1938 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre All-Weather Tourer by Thrupp & Maberly
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Please click thumbnail for larger images
26 bhp, 4,257 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine with twin SU carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox, front and rear semi-elliptic leaf-spring suspension with a live rear axle, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes with power assist. Wheelbase: 126 in.
- A stylish Derby Bentley that is ideal for spirited touring
- One of fewer than 100 LE-series 4¼-Litre chassis
- Documented original body, chassis, engine, and registration
- Featured in Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque
- Recent cosmetic freshening by D.L. George Coachworks
The original “Derby Bentley” was the 3½-Litre, which was based on the Rolls-Royce 20/25 chassis but with a high-performance engine that had a crossflow head, twin SU carburetors, a higher compression ratio, and a re-profiled camshaft. In 1936, this engine was increased to 4¼ liters by using the new 25/30 Rolls-Royce engine, and as a result, the silky smooth “Silent Sports Car” finally found its niche, even in the waning days of the Great Depression.
In recent years, these Derby Bentleys have come into favor with collectors, as few pre-war cars offer more graceful coachwork or more fun while behind the wheel. Bentley enthusiasts recognize that the quality of a Derby Bentley is on par with Rolls-Royce, and the 4¼-Litre provides brisk acceleration, responsive handling, and a top speed above 90 mph, making it an ideal tour car. Especially appealing are open cars, such as the all-weather tourer offered here, chassis B137LE.
B137LE is an LE-specification chassis and one of only one hundred produced. While its top speed is not as high as the later LX-series cars, which were equipped with overdrive, many enthusiasts prefer the LE, as the gears are spaced more tightly together, making the car considerably more comfortable to drive at speeds below 50 mph.
Original owner J.T. Johnson had the chassis delivered to Thrupp & Maberly for the bodywork, which was a four-door, four-passenger convertible tourer with a fabric top that lies neatly when folded, for a clean and sporting appearance, and it also featured the beautiful interior fitments for which this coachbuilder was noted. Johnson accepted delivery in June 1939, as the skies over Europe darkened.
The car was later owned by an H. Phillips and then acquired in 1973 by Alfred Kohne, of Concord, Massachusetts. It soon passed into the ownership of Adrian West, the president of the Rolls-Royce Foundation and a man well-known to be very secretive about his cars. The Bentley was completely dismantled (engine taken apart, body off the chassis, and all trim, seats, etc. removed) for a body off restoration before Mr. West became ill and passed away. Mr. West’s girlfriend inherited the car and then sold it to William and Mary Ford of Maryland in 2007. The Ford’s commissioned DL George Historic Motorworks who completed the restoration begun by Mr. West. http://dlgeorgecoachworksltd.com/ The car has recently been inspected by Roger Ford, noted expert of pre and post war Rolls-Royce and Bentley, and found it to be in superb condition and authentic.
Today, B137LE retains its original bodywork, chassis, and engine, and it is a truly documented “matching-numbers” car that is complete with a side-mounted Continental touring spare and finished in period-correct deep blue over black, with blue leather upholstery and walnut trim. Adding additional flair are the imposing headlamps, driving lamp, and accessory horn, as well as a nearly complete tool kit, providing all the necessities for spirited silent motoring. The car is pictured in all its glory on page 113 of the definitive Bentley volume All The Pre-War Bentleys – As New by Stanley Sedgwick and on page 201 of Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque by Johnnie Green.
The new owner of this handsome, powerful, comfortable, and eminently usable Derby Bentley will be welcomed at club events, concours d’elegance, and wherever else beautiful automobiles may venture worldwide.
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