1940 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre OD Fixed Head Sedanca Coupe
Bentley 1940 4 ¼ Liter Overdrive Fixed Head Sedanca Coupe
1940 Bentley 4 1/4 Litre Fixed Head Sedanca Coupe with Overdrive
Chassis No. B187MX
Engine No. T7BF
Original English Registration No. GGO 553
French Registration No. 573-FA-30
Coachwork by Hooper & Co.
This Derby Bentley, which combines supreme elegance with a sporting look, is fitted with the last prewar body built by the renowned coachbuilder Hooper. It is considered by many experts to be the most stunning as well as the finest original Derby Bentley in existence.
Hooper and Company, established in 1805, had a reputation as coachbuilders to royalty. From 1830 until closing after World War II, they held continuous royal warrants to the British sovereigns. One of their earliest commissions as automobile coachbuilders was a body on a Daimler chassis for King Edward VII in 1904. Between the two World Wars, they exported specialized, one-off bodies, and some of their clients included the Emperor of Japan, the King of Egypt, and the Shah of Persia. The London Times wrote, "Hooper's list of Royal and distinguished patrons is unequalled by any other coachbuilder in the world." This body by Hooper is a one-off design with a unique art deco interior and originally was appointed with a white steering wheel and white shift lever.
Mrs. Duff-Asheton-Smith, then wife of Sir Michel Duff-Asheton-Smith, of one of England's wealthiest families, ordered this car from Hooper. The car still retains the coach lamps engraved with her monogram. Because of the onset of World War II, she never took delivery. Instead, the car was delivered to the English shipping magnate, B.M. Mavroleon, on November 12, 1940. Mr. Mavroleon and his four cousins established Rethymnis and Kulukundis, which was to become synonymous with Greek shipping in the City of London. In 1942, American diplomat A.J. Drexel-Biddle, of the Philadelphia Biddles, purchased it. Mr. Biddle served as an Army Major General in World War I and then began a diplomatic career. He was Minister to Norway, Ambassador to Poland from 1937 until the outbreak of WWII, and then Ambassador to many governments-in-exile in London during the remainder of the war. Subsequently, the car was stored at the Musee 1900 in Provence, France for over fifty years, hence the low mileage of just over 66,000 kilometers and its extraordinary preserved condition.
Recently, P & A Wood, the, world-renowned restorers of Rolls-Royce and Bentleys, has completed an extensive refurbishing and servicing at an in-house cost of over $70,000. The late Stanley Sedgewick, the well-known former president of the Bentley Drivers Club, Bentley enthusiast and author, was once vice-president and then president of the first owner's (B.M. Mavroleon) shipping company. He was familiar with this lovely Bentley from new and took a personal interest in its care and preservation, even during its stay at the Musee 1900. Mr. Sedgewick often spoke of it as the ultimate design on a Derby Bentley chassis. Mr. Bill Dobson, head judge at the Pebble Beach Concours for many years and automobile archivist, states, "This Hooper Bentley has all the design elements of the classic coupe de ville. It is especially attractive because of the extreme shape of the molding defined panels. I put it in the class with the Constance Bennett Phantom II by Brewster or the Embiricos Bentley by Van Vooren. It has always been one of my all-time favorite Derby Bentleys."
The car is documented in Bentley: The 1938/39 Overdrive Cars by Mervyn Frankel and Ian Strang on pages 218/219 and in Bentley: The Silent Sports Cars by Michael Ellman-Brown on pages 168/169. It is the subject of a limited edition print by Andrew Brown, one of fifty, which is reproduced in Bentley Beauty by Fraser & Knapek, and will be given to the buyer of the car.