Derby Bentley day at Vintage & Prestige
Derby Bentley saloons are a varied bunch, as indeed are the open cars. Coachbuilders of the 1930s loved to show what they could do on these low, athletic chassis, and some of the highest peaks of the designer’s art and craft were achieved on Derby-built cars. Vintage & Prestige is offering examples from either end of the Derby saloon price spectrum right now, with a 1934 3 1/2-litre H.J. Mulliner Sports Saloon for £56,000 (above) and a fastback, be-spatted Airline Saloon by William Arnold, also a 1934 3ó -litre car, for £150,000 (below).
The latter car is still in Vancouver, Canada, but V&P’s Richard Biddulph is flying over soon to photograph it in greater detail. He says the prices for cars of this era have come back a bit, but when you have something to offer that’s genuinely rare or even unique, the rate of sale is still buoyant – on the day we spoke, he had sold another Derby Bentley with amazing semi-sliding doors that fold out and backwards, to lie parallel with the body.
‘We specialise in Rolls-Royce and Bentley and so we see plenty of Derby cars, and we’re still successful at selling them,’ says Richard. ‘The values have far more to do with coachwork, history and condition than with engine size, as you could sit someone in a 3 ½ -litre car or a 4 ¼ -litre car and they’d be unable to tell the difference in the way they drive. In fact, the earlier cars often wore lighter bodies, and they go at least as well – or even better – than a 4 ¼ ’
The William Arnold saloon is typical of the sudden craze for aircraft-inspired streamlining that took car design by storm in 1933 and ’34. Indeed, this is one of many streamlined styles exhibited at the 1934 Motor Show at Olympia, where some were more extreme and less easy on the eye than this one. The concentric rings on the wheel discs and the chrome spears on the spats add an even more Art Deco touch to the details, while the paint line, with the top colour curving round to echo the form of the wheels, plays its own part.
The H.J. Mulliner sports saloon could hardly be more of a contrast. Upright and straightforward where the Airline design is long and swooping, it’s more like the kind of shape mounted on contemporary Rolls-Royce 20/25 chassis. There is a little less room for back seat passengers than in the Airline saloon but otherwise, the Mulliner car seems likely to do everything its more expensive rival could do – indeed, it may well be lighter without all that billowing panel work. But such is the price of beauty! To see these cars in more detail, and around a dozen other Derby Bentleys that Richard is offering, see vandp.net.