1940 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre (Overdrive) Pillarless Saloon by Vanden Plas

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During the late 1920s and early 1930s Bentley ran into grave financial trouble and by 1931 Rolls-Royce had stepped in and bought the assets and goodwill of the defunct company and formed a new one, Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd. Rolls-Royce had considered the Bentley marque to be a growing threat to their future success, but following their purchase decided to continue the Bentley name, albeit under their own stewardship, taking the company in an entirely new direction with the creation of the Silent Sports Car or Derby Bentley. In 1933 the new Bentley 3.5 Litre model was released and was an instant success. The combination of effortless power and style met with almost universal praise. It was powered by a developed twin carburettor version of Rolls-Royces own 20/25 model and was installed in a low 126-inch wheel base chassis that basically remained unaltered until the cessation of production due to the outbreak of hostilities. Synchromesh was present on third and fourth gears and the Derby’s were fitted with a cross flow cylinder head and superb servo assisted brakes, encapsulating all of the perfection of Rolls-Royce engineering in this small sporting Bentley. Fitting of individual coachwork by approved body builders continued in true Rolls-Royce fashion giving potential buyers a great deal of choice in the look of their new motorcar.

1936 saw further improvements with the introduction of the 4.25 Litre model when production of the 3.5 Litre unit ceased. Steady development continued throughout the cars production and in late 1938 even more power was obtained when the overdrive models were introduced, which were known as the MX/MR series cars. The original Bentley sales literature outlined the key improvements that improved the overdrive cars performance which included the provision of an overdrive gearbox which would allow the car to attain a greater maximum speed without exceeding maximum engine revolutions. The steering was of improved design, providing greater control under all conditions. Modified gear ratios and slight engine modifications also improved acceleration under certain conditions. The slower running engine coupled with the over drive top gear resulted in greater silence and smoothness. And finally centralised chassis lubrication and automatic shock absorbers with over-riding hand control were fitted. The MX/MR models were truly the ultimate incarnation on the Derby chassis and are still very much sought after some seventy years on. Just two hundred chassis examples were created, finding their way to lucky owners with a variety of coachwork designs.

Vanden Plas and their connection to Bentley motor cars is probably most prominent when thinking of their coachwork for Cricklewood built W.O.Bentleys, that ruled the racing world in the mid to late 1920's. However, following Rolls-Royces acquisition of the Bentley name in 1931, Vanden Plas then excelled themselves once again, this time on the all-new Derby produced chassis. They designed and built a range of bodies and in terms of closed saloon coachwork, few came better in our opinion than their pillarless saloon design. Chassis No B159MX which we are currently offering for sale is one of a very limited number of cars to be fitted with this style of coachwork, we believe just nine cars in total had this coachwork fitted, only three were on the overdrive MX/MR chassis, with Chassis No B159MX being the very last example created prior to WWII.


This car was completed in January of 1940, finished in Valspar grey with a red leather interior. It was sold to Motor Hills Ltd in Staffordshire and immediately delivered to its first owner, Helliwells Ltd of Walsall airport, a company responsible for the manufacture of amongst other things, the wings for Percival aircraft. During the war years, no petrol was made available for private motoring, so it is fair to assume that B159MX was laid up during these years and may well have emerged from storage in 1945 in nearly new condition. The car was then sold in January 1947 to Mr H Vennard of Preston in Lancashire, in May 1951 to Mr A Langley in Coventry, in October 1954 to Henry Abram Ltd in Glasgow and in July 1958 to Mr P Ridsdale of Middlesbrough. 


We then move onto the early 1960's when a young army officer cadet based at the Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst (a short drive from our facility) set out to acquire his second Bentley. A nineteen-year-old Michael Bond successfully acquired his first Bentley (Chassis No B150DG) by trading in his Morris Minor Traveller. By June of 1963, following a posting in Berlin and completion of his officer training, upon his return to the UK he was ready for his second Bentley and acquired Chassis No B159MX after seeing it advertised in a copy of Motor Sport magazine. It was being offered by the legendary dealer Dan Marguiles, for £395. After some negotiation, Mr Bond became the proud owner of B159MX (for the first time) for the princely sum of £375. The level of detail on the car’s early ownership and its relevance later will all become clear.........keep reading.


Mr Bond retained the car until early 1968 when he sold it. It is believed to have been exported to the US where it remained for many years.


Fast forward to March 1999 and Major Bond was thumbing through a copy of Motor Sport magazine once again, and there he spotted his old car, for sale once again, this time being offered by The Real Car Company in Wales. After a short negotiation, he was reunited with Chassis No B159MX, but by 1999 the car had clearly seen better days. So later that year, in October 1999, he handed the car over to respected restorers McKensie Guppy for restoration. The car was then extensively restored over many years, with a body off, ground up nut and bolt restoration instructed by Major Bond. The only original aspect that was retained was the original red leather interior. The car comes with two extensive files, one detailing all the works and related invoices, a second file shows dozens of photographs of the works that took place.


The result was a car that Major Bond could once again be proud of and one that is not only reliable but also an absolute pleasure to drive.


It comes complete with an extensive file, a beautiful tool kit concealed in the trunk, copy chassis cards, its original handbook and a wonderful and fully documented back story/history. 


We are delighted to be able to offer Chassis No B159MX on behalf of its most loyal custodian Major Bond and hope to find a new home worthy of this beautiful motor car. 


4 1/4 Litre
Vanden Plas
Body Type
Pillarless Saloon
Two Tone Light Grey
Red Leather

Fully restored with an original leather interior.

Technical Data

Four speed manual gearbox, 6 cylinder in-line engine, 4.25 litres displacement, 4257cc capacity. Servo-assisted brakes.

Currently Registered in
The United Kingdom
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