A unique 1937 Bentley 3½ Litre Vanden Plas Drophead Coupe is up for auction at H&H Classics at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, on 17 October.
The guide price range is between £450,000 to £550,000.
H&H Classics believes chassis B135FC to be the most original and best-preserved Derby Bentley in the world.
It has covered just 15,500 miles from new in the hands of three very careful keepers. It is notable as the last of only four 3½ litre cars to wear Vanden Plas Drophead Coupe coachwork and sports original two-tone red paintwork, red leather upholstery, engine, gearbox, front axle, rear axle, steering, suspension, brakes, brightwork, wood veneers, instrumentation, tools, glass, pedal rubbers and even chassis paint.
First registered as `DLO 936′ on March 1st 1937, chassis B135FC was supplied new to Robert S. Hayward Esq. of The Hawthorns, Galashiels. A director of the nearby R & A Sanderson Woollen Mill, he covered a modest 11,000 miles aboard the Bentley before offering it for sale via R. Webster’s small dealership located off Union Street in Edinburgh where it was spotted by W. Randolph Angell Esq.
Recalling the encounter in his memoirs the latter described it thus: “How does one cope with blind passion? I was a ruined man. A visit to the showroom for a closer look was devastating. The car was immaculate, perfect, with tonneau covers and spares etc which had never been used. The asking price was beyond my means and in any case I had no driving licence or any sensible place to keep the car even if I were able to acquire it”.
Further showroom visits ensued as did the prospect of losing `DLO 936′ to a South African collector. Suitably panicked, Mr Angell found the requisite funds and became its proud owner during May 1954. Accompanying documentation includes correspondence between Messrs Hayward and Angell, handwritten receipts from Mr Webster for the purchase price (£1,350, 7th May 1954) and tax / insurance (£32, 18th May 1954) plus another for seven driving lessons (£5 8s 1d, 8th June 1954).
Treasuring the Bentley, its new owner acquired a Riley Kestrel 15/6 for everyday usage and later a Jaguar E-Type V12 Roadster to drive on high days and holidays. Kept in professional storage when not being sparingly enjoyed, accompanying MOT certificates issued in May 1970 and April 1980 list recorded mileages for the Vanden Plas Drophead Coupe of 15,030 and 15,195 milesrespectively. One of its few public outings was to the ‘Bentley Shell 500 Golden Jubilee 1919-1969’ celebrations at Oulton Park (a sticker for which remains affixed to the windscreen).
Ever wary that a road traffic accident would compromise its remarkable originality, Mr Angell ensured that ‘DLO 936’ spent less and less time on the public highway. Parked up in his garage for thirty odd years, it benefited from surroundings that were not only watertight but also conducive to preservation in terms of moisture and light levels. Reluctantly offered for sale by Mr Angell’s heirs in 2013, the Bentley entered the current custodianship that same October.