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1939 Bentley 4 ¼ Litre (Overdrive)

Year : 1939
Make : Bentley
Model : 4 1/4 Litre (Overdrive)
Coachbuilder : Vanden Plas
Price : P.O.A.
Body Type : Open Tourer
Colour : Honeysuckle Gold
Trim : Red Leather
Condition : Very good throughout
Technical Data : Four speed manual gearbox, 6 cylinder in-line engine, 4.25 litres displacement, 4257cc capacity. Servo-assisted brakes.


During the late 1920s and early 1930s Bentley ran into grave financial trouble and by 1931 Rolls-Royce had stepped in and bought the assets and goodwill of the defunct company and formed a new one, Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd. Rolls-Royce had considered the Bentley marque to be a growing threat to their future success, but following their purchase decided to continue the Bentley name, albeit under their own stewardship, taking the company in an entirely new direction with the creation of the Silent Sports Car or Derby Bentley. In 1933 the new Bentley 3.5 Litre model was released and was an instant success. The combination of effortless power and style met with almost universal praise. It was powered by a developed twin carburettor version of Rolls-Royces own 20/25 model and was installed in a low 126 inch wheelbase chassis that basically remained unaltered until the cessation of production in 1939 due to the outbreak of hostilities. Synchromesh was present on third and fourth gears and the Derbys were fitted with a cross flow cylinder head and superb servo assisted brakes, encapsulating all of the perfection of Rolls-Royce engineering in this small sporting Bentley. Fitting of individual coachwork by approved body builders continued in true Rolls-Royce fashion giving potential buyers a great deal of choice in the look of their new motor car. 1936 saw further improvements with the introduction of the 4.25 Litre model when production of the 3.5 Litre unit ceased. Steady development continued throughout the cars production and in late 1938 even more power was obtained when the overdrive models were introduced, which were known as the MX/MR series cars. The original Bentley sales literature outlined the key improvements that improved the overdrive cars performance which included the provision of an overdrive gearbox which would allow the car to attain a greater maximum speed without exceeding maximum engine revolutions. The steering was of improved design, providing greater control under all conditions. Modified gear ratios and slight engine modifications also improved acceleration under certain conditions. The slower running engine coupled with the over drive top gear resulted in greater silence and smoothness. And finally centralised chassis lubrication and automatic shock absorbers with over-riding hand control were fitted. The MX/MR models were truly the ultimate incarnation on the Derby chassis and are still very much sought after some seventy years on. Just two hundred chassis examples were created, finding their way to lucky owners with a variety of coachwork designs. Chassis No B154MR is arguably one of the most famous Derby Bentleys left in existence and is commonly known as Honeysuckle, due to the colour of its coachwork. The car was ordered by Captain E. Molyneaux and its original coachwork by Thrupp & Maberley was removed and placed on Chassis No B35MX, which was also owned by Captain Molyneaux. Vanden Plas made a new body for Chassis No B154MR and delivered the car in June of 1939 to Mrs Smith-Bingham. There seems to be some confusion about why the coachwork was changed, and who ordered this to take place. In later years the car was owned by Mr Hugh Sinclair, Mr William Riley and The Hon. William Douglas-Home, playwright and brother of former Prime Minister Sir Alex Douglas-Home. In 1951, following the cessation of hostilities, the car was acquired by Johnnie Green. Mr Green owned the car for thirty five years and it subsequently has appeared in numerous books due to its fame, unusual colour and its beauty. In 1986 Mr Green sold the car to Mr Charles Howard who kept it until 1993 when he sold it to Mr Don Williams of the Blackhawk Collection in California. More recently, the car has been owned by a British collector. The car was still attractive when we saw it in 2013 but it required fairly significant works to bring it back to showroom condition. These works have now been completed, which included but were not limited to full coachwork restoration, chrome re-plating, new carpets, a new hood, a new hood cover to match the interior leather, a re-wire and full mechanical preparation. The spare wheel cover was also replaced with a more delicate and attractive design to enhance the rear profile of the car. It now drives superbly and is in excellent cosmetic condition. Chassis No B154MR is one of just four cars fitted with open tourer style coachwork by Vanden Plas on the overdrive 4.25 Litre chassis.

If you would like to make an enquiry about this vehicle, please contact us by phone on 020 8847 5447 or by email at