'... the ability to traverse the rapidly crowding roads of Great Britain in less time, and with less effort, were points strong in its favour.' Johnny Green on the 3½-Litre, Bentley, 50 Years of the Marque. 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 at Ascot in August 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 sports car 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.
This particular Derby Bentley has been re-bodied with classically proportioned, Vanden Plas-style, four-seat open tourer coachwork favoured by the works for its Le Mans team cars and widely recognised as the most pleasing ever to clothe the Bentley chassis. In this form the Bentley, with its leather-strapped bonnet, classical radiator design and British Racing Green livery, became a legend in motor racing history and the archetypal Vintage sports car. Conversions such as this have been popular with enthusiasts for many years, combining as they do the Vintage-period, Cricklewood cars' charismatic looks with the more advanced and user friendly technology of the post-Rolls-Royce take-over, Derby-built Bentleys of the 1930s.
As befitted its sporting nature, the Derby Bentley was almost always fitted with owner-driver saloon or drophead coupé coachwork, the 'standard' designs being the work of Park Ward. Chassis number 'B149AE' however, was originally bodied with sports saloon coachwork by H J Mulliner and first owned by one J T Johnson. The car is pictured on page 272 of Michael Ellman-Brown's book Bentley: The Silent Sports Car and on page 171 of Johnnie Green's Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque. Its original registration was 'AXU 134'. The full restoration of 'B149AE' had already been started when the current owner purchased the car in 1987. Undertaken by marque specialists Fiennes Engineering, the work was completed in 1991 (see invoices and work sheets on file). Finished in green with brown leather interior, this charming combination of Vintage style and more modern technology is offered with the aforementioned restoration records, current MoT/tax and Swansea V5 registration document.