1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK

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Lot 370
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville
Coachwork by James Young Registration no. FGW 386 Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK

Sold for £ 77,660 (US$ 97,086) inc. premium
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville
Coachwork by James Young

Registration no. FGW 386
Chassis no. B38MR
Engine no. E4BK

Footnotes

  • 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 offering 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 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.

    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 on 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 1938. The overdrive transmission enabled the car to cruise at a relaxed 2,800rpm at 75mph, rather than the somewhat frenetic 3,450 revs that earlier models had needed to reach a similar speed. Lighter steering, achieved by the adoption of a Marles steering box in place of the earlier worm-and-nut type, was another feature first seen on the overdrive model. The result was one of the most pleasing of pre-war touring cars. Chassis 'B2MR' was the first example of this most desirable version of the 4¼-litre model, making this lovely car the 19th of the series. Only 202 were produced and most boasted a top speed of over 100mph in spite of weighing over 1½ tons.

    With its 4¼-litre engine, overdrive gearbox and unique James Young coachwork, 'B38MR' represents the Derby Bentley in its ultimate and most desirable incarnation. Specially built for the James Young stand at the 1938 Earls Court Motor Show, this Brougham de Ville is attributed to that great A F McNeil, arguably the most influential British coachwork designer of the inter-war years, who had joined James Young from Gurney Nutting in 1937 when it became part of the Jack Barclay group. Though Bentley's chassis records curiously refer to this car as a 'Barouche de Ville', the Brougham nomenclature was particularly appropriate for the James Young company, whose eponymous founder had taken over the established business of J K Hunter of Bromley, Kent in 1860 and became famous as the maker of the popular 'Bromley Brougham'.

    This Brougham de Ville was illustrated in the 'show numbers' of both The Autocar and The Motor. It also featured in Jack Barclay's advertising and in the company's colour catalogue, a photocopy of which is on file. It is interesting to note that it was originally described in the publicity brochure as having a sliding panel. This is not the case, as the car was originally built with a detachable three-piece section, which has its own compartment in the boot. This supremely elegant motor car remains the sole example of this model. 'B38MR' has featured in several books including 'Bentley: 50 Years of the Marque' by Johnnie Green and 'Bentley - The 1938/39 Overdrive Cars' by Messrs Frankel and Strang.

    'B38MR' was bought at the 1938 Motor Show by the Marquess of Dufferin and Ava, who retained the Bentley until shortly after the outbreak of World War Two, when it passed into the hands of (Sir) Richard Costain of Dolphin Square, London SW1. A civil engineer whose company was busily engaged in building airfields and factories throughout the country, Costain apparently used the car throughout the war, then sold it to Sir Geoffrey Winterbotham in 1946. Three other owners are recorded up to 1957, and in the 1960s the car went to the USA where it remained until the 1980s.

    Since its return home, 'B38MR' has been owned by several noted collectors, most notably C A R Howard, before coming into the vendor's possession some 14 years ago. During his custody he has endeavoured to maintain the car in the condition to which it has become accustomed, using it primarily for fair-weather drives in the Sussex countryside surrounding his home. Sadly, his use of the Bentley has declined and, although the car remains in fine overall condition, running exceptionally well, the vendor has decided that the time has come to part with it. Bills totalling in excess of £64,000 over the past 14 years attest to the fact that every effort has been made to maintain the car in impeccable driving condition. Works carried out include rebuilding both doors followed by a repaint (in 2007) fitting a new steering wheel (2014) and a recent service. The provision of a windscreen washer is the only notified deviation from factory specification. Currently taxed, the car is offered with history file and V5C registration document.

    Possessing coachwork by one of the most exceptional coachbuilders, and a fascinating history, 'B38MR' remains a rare and significant representative of one of most exclusive and desirable of all Post-Vintage British Thoroughbreds: The Derby Bentley.
Contacts
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK
1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre Brougham de Ville  Chassis no. B38MR Engine no. E4BK
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