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1937 Bentley 4¼ Litre Shooting Brake ‘Woodie’

  • 1937 Bentley 4¼ Litre Shooting Brake
  • Unique ‘woodie’ coachwork by Vincents of Reading
  • Formerly owned by Mulberry founder Roger Saul
  • Restored by marque specialist Werner Mork

This distinctive Bentley 4¼ Litre ‘woodie’ is a truly individual take on the Derby Bentley theme, blending the performance for which that model is renowned with a unique and surprisingly practical station-wagon body.

Chassis number B142JD actually started life in 1937 with all-weather tourer coachwork by Vanden Plas. It was given the London registration DLO 934 and sold to first owner Frederick Hughes. Not until 1949 was the shooting brake conversion carried out by Vincents of Reading, which had been established in 1806 and had bodied its first motor car in 1899. The company produced a wide range of coachwork, from two-door coupé to limousine, predominantly for prestige marques. In fact, it also built at least one shooting-brake ‘woodie’ body for a Rolls-Royce 20/25.

‘The advantages of Vincent coachwork are two-fold,’ stated an early advertisement. ‘Its exquisite appearance and luxurious comfort compel attention and admiration, whilst its technical excellence ensures perfect balance.’

DLO 934 was acquired in 1998 by Roger Saul, founder of the Mulberry fashion label. A noted car enthusiast, Saul also owned a Mercedes-Benz 300SL ‘Gullwing’, plus an Alfa Romeo P3 that he used to race. The Bentley shooting brake was kept at Saul’s Michelin-starred Charlton House Hotel in Somerset, where it proved to be a stylish and practical way of taking guests on fishing trips.

One of those guests was so taken by the car that they bought it in March 2003, after which it was extensively restored. Most of the work was carried out by marque specialist Werner Mork in Germany, and included the fitment of a new cylinder head as part of an engine overhaul, a rear-axle rebuild, and restoration of the braking and electrical systems.

In 2018, the Bentley was acquired by the owner of the Comtes de Dampierre champagne house. As a genuine marque enthusiast, he had no intention of using an anonymous white van for his special deliveries and vineyard tours, and instead the Bentley was pressed into service. It has also been used for longer trips to the UK and Belgium, as well as for the exclusive Journées d’Automne event.

Now being offered for sale by The Classic Motor Hub, this Bentley 4¼ Litre ‘woodie’ has acquired a delightful patina and is ready for a new custodian to load it up with luggage and head off on a long-distance adventure – maybe with a bottle or two of Comtes de Dampierre safely stowed away for when they reach their destination.

Model history

After Bentley had gone into receivership in 1931, Rolls-Royce swooped in to buy the company from under the nose of rival Napier. The first model to be launched in this new era – during which production was moved from Cricklewood to Derby – was the 3½ Litre. Launched in 1933, this was a very different type of Bentley to those that had gone before. There was now refinement to go with the performance, and it was labelled ‘the Silent Sports Car.’

Former Bentley apprentice and VSCC stalwart Rivers Fletcher later wrote that, ‘The great charm of the new model was the exquisite lightness and precision of all the controls. The steering and brakes were delightfully smooth, accurate and sensitive.’

Its engine was based on the six-cylinder Rolls-Royce 20/25 unit, and chassis development continued through the 1930s, early modifications including a strengthening crossmember at the front end and variable dampers. Although the marque’s glory days of Le Mans success were now behind it, these handsome ‘Derby Bentleys’ became renowned for their grand-touring capabilities and were offered with a range of stylish coachwork.

Performance was improved in 1936 with the introduction of the 4¼ Litre model, of which 1241 would be built before the outbreak of war in 1939. As transport infrastructure was rapidly being modernised during that period – especially in continental Europe – manufacturers had to ensure that their cars could withstand sustained high-speed running.

Bentley’s answer was the introduction in 1938 of the M-series ‘overdrive’ cars, which featured revised gearing and a longer final-drive ratio. A new Marles steering box was among the other refinements, plus 17in wheels rather than 18in, and 6.50in tyres in place of the old 5.50 rubber.

The camshafts were modified to increase lift, and a thermostat was fitted to the cooling system, which eliminated the old thermostatically controlled shutters in front of the radiator. The result was arguably the ultimate long-distance cruiser of its day.

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