The Silent Sports Car of Yesteryears

In a grand celebration of Bentley’s 90th anniversary since the debut of the iconic 3½ Litre, often called “The Silent Sports Car,” a remarkable journey back in time unfolded. To commemorate this milestone, a unique 1939 MkV Corniche, unseen on the road for 84 years, took center stage.

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The Legacy of the 3½ Litre

The Bentley 3½ Litre, famously known as the Derby Bentley, was a marvel of its time. Revered for its exceptional insulation, smoothness, speed, and elegance, it reigned as the epitome of refined ride comfort. Between 1933 and 1939, Bentley crafted over 2,400 of these automobiles in Derby, producing approximately 500 per year. Its 120-horsepower engine was a testament to its impressive performance in that era.

A Spectacular Derby Bentley Gathering

To celebrate this iconic vehicle’s 90th anniversary, 60 Bentley cars from the Derby era converged at the Dream Factory, an event organized by The Silent Sports Car Club, dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Derby Bentley. A total of 117 Derby Bentleys graced the event, forming a captivating convoy to Bentley’s production center in Crewe.

An Exclusive Heritage Experience

More than 100 fortunate guests embarked on a tour of the Bentley campus, exploring the meticulously refurbished Heritage Collection and witnessing the craftsmanship at the Mulliner Workshops. The 1934 Bentley 3½ Litre with Thrupp & Maberley coachwork was on display in the newly unveiled Lineage area, featuring eight pre-war gems from the Heritage Collection.

The Unveiling of a Unique Gem: 1939 MkV Corniche

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Stealing the spotlight was the extraordinary 1939 Mark V Corniche, a one-of-one model that never made it into production. This distinguished vehicle served as the bridge between the pre-war Ebiricos 4¼ Litre and the iconic R Type Continental of 1952. Recently re-registered, it graced the road once again after 84 years.

A Tribute to Coachbuilders

The 1930s witnessed more than 40 independent coachbuilders creating bespoke bodywork for these Bentley classics. Many of these exquisite creations graced the event, including chassis number B15AE and chassis number 3-B-50, the lone survivor of four experimental six-cylinder saloons from 1939.

The Transition to the 4½ Litre

Following the 3½ Litre’s success, Bentley introduced the improved 4½ Litre. It featured slightly wider cylinder bores, an increased output of 125 horsepower, visual enhancements, and a higher top speed, all available for an extra 50 pounds. By 1939, the 4½ Litre had surpassed the production numbers of its predecessor.

Rediscovering History: The Remarkable Journey of Chassis B53AE

Chassis number B53AE, bearing registration number AXB3, embarked on a remarkable journey. Delivered to its first owner, Alex Mitchel of Mulligan Castle in Scotland, in 1934, it remained in his care until the outbreak of World War II. Lost for decades, it resurfaced in 1968 in a barn in East Otis, Massachusetts, and later found a new owner in Charles H. Wolfe of Lancaster, Philadelphia, in 1987. In 2004, Bentley Motors took charge of its restoration, and now, after 84 years, it graces the open road once more.

Farewell to the W12

In 2023, Bentley commemorates the 20th anniversary of the legendary W12 engine, a powerhouse that has left an indelible mark. As Bentley retires this iconic power plant, it is notably absent from the refreshed Bentayga lineup.

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Q1: What is the significance of the Bentley 3½ Litre, often referred to as the Derby Bentley?

A1: The Bentley 3½ Litre, known as “The Silent Sports Car,” is celebrated for its outstanding insulation, smoothness, speed, elegance, and refined ride comfort. It played a pivotal role in Bentley’s history.

Q2: How many Derby Bentleys participated in the 90th-anniversary celebration event?

A2: A total of 117 Derby Bentleys were part of the grand celebration, with 60 from the Derby era forming an impressive convoy.

Q3: Can I visit the Bentley Heritage Collection to explore these historic vehicles?

A3: While access to the Bentley Heritage Collection may be limited, special events like the 90th-anniversary celebration provide opportunities for enthusiasts to admire these classic automobiles up close.

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