During the 1930's after its acquisition by Rolls-Royce, Bentley became an important supplier of quiet, high speed road cars. The first Roll-Royce engineered Bentley, the 3 1/2 Liter, was recognized by W.O. Bentley as the best car ever to bear his name.
Enlarged to 4 1/4 liters in 1936, the engine shared the dimensions of the Rolls-Royce 25/30 but employed a Bentley-specific cross-flow overhead valve cylinder head with dual SU carburetors. The chassis frame was a lightweight yet rigid 126 inch wheelbase design specific to the Derby-built Bentleys with, by 1934, adjustable hydraulic shock absorbers on the live axles.
Fast and comfortable with exquisite road holding and manners, Bentleys were preferred by racing drivers like Malcolm Campbell and Raymond Mays and were bodied with some of the most attractive owner-driver drophead coupe and saloon designs by Vanden Plas, H.J. Mulliner, Gurney Nutting and Park Ward.
A few migrated abroad to receive coachwork by some of France's finest coachbuilders including a very few bodied by VanVooren. Established in 1910, VanVooren for some years built coachwork under the Weymann patents but in the early 30's developed its own construction system using Silentbloc mountings and joints which became highly regarded for their construction and light, innovative, semi-streamlined designs. Vanvooren had no signature designer during the Thirties, instead choosing distinctive designs from the pens of French freelance designers, among them Georges Paulin.
The company bodied a few Bentleys during the Thirties, highly regarded for their style and luxury, and VanVooren was importantly chosen by Bentley to create the semi-streamlined pillarless saloon coachwork for the Bentley Corniche prototype on the 1939 Bentley Mark V chassis.
This 1936 Bentley 4 1/4 Liter, B125GP, was acquired from Bentley's Paris agent, Franco-Britannic autos by M. Jacques Faure of 160 avenue Victory Hugo in Paris. M. Faure commissioned VanVooren to create the svelte, sleek coachwork B125GP still bears.
After being hidden during World War II on a farm owned by M. Faure she was sold in 1952 and eventually migrated to Britain and the United States where it was discovered in 1996. Returned to the UK, restoration began in earnest in 1998 at Classic Restorations (Scotland) Ltd. It was completed in 2002.
Judged Best Derby Closed Car and Best Derby Bentley at the Bentley Drivers Club annual concours that year, upon returning to the US B125GP was driven from Baltimore to Boston, then later to Chicago and has completed several long tours while being maintained in excellent cosmetic and mechanical condition.
In fact, it was shown at the Pebble Beach Concours in August of 2013, where it completed the tour at part of a special exhibition of Van Vooren coachwork.
A pillarless sedan with clamshell doors and a sliding sunroof, raked windshield, Marchal headlights and driving light and wheel discs this excellent Bentley 4 1/4 Liter VanVooren saloon is attractively liveried in Velvet Green with subtly contrasting Sage Green body sides and luxuriously upholstered in Camel Tan leather set off by green carpets.
Unusual features include beautifully detailed door handles and other body hardware, trafficator wands in the rear quarters, a top-hinged windshield, an enclosed rear-mounted spare wheel and tire and a finely crafted rack above the trunk that is designed to carry bags of golf clubs. One additional unusual feature is that all the interior wood moldings around the side windows and windshield are covered in leather matching the seats.
The plush but lightweight front seats have exposed tubing frames. It comes with tools, a trouble light, original condensed owner's handbook and original full instruction book. The details are exquisite, but the VanVooren design is sublime, combining a long hood and flowing fenders with an elegantly proportioned close coupled passenger compartment that is comfortably balanced on the 4 1/4 Liter's 126 inch wheelbase.
Fast and comfortable on long open Continental roads, it is refined in town or at the finest resorts and spas. It is one of the finest examples of French coachwork on British chassis.