By the time this issue of Rolls-Royce & Bentley Driver goes on sale, this astonishingly original Derby Bentley – with a genuine 15,500 miles showing on its odometer – will have gone under the hammer. Chassis number B135FC, described as ‘the most original and best-preserved Derby Bentley in the world’, was expected to sell for between £450,000 and £550,000. First registered on March 1st, 1937, the Vanden Plas-bodied drophead coupe has had just three owners to date, the most long-term being Mr W.
Randolph Angell who spotted the car for sale in a showroom in 1954. In his memoirs, Mr Angell later wrote: ‘How does one cope with blind passion? I was a ruined man. A visit to the showroom for a closer look was devastating. The car was immaculate, perfect, with tonneau covers and spares etc which had never been used. The asking price was beyond my means, and in any case I had no driving licence or any sensible place to keep the car even if I were able to acquire it.’
Nevertheless, Mr Angell did raise the necessary funds and the car became his, to be used only very sparingly during the decades that followed. Documentation still with the car includes a handwritten receipt showing a purchase price of £1350 (dated May 7th, 1954), plus another for tax and insurance (costing £32) and one for a series of seven driving lessons.
The Bentley was finally offered for sale again in 2013, when Mr Angell’s heirs made the difficult decision to part with it. The buyer was keen to maintain the incredible originality of this Vanden Plas-bodied car, and set about recommissioning it to an almost obsessional degree. He enlisted the help of renowned Derby Bentley expert and the W.O. Bentley Memorial Foundation’s chairman of trustees, Ken Lea, who was reportedly amazed to discover that the ash frame in particular was so sound, even down to the sawn ends of the scuttle hoops. A careful strip down of the original engine (number E9BC) revealed bore wear in keeping with the recorded mileage, and more surprisingly that all six pistons were stamped with the chassis number B135FC.
This particular example is the last of only four 3½ Litre cars to wear Vanden Plas drophead coupe coachwork and is surely unmatched when it comes to originality – from its two-tone red paint and red leather upholstery through to its axles, steering, suspension, brakes, brightwork, wood veneer and even chassis paint. After much deliberation, the decision was taken to rewire the car for safety reasons, although the replacement wiring loom is cloth bound and faithful to factory blueprints. The auction house selling the Bentley – H&H Classics – describes it as a ‘worthy competitor in the preservation class of any major Concours d’Elegance’, and was expecting it to attract plenty of interest at the company’s October sale.