1937 Bentley 4.5 Litre SuperchargedSOLD

Tourer

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Registration No: DXL 999
Engine No: E9BG
CC: 4250
Colour: Green / Black
Trim Colour: Black
MOT: March 2012

Reference Number 126360

as of 5/17/2011

Overview
Car 1937 Bentley 4.5 Litre Supercharged
VIN B121JY 
Mileage 83,983 miles 
Transmission Manual Shift 
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Known History

At the dawn of the 1930's with the reverberations of 'Black Friday' (29/10/1929) being felt worldwide, competition between carmakers grew increasingly desperate. Thus, while W.O. Bentley sought to refine his 8 Litre into the ultimate luxury carriage, Rolls-Royce responded by dabbling with a sports car project. Their concerns as to the branding of 'Peregrine' (as the design was labelled internally) were alleviated by Bentley's collapse in 1931. Outflanking rivals D. Napier & Son, they acquired Bentley wholesale (including W.O.'s services) for ú125,257. With a department brief that `the new car must be as unlike the Rolls-Royce models as possible' Derby engineers set about preparing 'Peregrine' for flight. Built on a double-dropped chassis carrying all round semi-elliptic leaf sprung suspension and assisted drum brakes, the newcomer used a tuned version of the Rolls-Royce 20/25's 3669cc OHV straight-six. Boasting twin SU carburettors, a wilder camshaft, strengthened con-rods and a higher compression ratio, this revamped engine developed around 120bhp (a fifty percent improvement) without compromising on refinement. Equipped with the 20/25's four-speed manual gearbox, high-geared worm and nut steering and hydraulic dampers, the resultant 'Silent Sportscar' - as the Bentley 3.5 litre soon became known - was unveiled to great acclaim at the August 1933 Ascot Races.

 

Responding to increased competition from the likes of Alvis and Lagonda, Bentley gave its customers the option of a larger 4.25 litre engine during the 1936 season. Priced at ú50, a comparatively small sum compared to the cost of a basic chassis, the new unit proved so popular that the standard 3.5 litre powerplant was soon dropped. Nicely balanced to begin with, the Derby Bentley chassis proved more than capable of handling the extra power and torque. Although, Rolls-Royce never sought to field a Works team of Silent Sportscars, it did lend a good deal of tacit support to wealthy amateur racing driver Eddie Hall. A BRDC Gold Star winner with a penchant for long distance events the latter achieved considerable success aboard chassis B-35-AE. Bodied as a lightweight tourer and fitted with a reworked 3.5 litre engine (later replaced by a similarly enhanced 4.25 litre unit), his Derby Bentley finished second overall at the 1934, 1935 and 1936 Ards Tourist Trophy races. Only defeated by the handicap system, chassis B-35-AE won its class and set the fastest lap on each occasion (78.40mph, 80.36mph and 80.81mph). Amazingly, Eddie Hall used the same car - albeit in different configurations - to recce the 1934 Mille Miglia and place eighth overall during the 1950 Le Mans 24-hours. However, the Silent Sportscar's inherent civility meant that very few were campaigned in period. Though, by the 1950's and 1960's a ready supply of rather forlorn (and correspondingly more affordable) Derby Bentleys saw more owners tempted to follow Eddie Hall's lead.

 

Beginning life as a 4.25 Litre Park Ward Sports Saloon, this particular example - chassis B-121-JY - was issued with the London County Council registration number `DXL 999' on 16th April 1937. Sold new to J.A. Davis Esq but belonging to B.F. Wood Esq of Chipsted, Surrey some twenty-three years later, it then passed to C.E. Green Esq of neighbouring Redhill before being supplied to Edwin Russell Fuller Esq of Cold Norton, Essex by gentleman dealer J.B.M Adams Esq of Warboys, Huntingdon. A member of the Vintage Sports Car Club, Russell Fuller decided to turn the Bentley into a competition car. Not content with discarding its original enclosed coachwork in favour of a lightweight 2/4-seater body, he set about making various mechanical modifications. Shorn of much of its one-shot lubrication system, the chassis had attention paid to its braking system and suspension. The former was given a more forward bias (to compensate for the car's much reduced kerb weight) while the latter was refurbished with one leaf per spring being inverted so as to lower the ride height fractionally without compromising stiffness. The factory-fitted engine (number E9BG) was mildly tuned and the fuel tank made to vent at the centre (rather than at the filler cap) so as to avoid spillage during hard cornering. Sporting a side-mounted spare wheel, cycle wings and twin aero screens, the rejuvenated `DXL 999' enabled Russell Fuller to win the VSCC's Thoroughbred Trophy for 1967 after outings at Silverstone, Curborough and Prescott etc. Returning to the famous Gloucestershire hillclimb the following year, the Bentley was pitted against the likes of J.A.F. Blight's Talbot 105, R.S. Falk's Bugatti Type 51 and W.D.A. Black's Alfa Romeo 8C 2600.

 

It is not known why but shortly thereafter Russell Fuller put the 2/4-seater into hibernation. Bought from him by A.H. Barrett of Essington, near Wolverhampton during late 1974, the car saw little use over the next eleven years (surviving MOT certificates indicate that it covered less than 400 miles between December 1975 and November 1985). Though letters on file show that Mr Barrett took an interest in his new acquisition's history; a reply from the then Secretary of the VSCC Peter Hull included the snippet: `I well remember your Bentley competing very successfully in the hands of Russell Fuller'. `DXL 999' made quite an impression on the vendor too but his attempts to secure it went unrewarded until 1985 when Mr Barrett put the 2/4-seater, together with various other vehicles, up for auction. Since entering the current ownership, the Bentley has been treated to a new alloy cylinder head complete with valves and guides (1986), rejuvenated chromework, refurbished fuel pump (1996), replacement piston rings and assorted gaskets (2000). Most of the parts were sourced from renowned Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist Fiennes Engineering of Clanfield, Oxon. The odometer shows an unwarranted 84,000 miles, a figure which would indicate that the car has covered a mere 1,500 miles over the past twenty-six years (albeit `DXL 999' was running with a faulty speedometer drive for at least some of this time).

 

Given that methanol-fuelled motorcycles are the vendor's true automotive love, it is quite something for him to say that the Bentley is the only car he has ever driven which can rival his bikes for excitement. A handsome machine finished in British Racing Green with Black wings and Black upholstery, `DXL 999' boasts such niceties as a wooden dashboard, half length tonneau cover, rear-mounted `Haydock' brown leather suitcase and Lucas Bi-Flex headlamps. Variously rated by the vendor as being in "very good" (engine, four-speed manual gearbox, electrical equipment, interior trim) or "excellent" (bodywork, paintwork) condition, the 2/4-seater comes with a continuation buff logbook, V5C registration document, assorted correspondence (Russell Fuller, Peter Hull), sundry old MOTs, various Fiennes Engineering invoices, current MOT certificate valid until March 2012 and historic class (free) road fund licence valid until 31st July 2011. Worthy of close inspection, this delightful, `matching numbers' Bentley 4.25 Litre Special has the potential to be great fun whether exercised on the road or returned to the track.