There was no greater exponent of the art of special building using Bentley's Crewe-built chassis than the late Derry Mallalieu a Bugatti owner/driver of some repute - who created his first Mark VI based special while resident in America. So striking was the first car that Mallalieu, at that stage a skilled but nevertheless amateur constructor, built two further cars to special order before returning to the UK to set up business on a commercial basis in the outskirts of Abingdon in the 1970s. Early cars carried traditional ash framed coachwork with aluminium panelling however later cars adopted steel frames which proved more robust. The standard Mallalieu formula involved lowering the chassis with an underslung rear end and setting the generally unmodified engine back in the chassis. His 'tour de force' was undoubtedly the coachwork design having first consigned the original formal MarkVI or R-type coachwork to the scrapyard. The lowered radiator of Mallalieu's cars was compensated for by an enlarged header tank, thus not compromising the cooling on these fast road cars. Although Mallalieu cars were bespoke and detailed to the buyers' requirements, the main models offered were the four-seater 'Barchetta' and the infinitely prettier, two-seater 'Oxford' with styling one feels perhaps influenced by pre-war SS and Squire sports cars. The Mallalieu offered all that was best from post war Rolls-Royce/Bentley engineering (and there can be no doubt that Bentley's Mark VI and R-type cars were world beaters) combined with coachwork built and designed in the best vintage traditions.
Although Derry Mallalieu died in 1975 the business was briefly carried on by his family and others before the harsh economic reality of small scale, high quality production took its toll the last cars were priced at £45,000 for which at the time one could buy an almost new latest model Bentley. The bespoke Mallalieu was simply priced out of the market.
Mallalieu Engineering is recorded in February 1977 as the registered keeper of KLH 482 in the old style green log book offered with this car. The date of first registration (in London) is recorded as 1st March 1949 and the car was originally a saloon. It appears that the car in its present form was completed by November 1978 at which time it is recorded in the ownership of Vincent Duggan of Smethwick, for whom it was presumably constructed. Listed and illustrated in Ray Roberts' standard work Bentley Specials and Special Bentleys, subsequent owners of KLH 482 are recorded as Bentley aficionados Ian Pitkethly and Ray Cutler. In 1988 it was sold at auction at Brocket Hall to H.G.Wilson of Harpenden. At some stage it passed through the workshops of respected up-market restorer D.A.C Royle of Staindrop, although work completed there is not recorded on file.
During the present ownership, in the hands of a dyed-in-the-wool Bentley enthusiast and engineer/ driver, the car has been significantly enhanced over a four year period. The Mark VI engine has been replaced with a Bentley S1 4.9 litre unit which, prior to fitting, was fully stripped, found to be in exceptionally original condition and reassembled with new rings, gaskets etc, and the valves reground. The pistons and bearings were found to be standard and virtually unworn. A new clutch was fitted, the brakes were rebuilt as necessary and new tyres, tubes, rear lights and battery fitted. The coachwork has been re-painted in its original British Racing Green livery, contrasting with the beige leather upholstery, and the car is equipped with good hood, tonneau cover and side screens.
This smartly presented thoroughbred sports car is offered with a good history file and old style Swansea registration documents. Eligible and eminently suitable of course for both Bentley and Rolls-Royce club touring events, one cannot help thinking too that, with its 4.9 litre engine now fitted, KLH 482 would be a useful car in historic competition.