60 Beauties Gather at Bentley’s Dream Factory
Bentley Motors rolled out the red carpet for 60 stunning Bentleys from the ‘Derby era’ at their Crewe factory, marking the 90th anniversary of the Bentley 3½ Litre. Commonly and affectionately dubbed the ‘Derby Bentley’, these cars hold a special place in the brand’s legacy.
Last Friday, in an event that can only be described as a luxurious blast from the past, The Silent Sports Car Club, the aficionados behind these magnificent vehicles, led a parade of cars to the Bentley’s Dream Factory in Crewe.
Over 100 guests were given an immersive experience – from tours of the campus and the freshly spruced-up Heritage Collection, to a peek inside the renowned Mulliner workshops.
Guests were treated to the sight of Bentley’s very own 1934 3½ Litre Derby, complete with coachwork by Thrupp & Maberley, showcased in the new Lineage area, alongside eight pre-war cars of the Heritage Collection.
And the next day, all eyes were on a unique gem – the solo 1939 MkV Corniche, which was back on the road after an 84-year hiatus, and was the star at a black-tie dinner honouring the Derby Bentleys.
The gathering in Cheshire was a veritable walk through the annals of car history. With each Derby Bentley displaying a myriad of coachwork styles, they represented the craftsmanship of over 40 independent coachbuilders from the 1930s.
The diversity was evident, ranging from chassis B1 SAE, one of the original launch cars from 1933, to chassis 3-B-50, the sole survivor of four experimental six-cylinder saloons from 1939.
The Era That Defined Bentley
Producing up to 500 cars annually, the Derby period was significant for Bentley. Not only did it introduce the 3½ Litre and its successor, the 4¼ Litre, it marked Bentley’s first production phase under Rolls Royce.
Moreover, it gave the world some notable standouts like the streamlined ‘Embiricos’ coupe of 1938 and the recently restored 1939 MkV Corniche. Both played pivotal roles in moulding the design DNA of the 1950s Bentleys and influencing the Continental GTs.
All About the Silent Sports Car
Under the bonnet of the Derby Bentley was a six-cylinder, 3½ litre engine, delivering a commendable 120 bhp for its time. Renowned for its sophistication, agility, and elegance, the Derby’s synchromesh gearbox was a significant improvement from its predecessors. Its enhanced springs and sturdier chassis ensured unparalleled handling.
Notably, despite their superior quality and agility, the Derbys were priced up to £400 cheaper than their Cricklewood forerunners, making them accessible to a broader audience. These cars, especially the 3½ Litre, won the endorsements of many, including racing legends Sir Malcolm Campbell and Archie Frazer-Nash.
By 1939, the 4 ¼ Litre model, introduced as an upgrade with a wider cylinder bore and some cosmetic tweaks, surpassed the production numbers of the earlier 3½ Litre.
A Story Worth Remembering
The history of Bentley’s own 1934 3½ Litre Derby, chassis number B53AE, is intriguing. Initially owned by Alex Mitchell of Tulliagan Castle in Scotland, it later journeyed across the Atlantic. Found in a Massachusetts barn in 1968, it finally came under the care of Bentley Motors in 2004, after being in possession of Charles H. Wolfe of Lancaster, Philadelphia.
With this memorable gathering, Bentley not only celebrated a milestone but also paid tribute to an era that significantly shaped its legacy. The event was a testament to the brand’s enduring appeal and the timeless allure of the Derby Bentley.