Amelia Island

9 March 2013

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Lot 146

1938 Bentley 4¼-Litre All-Weather Tourer by Thrupp & Maberly

  • Chassis no. B137LE
  • Engine no. C8BL

Sold for $225,500

126 hp, 4,257 cc OHV six-cylinder engine with twin SU carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox, front and rear semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension with live rear axle, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes with power assist. Wheelbase: 126 in.

  • Original engine, body, and London registration, FXP 472
  • One of 100 “LE” Series 4-1/4-Liter chassis built
  • Stylish Derby Bentley ideal for spirited touring

Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley Motors from W.O. Bentley in 1931, with the promise to continue building Bentley automobiles. It was easier said than done, as the company struggled for two years to build a sporting car that would attract new buyers. The personal notes of the works manager, E.W. Hives, at the factory in Crewe (Derbyshire), record the tall order: “Answer to the moods of the driver…be driven fast with safety, or will tour without fuss and noise…maximum speed should not be obtained at the expense of acceleration…controls, steering, and brakes shall be light to operate, and the braking shall be adequate for a fast car…maximum speed of the car on the road should be 90 mph, 75 mph in third gear…”

The original “Derby Bentley” was the 3-1/2-Liter, which was based upon the Rolls-Royce 20/25 chassis but with a high-performance engine with crossflow head, twin SU carburetors, higher compression ratio, and a re-profiled camshaft. In 1936, this engine was increased to 4-1/4 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 4-1/4-Liter 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, one of only 100 produced. While 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, a four-door, four-passenger convertible tourer with a fabric top that lies neatly when folded for a clean and sporting appearance and the beautiful interior fitments for which this coachbuilder was noted. Johnson accepted delivery in June 1939, as the skies over Europe darkened.

Today, B137LE retains its original bodywork, chassis, and engine, and it is a truly documented “numbers-matching” car, 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 older, correct restoration was recently cosmetically and mechanically freshened by the noted firm of David L. George Coachworks.

Handsome, powerful, comfortable, and eminently usable, this lovely Derby Bentley’s new owner will be welcomed at club events, concours d’elegance, and wherever else beautiful automobiles venture worldwide.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

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California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more