Introduction Ownership experience Photogallery Historical Background The Coachbuilders Anecdotes of ownership Books etc. Links Contact and contributions
The Ownership Experience
The Derby Bentley, however clothed, remains a potentially most enjoyable prospect to own and drive. If in close-to-new condition, the chassis is excellent; the engine has massive torque and is capable of maintaining speeds of 60-70 mph at 2,500 rpm reliably on unleaded petrol; the gearbox is smooth and easily operated, particularly in 3rd and 4th with the benefit of both synchromesh and the engine's torque; the brakes are reassuringly strong thanks to servo-assistance.
Original Owners
Derby Bentleys were bought originally by a significant number of racing drivers:

Eddie Hall, who took his early 3.5 litre, B35 AE with open lightweight racing body built by Offords, to the 1934, 1935 and 1936 Ulster TTs, each time taking second place on handicap but with the fastest times in each case. This car, or a successor 4.25 litre, took part in the 1950 Le Mans, coming 8th, when the Embiricos Bentley, B27 LE, came 12th, having finished 6th the previous year.

George Eyston, three times World Land Speed Record holder, owned two Derby Bentleys, a two seater by Jarvis with large boot for carrying equipment B24 DG, and B82 GA, a two door coupe bodied by HJ Mulliner for RG McLeod to the first owner’s individual design.

Raymond Mays, a founder of ERA, who had four Derby Bentleys which he used for practice track sessions and high speed transfers between tracks on the Continent. Mays wrote to Bentley Motors with fulsome praise of the cars several times.

Woolf Barnato, Director of Bentley Motors (1931) Ltd, as well as Chairman and racing driver for the old company, had several Derbys, including B2 DG, a streamlined HJ Mulliner concealed drophead coupe, delivered to his wife and later transferred to a new 4.25 litre chassis for them.

Prince Bira, a member of the Thai Royal family and successful racing driver, had a Vanden Plas tourer on a 3.5 litre chassis and a James Young drophead on a 4.25 litre chassis. Sir Malcolm Campbell, 9 times World Land Speed Record holder and World Water Speed Record holder, had three Derby Bentleys, including B22 GA, a Vanden Plas tourer, painted in Campbell Blue, of which he wrote:

The engine, steering, suspension and Brakes are absolute perfection. I have never driven a car that holds the road so well. The 4.25 litre Bentley is the most amazing proposition which it has ever fallen my lot to handle.

Clearly, those who knew how to handle cars at speed delighted in Derby Bentleys as fast road cars and in some cases as effective racing cars. Is this surprising, given that both Sir Henry Royce and W O Bentley, two of the foremost motor engineers of their day, were involved in the development of the car.

W O Bentley himself said of the cars in a report after one of his testing sessions:

Taking all things into consideration, I would rather own this Bentley car than any car produced under that name.

Purchase Today
For the unwary, a Derby Bentley acquired in poor condition can today be a source of much heart-ache and penury as restoration of a complicated piece of machinery is expensive if placed in the hands of specialists. Such a project requires a variety of skills: sound mechanical experience for rebuilding of the engine, wood working for replacement of ash framing (given the age of the cars, if this has not been done previously, it must be a fair presumption that it will be required soon), electrical expertise (as rewiring is now probably also essential for safety reasons), painting, rechroming, interior trimming (with work on leather seats, headlining and carpets and the wood veneers of the dash and door cappings). Some work will often have to be sent to specialists, such as the white-metalling and line boring of the main bearings. There are several good specialist restoration firms, links to whom can be found in our links section. Will Fiennes of Fiennes Engineering manufactures many of the parts that will be required to maintain or rebuild your car mechanically.

Suffice to say that ownership can be a costly pastime! It is important to choose carefully when purchasing a Derby Bentley. Buy in haste and repent at leisure! Consideration to all aspects of condition is required to gauge the possible future foreseeable levels of expenditure required. The Favoured 500 alluded to earlier will command higher values than other cars in a similar condition. Thus, it makes sense to seek out one of these to ensure that as much of your future expenditure as possible is recoverable, if you come to pass on title! The only sensible way to buy a more common (but still intrinsically excellent) example such as a standard Park Ward or Thrupp & Maberly saloon is to look for a fully and properly restored example. You may pay a bit more initially but it will be far less than it cost the previous owner to carry out the work.

We would urge anyone contemplating purchase of an example today to have a reputable restorer or specialist examine and report on the candidate before any serious negotiations are pursued. Also, many existing owners are only too happy to help another like-minded soul to a satisfying ownership experience.
Driving Experiences
The rewards of driving a well-sorted Derby Bentley are not primarily financial and are so great that they should be enjoyed as frequently and as widely as possible. It is also worth pointing out that each car is different and is likely to have unique driving characteristics.

Having taken two drophead coupes to Le Mans in 2001, this was borne out by the reactions of the four drivers: The 3.5 litre Park Ward (B73 FC, with later overdrive) was universally praised for involving the driver in the whole experience and for the sharpness of handling and general fun. The 4.25 litre Overdrive Mulliner (B81 MX) was praised for its smoothness and comfort and was seen as a grand tourer rather than a sports car. If ownership is contemplated, not only the body style of the particular example but also the particular driving characteristics should be carefully considered.

We invite you to share with us and others through this website your ownership experience, both in anecdote and with photographs.

Many owners have derived great pleasure and interest in researching the ownership history of their cars. Please give others interest and pleasure in putting this on public record.

Many current owners use their Derby Bentleys extensively. Only last week I was shown a Vanden Plas drophead which had covered over 400,000 miles in one family ownership. Not all take their car on the Round the World in 80 days Rally as Chris and Jan Dunkley and Richard and Judy Ingham did in 2000 or as Richard and Elizabeth Brown did from London to Peking, all without serious mishap. What is your experience? Have you some useful tips to pass on to others? Share them through this website.

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