Lot 146 - 1934 Bentley 3½ litre Open Tourer by Sparrowhawk
|Odometer reading||85,000 miles|
|Estimate||£100,000 - £140,000|
|Result||Sold - £131,600|
Introduced in September 1933, the 3½ litre was the first Bentley after Rolls-Royce's acquisition of Bentley Motors in 1931. Bentley only supplied the chassis, scuttle, radiator and grill while the customers chose their own coachbuilder to construct a body to their own requirements. Many distributors had coachworks of their choice pre-built for immediate sale. The Bentleys of this era are known as Derby Bentleys as they were built in the Rolls-Royce factory situated in that eponymous city. They were extremely elegant and immediately caught the eye of the discerning motorist, this combined with the ability to enclose the drive-train in some of the most exquisite coachwork available at the time, proved a huge success for Bentley Motors.
Originally manufactured by Barkers & Co, recommended coachbuilders of Rolls-Royce and constructor of the world-famous 40/50 Silver Ghost, it began life as a four-door saloon delivered on the 13th August, 1934. Its lucky new owner was none other than Her Royal Highness, Princess Arthur of Connaught.
Her husband, Prince Arthur of Connaught, was a British military officer and a grandson of Queen Victoria. He served as Governor-General of the Union of South Africa from 1920 to 1924. With a mother who was Princess Louise Margaret of Prussia, it is little surprise that he grew up in rather privileged circles. Windsor Castle being bigger than the average maternity ward. Indeed he was the first member of the British Royal family to be educated at Eton College. He went on to Sandhurst and was subsequently commissioned into the 7th (Queen's Own) Hussars in 1901. He saw action during the Second Boer War and became the honorary Colonel-in-Chief to this regiment in 1920. During the Second World War, he served as aide-de-camp to Generals Sir John French and Sir Douglas Haig, the successive commanders of the British Expeditionary Force in France and Belgium and ending his career as the Honorary Major General and aide-de-camp to his first cousin, King George V.
On 15 October 1913, Prince Arthur married his cousin Princess Alexandra, 2nd Duchess of Fife at the Chapel Royal, St. James's Palace, London. Princess Alexandra held the title of Duchess of Fife in her own right and was the eldest daughter of the late Duke of Fife and The Princess Royal, the eldest daughter of King Edward VII. After their marriage, Arthur and Alexandra were styled Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Arthur of Connaught.
It was to the Princess that this Bentley was delivered and it is believed to have been used regularly by her and her son during her ownership.
From correspondence, it is thought to have suffered some fire damage to the bodywork in the 1960s and it was then that the body was re-configured by a Mr. J.E.W. Sparrowhawk to a more modern sporting format whilst still utilising all necessary parts from the original car.
The vender, a collector of note with once a DB5 and a Frazer Nash parked alongside this most elegantly bodied Bentley, acquired the car as a rolling chassis in 1991 with much work completed on the running gear and a new ash frame in the style of a Vanden Plas open tourer fitted. Work then began on the body your see here by noted specialist, Simon Dunsford who previously had worked for Lynx Engineering in Hastings building C and D-Type Jaguars. With the ash frame coming from James E. Pearce of Wisborough Green, Billingshurst, West Sussex, the new coachwork took over two years. The lines are extremely good and the profile superb. Much thought has been given to the cockpit detail and the overall quality of workmanship is excellent. As a Sussex car, it is entirely natural for it to be looked after respected Bentley specialists, Sergeants of Goudhurst. With a strong history in their very capable hands, the car has a clean bill of health with a new crownwheel, pinion and clutch fitted in 1998, as well as a total re-wire in 2006. Supplied with full weather equipment, some spares and a healthy history file, this ‘silent sportscar’ has been very well put together, is reported to drive beautifully and has a privileged history to match.