Auctions and Brokerage
Coachwork by Vanden Plas, Updated by Derham
Brewster & Company Inc., Long Island, New York (acquired new in 1936)Francis V. du Pont, Esq., Wilmington, Delaware (acquired from the above in 1937)Thomas Nightingale, North Birmingham, UK (acquired from the above in 1939)Miss R. Astbury, Malvern, UK (acquired from the above in 1942)H.M. Melhuish, Esq., Devon, UK (acquired from the above in 1946)Zolton Deshaw, Esq., Essex, UK (acquired from the above in June 1947)Messrs. Radford & Company, London, UK (acquired from the above in November 1947)S.G. Thompson, North Birmingham, UK (acquired from the above in 1949)C.R. Southhall, Birmingham, UK (acquired from the above in 1957)R.H. Shrimpton, North Lichfield, UK (acquired from the above in 1959)G.H. White, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania (acquired from the above in 1965)Leonard Goldfarb, New Haven, Connecticut (acquired from the above in 1972)Merle Greenstein, Tualatin, Oregon (acquired from the above in 1992)Peter Hageman, Kirkland, Washington (acquired from the above in 1998)Richard L. Scott, Sidney, Ohio (acquired from the above in 1999)Peter Hageman, Kirkland, Washington (reacquired from the above in 2000)Reid Davis, Lake Oswego, Oregon (acquired from the above in 2001)Current Owner (acquired from the above in 2003)
New York International Auto Show, 1936Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, 2006St. Michaels Concours d’Elegance, Maryland, 2009 (Chairman’s Award)Derby Bentley National Meet, Indiana, 2017 (First Place, Concours)Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club Annual Meeting, Indiana, 2017 (First Place)
The 3 1/2 Litre Bentley was introduced in September 1933, becoming the first new Bentley model brought to market after Bentley became a subsidiary of Rolls-Royce in 1931. These elegant, powerful, well-loved motorcars would become known as Derby Bentleys as they were assembled at the Rolls-Royce works in Derby, England. Each was built as a running chassis and shipped to the coachbuilder of the buyer’s choice to receive its bespoke bodywork.
Chassis B203EJ was delivered to the coachbuilder Vanden Plas on September 17, 1935, and received touring coachwork. The car was then shipped to the US by Long Island-based coachbuilder Brewster & Company Inc. The sleek new Bentley was shown at the 1936 New York International Auto Show where it caught the attention of Francis V. du Pont, an engineer, pilot, business executive, and member of the prominent American du Pont family. As an engineer and designer, Mr. du Pont had his own ideas for the Bentley’s fine details. He shipped the car to Derham Body Company, a revered American coachbuilder near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There, the coachwork’s details were reworked as a Drophead Coupe. Among the changes specified by Mr. du Pont were raised doors, roll-up windows, and the distinctive chrome side trim.
In 1937, Mr. du Pont shipped the car back to Bentley in England for proper maintenance, but due to the intense fighting in Europe at that time, Bentley could neither complete the work nor return the car to the US. In June 1939, the Derby Bentley was sold to Thomas Nightingale of North Birmingham, UK. It was registered FXE 9, a number plate the car still displays. Miraculously, the car survived the war. After passing through several English owners, it was purchased in September 1965 by Lt. Commander G.H. White, USN, and returned to the US. By now in deteriorated condition, Mr. White commissioned a professional restoration. After passing through additional caretakers, the Bentley received a bare-metal repaint in 2000 and was finished in the rich deep red it wears today while in the care of noted Bentley authority Peter Hageman. In August 2003, the 3 1/2 Litre was purchased by the consignor. It was treated to a new tan top and interior to complement its red finish and was fitted with polished aluminum wheel covers to augment its gleaming brightwork.
In March 2006, the one-off Bentley was invited to the prestigious Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance. In June 2017, it won a First Place concours award at the 66th Annual Rolls-Royce Owners’ Club Meet in French Lick, Indiana, a glowing testament to the quality of its older restoration. A stunning Bentley with fascinating history and well-established provenance, this Drophead Coupe is a showstopper wherever it goes, and must be a consideration for the serious Bentley aficionado.