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 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.
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. Some of the most widely admired designs on the Derby Bentley chassis were the work of J Gurney Nutting, a company associated with quality marques - Bentley in particular - 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 London's fashionable Chelsea district in 1924, and within a few years was established as the Cricklewood firm's foremost supplier of bodies after Vanden Plas.
Gurney Nutting's work had a sporting flavour from the outset and succeeded in attracting the attention of society's upper echelons; the Prince of Wales and Duke of York were clients, and the firm gained its Royal Warrant in the early 1930s. Daimler and Rolls-Royce had been added to the Gurney Nutting portfolio in the mid-1920s, and the fruitful association with the latter continued into the succeeding decade.
Featuring Gurney Nutting's 'sweep panel' sports saloon coachwork, chassis number 'B189CW' was delivered in March 1935 and first owned by Captain Oliver Frost. Two years later it was sold to second owner G Spence and then to Michael Panter of Goring Heath, Reading. Over the period 1983 to 1985 the Bentley was sympathetically restored by Honey Farm Restorations in Oxfordshire including a full engine overhaul, renewal of body frame timbers, full interior re-trim, repainting and re-plating, and a new convertible top. The relatively low mileage (86,000) meant that major chassis work was unnecessary and many original features could be left undisturbed. Nevertheless, the work still took some 2,250 hours.
The car was acquired from Mr Panter by its previous owner via marque specialists Frank Dale & Stepsons in 1985. Accompanying documentation includes a service bill for £600 (issued January 2009) and a mechanical condition report (2012). We are advised that the car is driving but the engine is said to need checking. Sold strictly as viewed, this handsome Derby Bentley comes complete with full tool kit and fitted luggage, and is offered with handbook (reprint), copy chassis cards and old-style logbook, six expired MoTs dating back to 2006, Swansea V5C document and MoT to April 2013.