By the mid 1930s, there was something of a horsepower war going on among the top British car manufacturers. With the advent of high-speed Continental roads such as Italy's autostradas and Germany's autobahns, the race was on to build a sports saloon that could crack the magic 100mph barrier. Thus, Alvis released first the 3.5 Litre and then the 4.3 Litre, Lagonda evolved the M45 into the more powerful LG45 and Bentley gave its customers the option of a larger 4.25 Litre engine during the 1936 season. A derivative of that fitted to the Rolls-Royce 25/30 the 4257cc OHV straight-six unit was suitably reworked gaining twin SU carburettors and a wilder camshaft in the process. Priced at £50, a comparatively small sum compared to the cost of a basic chassis, it proved so popular that the standard 3.5 Litre powerplant was soon dropped. Nicely balanced to begin with, the Derby Bentley chassis was more than capable of handling the extra power and torque. Equipped with all-round leaf-sprung suspension, assisted drum brakes, a precise four-speed manual gearbox and worm and nut steering, its poise and responsiveness proved more than a match for many peers.
The copy build sheets which accompany this particular example - chassis number 'B133LE' - reveal that it was delivered new to Captain E. N. Syfret of the Royal Navy on 5th August 1938. Born some forty-nine years earlier near Cape Town, South Africa, Syfret saw active service during both WW1 and WW2. Beginning the latter at the helm of H.M.S. Rodney, he ended it as a Vice-Admiral having played a vital role in the Battle of Madagascar and Operation Pedestal (the vital Malta convoy) not to mention various Allied landings in North Africa and Sicily. Appointed a K.B.E. a few months after peace was declared and made a Full Admiral the following year, Syfret ended his career as Commander-in-Chief of the Home Fleet (1946-1948). The Bentley is reputed to have spent much of WW2 aboard a destroyer, its access being facilitated by specially commissioned ramps. Often accompanying the Admiral whilst on official visits, the handsome Park Ward-bodied Sports Saloon had apparently covered some 132,000 miles by the time retirement prompted him to put it up for sale.
Stated to have changed hands just three times thereafter, chassis 'B133LE' has been in the current (fourth) ownership since 1984. Reportedly "chauffeur-maintained and annually serviced including oil changes by a Rolls-Royce mechanic" over the last twenty-six years, the Bentley is also understood to have had its factory-fitted engine overhauled by Brunts of Silverdale and been treated to five new wire wheels. While, the vendor further informs us that "unfortunately the file belonging to this car was shredded in an office clearout but as far as I am aware the paintwork and upholstery are original and the speedometer has just gone round to 200,100 miles. The only reason I am selling the car is because I had to have a leg amputated recently and the DVLA have withdrawn my licence". The gloss black paintwork has some age to it with microblistering and cracking in places plus the occasional bubble. Opening the doors reveals a lovely interior, the well preserved brown leather upholstery (save for a small hole in the driver's seat base) being complimented by a sunroof, central rear armrest, braided silk pull handles, reading lights and rich wood veneers. The rear mounted spare wheel is protected by a cover and the bulkhead retains its starting handle and jack etc.
Image and description kindly supplied by H&H Classic Auctions
Bentley 4.25 Litre Sports Saloon 1938
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