The ‘Derby Bentley’ is widely regarded as the most sophisticated car that money could buy in the 1930’s. The chassis was remarkable in that it offered the driver effortless sports car performance in almost absolute silence. This was achieved with a six cylinder engine with a synchromesh four-speed gearbox, with servo assisted braking and with a one-shot central lubrication system. If this was not enough the car also had the benefit of adjustable rear suspension and a chassis damper that doubled as a front bumper. The engine had a cross flow cylinder head with SU carburettors, a crankshaft damper and roller cam followers. A favourite feature was the thermostatically operated radiator shutters that open and close to regulate the engine temperature. Originally only available with a 3½ Litre engine the more powerful 4¼ Litre option became available in 1936. In a typically understated way Rolls-Royce had created one of greatest automobiles of the day, the “Silent Sports Car” and it is not surprising that so many notable figures, celebrities and racing drivers of the day owned them.

This Car

Registration No: EYX 400
Chassis No: B 169 LE
Engine No: B 8 BM
Vanden Plas Body No: 3645 (Black) Ordered by Bentley for stock
Body Design: 1341 at a cost of £ 395

Chassis B 169 LE is an original Vanden Plas “All Weather Tourer” and is one of only 19 that were built with this design coachwork. The car is offered in outstanding condition and retains its original engine all major numbered components. The car is still registered on its original number. The car has benefitted from a significant restoration in the late 1990’s and is fitted with a modern overdrive unit and is complete with a substantial history file.

In Detail

The first owner of B 169 LE was Mr. Stafford Bourne who took delivery of the car in September 1938. He owned and managed the famous Oxford Street department store “Bourne and Hollingsworth”, an enterprise that survived the war despite being bomb damaged and was renowned for the way it cared for it staff. Bourne kept the car until August 1946 when it passed into the hands of central London dealer, Jack Barclay. Perhaps he traded it in for the new “Standard Steel” Bentley Mk VI ?

The second owner was the celebrated artist, Edward Le Bas, RA CBE. He took delivery of the car in November 1946 and registered it at his London address and studio at 53 Bedford Square, WC 1. He was well known for his painting expeditions and surely must have used the Bentley for a number of these trips. He kept the car until 1954.

Research has revealed rather less about the third owner, a Mr. Moat who lived at 15 Pelham Gardens in Folkestone and there is an un-researched gap in the car’s history until it appears for sale with Paradise Garage in 1994. They were selling the car for a Mr. C.S. Shaw of Wych Cottage, Wych Lane, Adlington, Macclesfield, SK10 4NB.

The car quickly sold to Mr Barry Linsley of West Sussex. He was to keep the car for 18 years. During his ownership he commissioned a complete restoration undertaken by West Hoathly Garage that included a thorough rebuild of the engine and work was completed in 1997. Although this is now a few years ago the odometer shows that the car has covered less than 6,500 miles since.

In 2012 the car was offered for sale by the highly regarded Goudhurst Service Station who had maintained the car since 2004 and described it as an “excellent example”. It was bought by the discerning gentleman enthusiast, Hugh Boucher and remained in the same family ownership for 17 years until 2021. It was serviced in September 2021 by Brewster Mudie Ltd. At the same time they replaced the rear hubs as they had worn and were emitting the annoying ‘clonk’ as the drive is taken up. Today B 169 LE presents very well, sits correctly and is a pleasure to drive. Its performance is enhanced by a modern overdrive unit that allows for lower revs at high speed.

The Vanden Plas design for their “All Weather” Tourer was an elegant solution for motorists who craved the sporty looks of a tourer combined with the weather protection and practicality of a drop-head coupe. Vanden Plas achieved this by designing a slim, low wasted body, like a traditional tourer, but with the benefit of four doors. By fitting wind-up windows with hinged in the doors the car offered complete weather protection and a variety of driving options. The car can be driven with the top down and windows lowered, like a tourer. Imagine, if you will, a journey where you are accompanied by a needy passenger who complains of the wind; the windows can be raised. If the passenger then decides the sun is too hot, the roof can be raised and with the windows lowered and the car is like a pillar-less coupe. If this is not enough for the tiresome passenger, the windows can be raised again and the car is then fully enclosed. It is worth pointing out that the hood is not only lined but also has a padded inter-lining making for very quiet motoring, excepting, of course for the needy passenger who would probably best be dropped at the nearest railway station.

The quality of the ‘All Weather’ Tourer is summed up concisely by Frazer and Knapek in their excellent book, ‘Bentley Beauty’,

“Vanden Plas must be considered kings of the open body on the Derby Bentley chassis, and one of these cars, particularly of the scarcer designs, would not be out of place in a world class collection.

The car appeared in a 9 page feature in Octane issue 220, October 2021 where it was paired with a Lagonda LG45 Rapide as they had both lived in West London in 1938.