1934 3.5-litre Derby Bentley 'Bologna'
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The details of this Bentley 3.5 Litre
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Silverstone Auctions - Silverstone Classic Sale 19th - 22nd July 2018
22nd Jul 2018
1934 3.5-litre Derby Bentley 'Bologna'
A personal project by the respected coachbuilder Ian Pitney of Pitney Restorations
Conceived as an homage to the metalworking skills of the Carrozzeria in Modena and Bologna
Based on a 1934 3.5-litre Bentley with a sound chassis and excellent mechanics
Handcrafted details and period features abound. Classic styling cues from the twenties and thirties
Brand new tailored hood and weather equipment
Superbly crafted, beautifully finished, and real presence. A work of art.
It is a sobering thought. Had Rolls-Royce not purchased its financially troubled competitor Bentley in 1931, the world would have been denied the Continental, Turbo R, Mulsanne and countless other legendary models subsequently graced with the 'Flying B'. Of particular loss for many, would have been the coachbuilt Derby Bentleys manufactured between 1933 and 1939. The chassis was derived from an experimental supercharged 2.75-litre Rolls-Royce (codenamed Peregrine) that never saw the light of day, and power came from a redesigned and tuned version of the company's 20/25 engine, initially of 3.5-litres (3669cc). Fed by a pair of SU carburettors, it drove through a four-speed manual gearbox, the suspension was by semi-elliptic springs all-round, and retardation by servo-assisted drums. The newcomer was introduced to the public in the appropriate surroundings of Ascot during August 1933, and production of these 3.5-litre cars continued into 1937; by which time 1,191 examples had been produced. The last year's allocation was manufactured alongside the incoming 4.25-litre (4257cc) version that would ultimately supersede the 3.5-litre cars.
The Derby Bentley was, of course, an exclusively coachbuilt automobile with body styles being the preserve of the customer, and a number of illustrious firms including Park Ward, Barker, Vanden Plas, Thrupp & Maberly, Gurney Nutting, H.J. Mulliner, Hooper, James Young and Arthur Mulliner were keen to clothe these fine cars. In the event, nearly fifty per cent were finished as stylish saloons by Park Ward and these were frequently dubbed 'The Silent Sports Car', a slogan which was used by Rolls-Royce in their advertising for many years to come. However, the remainder were coachbuilt in any number of shapes and sizes, mostly with sporting aspirations almost certainly influenced by the 'Bentley Boys'.
Beloved of the press and contemporary newsreels, the Bentley Boys were a group of British motoring enthusiasts that included Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry "Tim" Birkin, steeplechaser George Duller, aviator Glen Kidston, automotive journalist S.C.H. "Sammy" Davis, and Dr Dudley Benjafield. Many were independently wealthy and often had a military background and their colourful lifestyles and motor racing exploits kept them in the news for many years during the late Twenties and early Thirties. The one thing they had in common was a passion for big, open-top Bentleys, keeping the marque's reputation for high performance alive.
The one-off, 1934, 3.5-litre Derby Bentley “Bologna” on offer here was built with that era in mind and was created by Father and Son professional coach builders, Pitney Restorations. Started by Ian Pitney's father in 1973 and followed by Ian in 2002, Pitney Restorations have been creating one-off aluminium panels for pre and post-war motor cars using time-honoured techniques, traditional tools and skilfull craftsmen for many years. The perfect curves and swooping lines seen on the world's most expensive cars start life in workshops such as these.
Forming, and lovingly shaping, 'swoopy' aluminium panels for all of the top pre-war European marques, Ian was confident in his own abilities, but had, for quite a while, been thinking about building something for himself, a very special one-off that, as well as scratching his creative itch, would serve as a 'shop window' for the team's metal working and fabrication skills. It would have to be big and dramatic, superbly crafted, beautifully finished, and with sufficient 'presence' to impress the 'Bentley Boys' should they still have been around. A Derby Bentley chassis would be an ideal starting point and the body would have a long bonnet, two seats and a bit of a Brooklands racer feel. Ian was an enthusiast for the work of the dozens of small Carrozzeria in the Modena / Bologna area during the thirties so there would be lots of styling cues from there with a bit of Alfa Romeo, Delage and Figoni et Falaschi thrown in. How exciting.
Fortunately, a 1934 3.5-litre Bentley with a sound chassis and excellent mechanics but an uninspiring saloon body became available and was to become the starting point for the project. Once the body had been removed, the chassis prepared and sealed, and the engine ancillaries (carburettors etc) cleaned, it was time to commence the creative process.
The two-seat cockpit was positioned further back enabling the superbly balanced long bonnet which is a huge feature of this car and reminiscent of the Blower Bentleys of the thirties. The tail has an Alfa Romeo Monza feel but is unique and not a replication of anything else as Ian was keen to demonstrate the creativity of his craftsmen. Naturally, all the panels are formed from aluminium sheet and are draped over the Bentley's frame like a very expensive silk scarf. The chassis rails are also clad in hand-beaten aluminium, vented by louvres, there are full length under trays, and the road springs are fitted with the correct leather gaiters. The one-shot lubrication system has been retained. Everywhere you look there are handcrafted details and period features and the cockpit is an engineer's dream with drilled and lightened aluminium uprights, passenger footrest, aero screens, brass bezelled instruments, fully adjustable red leather bucket seats, adjustable pedals, fitted stopwatches, period steering wheel, and an outside-mounted, fly-off handbrake. There are immaculately crafted aluminium trim pieces around the rear quarters, beautiful boot hinges, a bespoke Bentley step, and freshly re-chromed headlamps, bonnet cowling, and Le Mans style fuel filler. The exhaust system itself is a work of art from the tubular manifold through to the big chrome 'drainpipe' at the rear. The car sits on chromed wire wheels and wears modern tyres. During his ownership, our vendor has spent around £12,000 on a tailored hood and weather equipment adding to the versatility of this remarkable car.
Known as the 'Bologna Special' as a nod to the pre-war craftsmen from that region, this a wonderful post-vintage tourer. It is not a replica or a re-creation but simply one man's homage to the speedy roadsters of the past that used to feature on the front of "Boy's Own" annuals. At its core is a beautifully presented 3.5-litre Derby Bentley, a valuable asset in itself, but now wearing a 'designer frock'.
We understand that it drives as well as it looks and is on the button. We would welcome any inspection of this unique motor car.
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