The 3 & 1/2 litre Bentley was peerless in its time for combining the attributes of a high performance sports car with good springing and a comfortable ‘town-carriage’, exemplified in previous years for example by the 45 h.p. Hispano-Suiza and the Lanchester 40. In the introduction to its first catalogue, Bentley announces that its “arrival has proved that Performance and Peace can now be reconciled”.
This particular car is truly historic in the annuals of the marque for being the first registered ‘Derby Bentley’. Originally owned by the factory, she was regularly used as a ‘Trials Car’ (an in-house term for a ‘Press vehicle’). She was also used to launch the model to the public and VIP’s and was test-driven by such luminaries as W. O. Bentley, Sir Malcom Campbell, Wolff Barnato, and The Earl of March (later Duke of Richmond & Gordon), among many other notable clients and journalists. She has featured in various period brochures and later in several reference books on the marque including: Johnnie Green’s fine Bentley, fifty years of the marque and Bentley, past and present by Rivers Fletcher.
In terms of competition driving, the experienced racing driver E. R. Hall used a specially designed open-bodied 3 & 1/2 litre chassis in the 1934 Ulster Tourist Trophy race; notably this was the first time that Derby had taken an official part in motor sport competition since the 1913 Alpine Trial. This model’s versatility and longevity are amply demonstrated too by achieving first in class at Shelsley Walsh’s hill-climb, also in 1934, and a fine performance at the 1950 Le Mans 24 hours race where it clocked an average speed of 82.9 mph..
After 85 years, remarkably, she still wears her original Park Ward bodywork number C.602. (It should be noted as well that this number marks the very first of Park Ward’s production bodies.) The engine is the correct unit originally installed into this chassis and bears the number Z8BA. Rebuilt in the 1990’s/early 2000’s she still drives beautifully while being regularly exercised!
A fine-looker, she also represents a very important part of Bentley’s company history.
Displayed courtesy of Club member Graeme Hunt from Monday 22 October to Sunday 28 October 2018.