13th Mar, 2024 13:00

Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire

Lot 111

1934 Bentley 3.5 Litre Drophead Coupe
Unique Park Ward coachwork

Estimated at £100,000 - £120,000

Lot details

Registration No: BRE 409
Chassis No: B106DG
MOT: Exempt

  • Stated by marque historian Bernard L. King to wear coachwork that began life aboard an experimental 'Peregrine' chassis
  • Current ownership for over 30 years
  • Supplied new to Leslie Hawkins Esq, a businessman of repute from Staffordshire
  • Offered with a collection of invoices, old MOT certificates and a copy of the chassis card records
  • Understood to have been extensively restored by Dale Powers Automotive in Florida, USA

At the dawn of the 1930s with the reverberations of 'Black Friday' (29/10/1929) being felt worldwide, competition between carmakers grew increasingly desperate. Thus, while WO Bentley sought to refine his 8 litre into the ultimate luxury carriage, Rolls-Royce responded by dabbling with a sports car concept. Their concerns as to the branding of 'Peregrine' (as the project was labelled internally) were alleviated by Bentley's collapse in 1931. Outflanking rivals D. Napier & Son, they acquired Bentley wholesale (including WO's services) for £125,257. With a department brief that "the new car must be as unlike the Rolls-Royce models as possible" Derby engineers set about preparing 'Peregrine' for flight. Built on a 'double-dropped' chassis carrying all round semi-elliptic leaf sprung suspension and assisted drum brakes, the new car used a tuned version of the Rolls-Royce 20/25's 3669cc OHV straight-six. Boasting twin SU carburettors, a wilder camshaft, strengthened con-rods and a higher compression ratio, this revamped unit developed around 120bhp (a fifty percent improvement) without compromising on refinement. Equipped with the 20/25's four-speed manual gearbox, high-geared worm and nut steering and hydraulic dampers, the resultant 'Silent Sportscar' - as the Bentley 3.5 litre soon became known - was unveiled to great acclaim at the August 1933 Ascot Races.

According to ‘The Derby Built Bentleys’ by Bernard L. King, chassis B106DG was clothed with Park Ward Drophead Coupe coachwork that had previously graced one of the experimental ‘Peregrine’ chassis. The car’s first owner, the Staffordshire industrialist and land owner Leslie Hawkins Esq., was not only heir to his family’s brick and tile manufacturing business but also a good friend of W.A. ‘Roy’ Robotham. Famous as the father of the Rolls-Royce Meteor tank engine, the latter had joined Rolls-Royce’s Experimental Department under the guidance of Ernest Hives in 1923. Part of the team that developed the Derby Bentley, Robotham would have been ideally placed to source parts from the ‘Peregrine’ project including what turned out to be a one-off body (apparently Park Ward received orders for three copies but none were completed).

Notably lightweight at 8½ cwt, the Close-Coupled coachwork featured a special fuel filler neck and internal boot (accessed via the rear seats). Intended for ‘town and touring’ use around the UK, the four-seater had its guarantee issued on 7th April 1935. Supplied new via M.V. Weston Ltd of Walsall, the Bentley relocated from Staffordshire to Thetford, Norfolk when its ownership transferred to Charles FitzRoy, the 10th Duke of Grafton in 1947. A regular sight around the Duke’s Euston Hall estate over the next six years, the Drophead Coupe then passed to Wing Commander W. Hase who was based at RAF Debden, near Saffron Walden, Essex.

Subsequently joining Dr Barry Beller’s collection of Rolls-Royce and Bentley motorcars in America, the San Antonio-based cardiologist had chassis B106DG extensively restored by Dale Powers Automobiles Inc of Florida. Repatriated by marque enthusiast and dealer Johnny Pridmore after Dr Beller became too old to drive, the Drophead Coupe arrived back in the UK on 9th January 1989. Bought by garage proprietor John Clarke thereafter, he maintained the four-seater inhouse as well as reclaiming its original, Staffordshire number plate ‘BRE 409’ from the DVLA.

Entering the current ownership on 6th November 1993, the Bentley is said to have been ‘maintained and serviced regularly’ over the past three decades. Much of the work has been carried out by Rolls-Royce and Bentley specialist A.B. Classics of Cambridgeshire including a relined clutch and attention to the brakes, suspension and wiring etc. Starting readily upon inspection, ‘BRE 409’ presents as a smart, well-kept older restoration. A handsome Post-Vintage Thoroughbred that was featured in the April 1993 issue of Classic & Sportscar magazine, this unique and storied Derby Bentley is offered for sale with V5C Registration Document and history file.

For more information, please contact:
James McWilliam
07943 584760


Auction: Imperial War Museum | Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 13th Mar, 2024

An auction of classic, collector and performance motorcars to be held at the iconic and visually stunning Imperial War Museum, Duxford. Venue Details 

To enquire about entering your classic or performance car into the auction please call our sales office on 01925 210035, email sales@HandH.co.uk or click here: Enter Your Classic Motorcar 

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