR' represents the Derby Bentley in its ultimate and most desirable incarnation. London-based coachbuilder Vanden Plas 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. The firm survived Bentley's demise and resurrection under Rolls-Royce ownership, diversifying into other makes and resuming the relationship with its old partner to produce some of the most sublime designs on the Derby Bentley chassis.
Chassis number 'B164MR' was originally bodied by Park Ward as a saloon and delivered new on 27th March 1939 to Viscount Falmouth, President of the Electrical Research Association. The engine, 'H4BA', is original to the chassis. In 1972 the Bentley was acquired by marque authority Mervyn Frankel and its restoration as a Vanden Plas-style tourer with coachwork by James Pearce was completed in 1976. 'B164MR' is featured on page 120 of Mervyn Frankel's book, 'Bentley - The 1938/1939 Overdrive Cars'. Frankel wrote that it was splendid to drive and had been used extensively in England and France.
Finished in Burgundy with black interior and matching hood, 'NSJ 625' is a generally smart 'older restoration' that has since mellowed, the paintwork exhibiting some micro blistering and a few cosmetic scratches. Seven expired MoTs on file dating back to 2005 show that the Bentley has covered a negligible mileage since that date. The odometer reading currently stands at a little under 25,000 miles and the car runs well. Additional accompanying documentation consists of a quantity of old tax discs, an invoice dated 2000 for some servicing work, and current MoT expiring in March 2013. A lovely example of a pre-war Derby Bentley in its ultimate specification with the much sought after Vanden Plas style coachwork.