1937 Bentley 41/4-Litre Parallel-Door Drophead Coupe by James Young

A rare find with a really fascinating history, this unusual Drophead Coupé Bentley by James Young has been forensically restored over a five-year period by our resourceful vendor with help from marque specialists, Clanfield Coachbuilding and Fiennes Restorations. Most of us enjoy a TV mystery drama, particularly when it’s well written like the, recently returned, Silent Witness where DNA, modern science and extensive research are applied to a previously insoluble, decades-old mystery resulting in, if not always a happy ending, certainly a conclusion. Forensic investigation, hours of research, dogged determination and a bit of luck would equally apply to our vendor’s journey with this remarkable Bentley and, in this case, the ending was indeed happy although it took a little longer than two, one-hour episodes. Our articulate vendor is clearly possessed of a terrier-like tenacity, as the story of his battle to get the origins and provenance of B172 KT correctly documented, clearly illustrates. We take the liberty of quoting directly from his email to us. “Whilst not quite a barn find, I purchased the vehicle back in late 2013 as a huge jigsaw puzzle, having been advised that the bodyshell and various other parts were about to be auctioned off at Sotheby’s ‘as is’ with a reserve of just £60,000. The rationale for my interest, despite all the original parts being scattered across several suppliers and restoration companies, was that the shell had been restored by Clanfield Coachbuilding and, most of the mechanical parts, such as the engine, gearbox and rear axle, totally rebuilt by Fiennes Restorations. So clearly a no expense spared exercise.” However, he was not convinced by Sotheby’s reference in the catalogue to its current Drophead Coupé (DHC) configuration, not being the original factory-built specification. A well-regarded source of reference for these cars listed the car as originally being a fixed-head, de Sedanca Coupé (pg.232) and naturally Sotheby’s advertised it accordingly. “Unfortunately, the James Young buildings, along with all records, had been destroyed during the blitz in 1939 so, given the limited time available, I continued with the sale on the basis of it still being a hybrid. I then purchased every publication I could on Derby Bentleys and discovered within another book “ The Silent Sports Car ” by Ellman Brown, that the car was referred to, correctly in my opinion, as a DHC (pg 406). I therefore immediately contacted the RREC Derby Bentley Registrar, who proved to be incredibly supportive and was able to find certified copies of the original build sheets, signed off on October 1st 1937. These build sheets confirmed that it was built by James Young as a DHC, chassis number B172 KT, delivered to the Pass & Joyce dealership on October the 5th, not the rigid-bodied de Sedanca model referred to. It also confirmed that the very unusual cantilevered ‘parallel doors’ were fitted from new and not a later modification.” “The Bentley Drivers Club also proved to be as helpful as the RREC in assisting me by suggesting that I contact the Jack Barclay Dealership, as they had purchased all the remaining stock parts and partly completed vehicles after the fire. They, however, drew a blank too, confirming that their records, only went back as far as post-acquisition of the James Young company in 1939. They were, however, as intrigued as everyone else and had bitten the ELA 900 bug, promising to look back through all their historic files to see if they could find anything at all on the vehicle. I sent them the name and address of the second owner, a Mr H. F. Shepherd, who had purchased the car second-hand on the 29th of June 1939, as he resided in SE 19, which suggested he may have had the car serviced at Jack Barclay’s. I received a phone call back, the very next day, confirming that Jack Barclay himself had part-exchanged the vehicle in 1939 to Mr Shepherd and had personally signed the original order form (copy in the file). The vehicle was clearly referred to as a James Young DHC on the order form which, when tied to the build sheets, proved enough evidence for both the RREC and BDC to immediately recognise B172 KT as a James Young DHC. “During the call with the Jack Barclay’s researcher, following this amazing news, I was asked if I was sitting down before he went on to explain, that he also believed the vehicle to be a very rare find, possibly one of only three of this DHC model ever built. I again immediately contacted Richard Edgell from the RREC Derby Bentley Register for further advice and he confirmed that, prior to our car surfacing, only seven parallel-doored, James Young-bodied 4¼ models had been built. Richard followed up by referring me to a Tom Clarke article in the Flying Lady magazine (circa 2007), that referred to a Mr James Wenham, who was an engineer working for James Young Coach-builders since 1910 and had witnessed an horrific accident in Paris, where a rear-hinged opening car door had killed a pedestrian. This incident triggered him to literally draw on the back of a cigarette packet, a cantilevered system where the door pivoted out and back towards the rear of the car, leading to James Young showing Bentley examples at Olympia in 1935 and 1936 and at Earls Court in 1937. Unfortunately, James died on October 18th 1940, along with his wife, following a landmine explosion at his home. I was still unsure just how many of the remaining parallel-door cars were actually DHC, having been advised that an identical DHC model to mine had been destroyed in the factory fire. Also in the book, ‘ Bentley Beauty’ , under the James Young section, they refer to there only being six 4¼ models manufactured with only three remaining. Whilst not formally authenticated, the Aga Khan had owned the same DHC configured model, as does currently, Ivan Kempinsky, the billionaire owner of the hotel chain in his name. “ A brief history of some notable owners. Captain S. C. E. Lloyd, was the first owner, purchasing the vehicle on October 9th 1937 and selling it less than two years later in June 1939, shortly before the outbreak of the second world war. A decorated WW1 veteran, he registered the vehicle address at Shell Mex House, London, WC2, the oil company’s UK headquarters, so perhaps it was a very expensive company car? Mr Shepherd was thankfully the second owner triggering the part-exchange sale through Jack Barclay Ltd. referred to above, which was instrumental in clarifying the car’s provenance. The third owner was the famous author and playwright Simon Harcourt Smith, noted for his ‘60s TV series One Step Beyond , the film The Queen’s Guard , his play that starred Douglas Fairbanks Junior, called The Rheingold Theatre and numerous books. The car’s fourth owner was Sir Rupert Clarke 3rd Baronet who purchased the Bentley on the 25th February 1941. He was an Australian National who served with distinction as a decorated soldier and ADC to General Alexander. He was educated at Eton and certainly enjoyed everything London had to offer at the time, so much so that he was very reluctant to return home after the war, not leaving until 1946 and even then he chose to store his beloved ELA 900 “temporarily” in readiness for his imminent return. This temporary storage dragged onto August 1951 before selling the car and why he never shi Click here for more details and images