Bentley recently marked the 90th anniversary of the ‘Derby era,’ a significant period in the brand’s history, by hosting an event at its Dream Factory in Crewe, UK. This era, known for producing “The Silent Sports Car,” spanned from 1933 to 1939 and saw the creation of 2,400 different 3 ½ Litre and 4 ¼ Litre vehicles. The highlight of the celebration was the public appearance of Bentley’s unique 1939 MkV Corniche, believed lost for 84 years.
The Derby era holds importance for Bentley, as it includes the first vehicles produced under Rolls-Royce ownership and introduced key mechanical and aesthetic enhancements that would become integral to the brand’s identity. Some design elements from that era still influence modern Bentley models like the Continental GT.
The era began with the 3.5-liter inline-six engine, delivering 118 horsepower, a remarkable power output for the early 1930s. Equipped with a new synchromesh gearbox and improved handling, these vehicles enjoyed commercial success, with annual production exceeding 500 units and collaborations with over 40 coachbuilders.
In 1936, the 4.5-liter six-cylinder engine became an optional upgrade, boosting power to 125 hp and pushing the top speed from 90 mph to 96 mph.
The anniversary event showcased various Bentley models from the Derby era, including a 1934 3 ½ Litre with Thrupp & Maberley coachwork, a vehicle that spent much of its life in the US before returning to Bentley, and the exceptional Corniche, among others.
This celebration is part of Bentley’s broader 2023 festivities, which encompass the 20th anniversary of the Continental GT and the conclusion of the brand’s W12 engine, with the last unit set to be produced in April 2024 as Bentley shifts its focus towards its electric future.