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Lot 375
1936 Bentley 4 1/4-Litre Airflow Saloon


Selling on Friday

From The Rockhound Collection; Coachwork by Gurney Nutting


• Exhibited by Gurney Nutting & Co at the Olympia Motor Show in 1936
• One of just two Bentleys built to this design specification
• Very well-documented and featured in Johnnie Green’s book, ‘Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque’
• A historically significant automobile in Bentley’s long, prominent history

4,257 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine, four-speed manual gearbox, front and rear semi-elliptic spring suspension with hydraulic shock dampers, four-wheel mechanical brakes with servo-assist, rear-wheel drive; wheelbase: 126”

The Bentley nameplate is one that has been around since 1919 and carried its old-world English heritage with it through each model that left the factory. Carrying that old-school craftmanship and interesting Bentley history comes this rare, one of just two built, 1936 Bentley 4 ¼-Litre Airflow Saloon. As with all models in that period, Bentley would supply the rolling chassis and an array of British coachbuilders like Freestone & Webb, Park Ward, Mulliner, and Gurney Nutting would offer custom and “standard catalog” bodies. In total 1,241 Bentley 4 ¼-Litres were produced from 1936 to 1939 from all the coachbuilders combined.

This particular example, chassis B-118-HK, is one of the first 4 ¼-Litres to be completed and leave the factory. Exhibited on the Gurney Nutting stand at the famed Olympia Motor Show, this streamlined Airflow Saloon was penned by the Chief Designer of Gurney Nutting, A.F. McNeil. Originally finished in “steel dust” over a grey leather upholstery, this is one of just two built with this design, as confirmed by noted Bentley historian Michael Ellman-Brown, and can also be found in its original form in Johnnie Green’s book, ‘Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque,’ an excellent informational source that was further revised by well-known Bentley collector and historian, Peter Hageman.

Known ownership history after its Olympia Motor appearance begins with Major C. Watson Smythe of Cornwall who received B-118-HK from The Car Mart Ltd of London in March of 1937. Three years later it was passed to C.J. Oppenheim and then to Royal Air Force squadron leader V. Motion of London in 1943. Ownership during the 1960s would be passed through a succession of different collectors, including the famous broker “Bunty” Scott-Moncrief for a brief period. Eventually, in 1967, it would be sold by famed London dealers Frank Dale & Stepsons to Art Mullaly of Carmel, California who would keep it for 14 years before selling it to West Coast Bentley collector, Gary Moore. In the late 1980s, it was restored with a body-off-the-frame restoration. After its restoration, then-owner Malcolm Schneer exhibited it at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1995 and the Rolls-Royce Owners Club National meet that same year. Ownership would then be held on the West Coast until it was acquired in 2010 by Orin Smith where it would remain for seven years. This would bring us to 2017 when The Rockhound Collection would welcome it into its climate-controlled facility.

Visually stunning, thanks to its distinct lines and perfect body proportions, this rare Bentley still presents well today wearing its original restoration. The red paintwork is in good condition, showing some minor patina in areas but still remaining pleasing and very attractive. Like the exterior, the interior cabin presents nicely and is trimmed in tan leather piped in red and tan carpets throughout. The interior woodwork remains original and solid, aside from a replacement dashboard that holds correct instruments and an original “sprung” steering wheel. Displayed as a lovely and truly unique touring car right now, a sympathetic restoration would once again bring this rare Bentley back to being a contender at a number of national Concours d’ Elegance events. As Bentley historian Diane Brandon once said about this example, “It is a stunning car, with no awkward views or angles,” and we would like to think everyone would certainly agree.

Historically significant and sporting beautiful coachwork, this rare, one of only two Bentley 4 ¼-Litre Airflow Saloons built to these specifications, originally used as the show car at the 1936 Olympia Motor Show, is a showstopper in the truest sense and will certainly bring attention to any show or collection it is showcased.

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