Bentley 3½ Litre
Total Production: 1,177 1933 - 1937
In 1931 Bentley Motor was purchased by Rolls-Royce. As a result the Bentley factory was moved to Derby. Many of the future designs of the Bentleys utilized the Rolls-Royce creations and borrowed many of their mechanical components. The first example of this was in 1933 with the introduced of the Bentley 3 1/2 Liter which was very similar to the newly introduced Rolls Royce 20/25. To continue Bentley's heritage and racing accomplishments the Bentleys were given a sportier design and a more powerful engine. The Rolls Royce vehicles were outfitted with luxurious amenities and elegant designs.
As was customary at the time, automobile manufacturers supplied various coachbuilders with rolling chassis and left it to the coach builder to design and build the body of the vehicle. This meant that each vehicle could be created to the exact requirements as dictated by the customer. By utilizing a similar chassis, the coachwork for the Bentley's and the Rolls-Royce were streamlined, making it easier on the coachbuilder.
During the production lifespan of the Bentley 3.5 Liter which lasted from 1933 through 1937, around 1177 examples were created in various size, configuration, and coachwork. Power was supplied from a straight-six cylinder engine with overhead valves and two SU carburetors. The 110 horsepower was distributed to the rear wheels through a four-speed manual gearbox. Performance was modest with a top speed nearing 100 mph. The performance of the Bentley was further increased with the introduction of the Bentley 4 1/4 Liter which featured a larger engine and a higher compression ratio.
The low production figures of the Bentley 3 1/4 guarantees their exclusivity in modern times and is further amplified by the unique designs created by some of the most famous coachbuilders during that era to include Mulliner, Vandenplas, and others.
The vehicles that were first produced by Bentley under the ownership of Rolls Royce in the factory located in Derby, are commonly referred to as the Bentley Derby's. The union between Rolls Royce and Bentley was a marriage of quality construction, reliability and sporting heritage. The engine and chassis of the Derby Bentley's were constructed by Bentley with the final construction and assembly handled by coachbuilders, selected by the customer and built to their specifications.
The engine sizes ranged throughout the years from a 3.5 liter unit to a 4.25 Liter unit, later fitted with overdrive. There were over 1,100 examples of the 3.5 liter vehicle created in less than three years. Most were bodied by Park Ward and given the standard bodies consisting of wood and aluminum or steel. Other coachbuilders include Rippon, Thrupp & Maberly, Saoutchik and vanvooren, Vanden Plas, James Young, Barker, Freestone & Webb, Gurney Nutting, Hooper, Mann Egerton, Mulliner, Figoni, Kellner, and more.
A total of 2422 examples left the Derby factory. Most were in Saloon configuration. Drophead Coupe configuration was next most popular configuration.
By Daniel Vaughan | Oct 2006