Derby History

After a period of reflection and prevarication, Rolls-Royce decided that a sportier version of its 20/25 model could establish a niche for itself in the marketplace as a luxury sports tourer. Having explored various options, it was decided to power the new 'Bensport' with a more highly tuned version of the 20/25 unit - a six-cylinder, pushrod engine fitted with twin S/U carburettors, increased compression, improved con rods and modified cam profiles, with a capacity of 3669cc. Built at Derby alongside Rolls-Royce and launched in September as the 3½-litre Bentley, this car possessed excellent handling characteristics and could achieve a top speed of 97mph when fitted with lightweight bodywork. However, like all products designed under the influence of Sir Henry Royce, it was imbued with some of the most complicated design solutions for any car of the period. Nevertheless, it caught on and proved immensely popular without affecting sales of its parent marque. Very soon, this new Bentley was christened 'The Silent Sports Car' - a name it is still closely associated with.

So popular was this car with famous motoring personalities of the day, Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd was able to publish a publicity brochure with photographs and endorsements from such racing celebrities as Sir Malcolm Campbell, Captain George Eyston, Captain Woolf Barnato (later Director of Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd), ER Hall, Raymond Mays, Fl Lt CS Staniland, Prince Birabongse of Siam, Captain Archie Frazer Nash, AC Dobson, Billy Cotton (of Band fame), T Rose Richards and H Rose.

So impressed with the potential of this latest Bentley after using his personal example as a practice car for the Mille Miglia that year, ER (Eddie) Hall decided that it could provide him with a suitable entry for the Ulster Tourist Trophy races held each year in Northern Ireland. He, therefore, set about modifying it for the purpose. Hall had Offord fit a lightweight body, liberally utilising aluminium and electron materials. Despite setting its face against racing, Rolls-Royce, reasoning that this car was a private entry and so not potentially a source of adverse publicity in the event of failure, assisted Hall by improving the output from his engine from the standard 120hp, to a useful 131hp. Eddie Hall finished a very creditable second in the race, a result he repeated with the same car in 1935, and again in 1936 when it was fitted with the enlarged 4¼-litre version of the engine. He also entered the car for Le Mans in 1936, but the race was cancelled with a week's notice owing to excessive industrial and civil unrest in France at that time, a situation that resulted in Ettore Bugatti being locked out of his own factory elsewhere in France.

Rolls-Royce introduced the enlarged capacity 4255cc engine to the car, in response to a perception that the model was underpowered. The new model was called, not unsurprisingly, the 4¼ Litre Bentley.

The 4¼ Litre, chassis B27LE, fitted with the streamlined body manufactured by the Parisien coachbuilders, Pourtout, left the factory during that summer. This car, better known as the Embiricos Bentley, later achieved a maximum speed of 118mph on a German autobahn the following year.

The Mark V model was launched at the 1939 Motor Show. Sadly, the War intervened and only nine examples of this promising model were ever delivered to private owners, making them something of a collector's item today.

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