• 1938 Derby Bentley 4 1/4 Coachwork by Van den Plas @ Russo and Steele

The origin of Bentley goes back to just after the armistice that followed after the Great War of 1919. The man behind the machine, W.O. Bentley, had a vision of creating sport-touring vehicles for competition in a number of European racing circuits. After a hamming out all the details of his new company W.O. Bentley officially introduced Bentley Motors Ltd. in 1919. For the next 12 years, Bentleys dominated the racing scene in Europe , winning a number of prestigious races with the most memorable coming in 1929, when Bentley completely dominated the LeMans, finishing in 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th at the race.

After more than a decade of unparalleled racing success, Bentley shifted their focus on producing passenger cars and in 1931, the company – together with the consultancy of its founder, W.O. Bentley – sold their rights to Rolls-Royce, marking a turning point in both company’s history.

One of the first Bentleys to be rolled out under the Rolls Royce banner was the 1933 3-1/2 Liter. Since a lot of Europeans sill associated the name Bentley with auto racing, Roll Royce took the extra time to make the Bentley unit more powerful than its Rolls Royce counterpart, the 20/25.

A few years later, Rolls Royce released an upgraded version of both cars – the Rolls Royce 25/30 and the Bentley 4 ¼ Litre ‘Derby’.

The featured Derby Bentley is a vintage car that would be hard to miss. Sporting the same dimensions found in luxury cars of the era, the 1938 Derby Bentley is one of only a few cars in the world that can be considered as ‘instant classics’.

Equipped with 2 SU carburetors and a straight-six engine capable of churning as much as 125mph and achieving a 0-60 time of 14 seconds, the 1938 Derby Bentley quickly became a hot ticket from 1936 to 1939. The Derby’s unbridled popularity was responsible selling 1,241 vehicles, making it one of the most popular vehicles that was produced under the Bentley The Bentley featured 2 SU carburetors and a naturally aspirated straight-six engine producing 125 horsepower. It could achieve sixty mph in around fourteen seconds with the top speed just below 100 mph. The front-engine designed was matted to a four-speed manual gearbox and drove the rear wheels. With a four year production run from 1936 through 1939 during which time 1,241 examples were produced, this 1938 Derby Bentley became one of the greatest number of vehicles produced under the Bentley name in its long and illustrious history.

Since Rolls Royce owned it, all Bentleys from this area – including the 4 ¼ liter - were lavishly treated with the best coachwork anybody could find. The company commissioned a number of the best European vehicle body builders including England’s H.J. Mulliner, Park Ward and Vanden Plas to Berlin’s rakish to work on the coaches of both Rolls Royce and Bentley. Coincidentally, Bohman & Schwartz was also responsible for the bodies of a lot of Mercedes Benz and Porsche’s that later on became the cars of the Nazi elite.

The 1938 Derby Bentley 4 ¼ on display is an authentic throwback from the 30’s. With a coupe body specifically built by Vander Plas, this particular model was created with the specific requirements of the car’s first owner, Captain Douglas Krauss, who only had the car for a ear before selling it to an Englishman named Sir Allan Lane. The new owner hadn’t even kept his seat warn on the car when he unexpectedly died during the Second World War. As a result, the car went through a number of owners from all over the world - including Lane’s 5-foot sister – before settling on the hands of a Kenneth Hoskins in Australia. Hoskins then was the first person to take the time out to put the Bentley under its first mechanical restoration, which saw all-around improvements, including a full-flow oil filtration and power-assisted steering from previous Rolls Royce models. In 1965, Hoskins finally sold his precious Bentley to the current owner, who also took the Bentley on a fully-detailed, no-stones-unturned, comprehensive restoration on the car’s inside, outside, and underneath.

This particular 1938 Derby Bentley 4 ¼ has been making regular stops at major Concours d’Elegances all over the world and with the car’s unparalleled history dating back to the 1930’s, it’s safe to say that it is one of the marquee attractions at any Concours d’Elegances it goes to.

Source: Russo & Steele

Kirby Garlitos
Kirby Garlitos
Automotive Aftermarket Expert - kirby@topspeed.com
Kirby’s first exposure into the world of automobiles happened when he caught Knight Rider on television as a five-year old boy. David Hasselhoff didn’t leave much of an impression on him (that happened later on in Baywatch), but KITT certainly did. To this day, Kirby remains convinced that he will one day own a car with the same ‘spirit’ as the original KITT (not the 2008 monstrosity). He doesn't know when that will be, but until then, he’s committed to expressing his love for KITT, and all cars for that matter, here at TopSpeed.  Read full bio
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