1936 Bentley 4¼-Litre Sports Saloon Coachwork by Park Ward Ltd Registration no. DNU 105 Chassis no. B170HK Engine no. J7BZ
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 the 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.
The Derby Bentley was, of course, an exclusively coachbuilt automobile. Of the 2,442 manufactured, almost 50 percent were bodied by Park Ward in a limited number of styles and this example is typical of the firm's popular sports saloon. 'B170HK' was sold new to Thomas Leonard (Len) Ward of Cokhay near Repton, son of the famous steel magnate, Thomas William Ward of Sheffield. He purchased 'B170HK' from Hugh Keller of Paddon Bros, Cheval Place, London SW7 whose nameplate is on the inner sill. The car is pictured on page 61 of 'Rolls-Royce the Derby Bentleys' by Alec Harvey-Bailey.
Registered 'DNU 105', the Bentley was finished in dark grey with black wings, plain un-louvred front apron painted black, black horns fitted beneath the apron, black radiator shutters, black head and side lamps, and dark grey leather trim and carpets. Hugh Keller favoured black-finished shutters and lamps and must have influenced Mr Ward in deciding the final specification, details of which are recorded on copies of the original order form and chassis cards on file. Instructions were given for the plated parts of the stop lamp and driving mirror to be sprayed to match the body. The car was still in this colour scheme when bought by subsequent owner William Morrison (see below), much of the original paint being faded and worn through to the primer.
Len Ward and his wife, Constance, undertook a number of Continental tours with the car and a number of the early trips featured in various issues of 'On The Road', the pre-war Bentley factory publication sent to owners. The car was serviced at the Derby works pre-war and at Crewe thereafter. Len died in 1960 but 'Connie' kept the Bentley, only parting with it in 1979. She regretted this and bought it back in 1983, keeping the car in the heated garage at Cokhay and occasionally running the engine. In 1988 the Bentley was offered for sale at auction and purchased by rally/racing driver Peter Harper, who passed it on in January of the following year to a Mr Howell, who owned it but briefly. Its next owner (from July 1989) was Peter Riley, the ex-BMC works Healey driver and husband of Ann Wisdom.
Previous owner William 'Will' Morrison bought the Bentley from Peter Riley in November 1995 at 95,200 miles. Peter Riley had had the engine rebuilt by A B Price at 93,800 miles but the body remained highly original. A modern oil filter conversion was fitted at this time. Will Morrison started the rebuild himself but had to pass the car to John Williams of Chesterton Restorations for repair work to the extreme tail, front doors and front wings. New running boards (steel as original) were made by John and new rear wings by a company in Bicester. The Bentley was then sent to Clanfield Restorations who removed the body, meanwhile Fiennes Restoration Ltd carried out the chassis work required. All four road springs were tested and reset, new shackles and bushes being fitted. New kingpins were fitted together with other pins and bushes. A new pinion bearing was installed, the radiator re-cored and the Bijur system checked. The body was stripped to bare metal and repainted in the original colours, matched by ICI. A new sunroof frame (the largest ash section in this steel body) was made.
After re-assembly, the car was re-commissioned. Alpine Eagle fitted a new headlining but did not have the time to re-trim as the 2001 rally season was approaching, so Gary Wright of Milton Keynes trimmed the interior. The original grey leather on the door panels, seat bases and front seat backs was retained but the faces of the seats had to be re-upholstered in Connolly hide. Made and fitted by Gary Wright, the new Wilton carpets were matched to the grey originals. Much enjoyed since the rebuild's completion, 'DNU 105' took part in Neil Fraser's 70th Birthday weekend in 2003. There is an excellent water-splash picture in 'Flying Lady' (March/April 2004 edition).
Over the winter of 2003, the oil and water pumps were rebuilt, new rear hubs fitted and the prop shaft balanced. On 22nd May 2004, 99,999 miles was recorded on the odometer, this momentous occasion being photographed by Will Morrison on the roads near his home, since when a further 6,000-or-so miles have been covered. The current owner bought the Bentley from Will Morrison in January 2012.
Exceptionally well documented, 'DNU 105' comes with several files of paperwork, close inspection of which is strongly recommended. These contain invoices for restoration and maintenance between 1995 and 2012 totalling almost £100,000; a photographic record of the extensive restoration works carried out by Fiennes; copies of old V5 registration documents; current V5C; and 18 MoT certificates covering (incompletely) the period from 1991 to 2012 when the car had covered 105,000 miles. In addition, 'DNU 105' comes with the original owner's handbook (stamped with the chassis number by the factory); a rare 'condensed' version of the handbook, appropriate to the 1936 model year; a complete Derby Bentley Technical Manual; a bound edition of 'On The Road' magazines featuring photographs of the car on tour; and many original photographs of it with the Ward family in the 1930s/1940s. Also included in the sale is the original 'town' radiator cap, which was specified by the first owner (the one currently fitted is a genuine 1936 'Flying B' pressurised radiator cap and mascot).