The Bentleys produced in tandem with Rolls-Royce in the 1930s are commonly referred to as a “Derby,” since they were built in the shared Rolls-Royce and Bentley Motors Works in Derbyshire, England. The 3½-Litre Bentley was introduced to the public at Ascot Race Course in August 1933. Powered by a larger and sportier version of the small Rolls-Royce 20/25 engine, it was well-received by the press and public alike, and 1,191 were sold between 1933 and 1937, overlapping the 4¼-Litre Bentley, which replaced it.
Rolls-Royce had acquired Bentley Motors in 1931 in a hand-shake agreement with W.O. Bentley, promising to continue to produce cars with the Bentley badge. Promising to do so was one thing, but actually doing it was another. The company struggled for two years to design and produce an appropriate car that would respect the “W.O. Bentley” sporting and racing heritage rather than the more stately cars carrying the Rolls-Royce badge. The early 1930s were challenging times financially, and Rolls-Royce approached the new Bentley model prudently, carefully managing production costs, while creating an exciting car to attract new car buyers.
To limit re-tooling costs, the Bentley 3½-Litre was based on the Rolls-Royce 20/25 hp chassis. The new Bentley engine was re-configured from the 20/25’s 2¾-liter motor by increasing displacement, adding a new cross-flow head, twin SU carburetors, higher compression ratio and a re-profiled camshaft. The result was a fast, smooth, long-lasting, responsive and excellent-handling car that was marketed as “The Silent Sports Car.” The Derby Bentley rapidly became the favored car for the boy- and girl-racers of the day.
In recent years the Derby Bentley has come into great favour with collectors world wide, not just British car enthusiasts. Few pre-war cars carry more graceful coachwork, nor offer more fun behind the wheel, than the Derby Bentleys of the 1930s.
Bentley enthusiasts have always recognized that the quality of the car is on par with everything else Rolls-Royce has produced, yet the 3½-Litre Bentley also provides brisk acceleration and responsive handling, and with a top speed of over 90 mph, its low-revving engine can cruise all day at freeway speeds. It is deservedly one of the most popular tour cars in club events. The cars are ideal for the serious enthusiast who loves to drive.
Rolling off the production line on 5th April 1934, this beautiful Bentley was delivered as a Park Ward Close-Coupled Saloon to Mr. George Thompson Crombie, a descendent of the Crombie Woollen Mills of Aberdeen, and makers of the famous Crombie coat, possibly the most iconic overcoat of all time. After Mr. Crombie’s ownership the Bentley was passed to a Mr. R. Appleton of Beckenham, and later a Mr. G. Huskinson of Langar in Leicestershire. Four owners in total are recorded until 1988, at which point the car passed to a Mr. Purcell in Hampshire. Mr. Purcell was a fastidious owner, logging maintenance and repairs in a book which we have on file, and totalling just under £20,000 of expenditure during his tenure.
The classically proportioned, Vanden Plas-style, four-seat open tourer coachwork is widely recognised as one of the most pleasing ever to clothe the Bentley chassis. As such it was decided some time ago that a Vanden Plan style body was to be commissioned and fitted to chassis B155AE.
In 1997 B155AE passed to a Mr. Restell in Kent, who took on the mantle of this lovely Bentley. Much of the work was entrusted to Rolls and Bentley specialists Sarjents of Goudhurst and James Pearce of Sandgate, with many parts sourced from Fiennes Restoration. Notably the engine was rebuilt with a new head, and a new rear axle was fitted. Mr. Restell spent a further £30,000 in his ownership before the car passed to the current vendor.
Our vendor, a Bentley collector, has owned B155AE since 2006, and during this time has been diligent in maintaining its upkeep. In the last year alone a large amount of maintenance and repair work has been entrusted to Milford Vintage Engineering of Perthshire. Attention has been given to (amongst other areas) the drivetrain, brakes, suspension, fuel system (including tank), ignition, and interior, in addition to comprehensive servicing work. We have observed further invoices to the tune of c. £20,000 since 2015, and in total c. £27,000 in the current ownership. Such is his confidence in the Bentley that our vendor chose to drive the car himself from Scotland to Coys showroom in Surrey, a distance in the region of 400 miles.
The result of a huge amount of efforts over a number of years is a very well sorted, beautiful vintage Bentley which is very much on the button and ready to enjoy to the full.