Amelia Island

10-11 March 2017

A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith

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Lot 126

1936 Bentley 4¼-Litre Airflow Saloon by Gurney Nutting

  • Chassis no. B118HK
  • Engine no. K2BY

Sold for $165,000

126 bhp, 4,257 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine with two SU carburetors, four-speed manual gearbox with synchromesh on the third and fourth gears, front and rear semi-elliptical spring suspension with hydraulic shock dampers, and four-wheel mechanical brakes with servo-assist. Wheelbase: 126 in.

  • Gurney Nutting’s 1936 Olympia Motor Show car
  • Well-known long-term ownership history
  • One of two examples built to this exceptional streamlined design
  • Showstopping lines and proportions, beautiful from any angle

The Airflow saloon on the Bentley 4¼-Litre chassis was drawn by A.F. McNeil, Gurney Nutting’s immensely talented chief designer, and creator of such famous bodies as the Maharaja of Indore’s Duesenberg Model SJ. McNeil was a pioneer of British streamlining and created several handsome, flowing designs on a variety of chassis, in particular sporting Bentleys. Only two 4¼-Litre chassis received this particular Airflow saloon design, with the car offered here, number B118HK, originally having open rear fenders (without “spats”) and a single side-mounted spare, the latter of which it retains today.

Originally finished in “steel dust” with grey leather upholstery, the car was exhibited on Gurney Nutting’s stand at the 1936 Olympia Motor Show, an appropriate locale at which to show off the latest styling advances. The presence of the car at Olympia was confirmed by Bentley historian Michael Ellman-Brown, and the car pictured in the 14 October 1936 edition of The Motor, as well as described in that year’s Olympia program.

Following its exhibit at Olympia, the Bentley was delivered by The Car Mart, Ltd., of London to its first owner, Major C. Watson Smythe of “Venaur” in Lelant, West Cornwall, in March 1937. It subsequently passed in 1940 to the second owner, C.J. Oppenheim, and in 1943 to the third owner, V. Motion, also of London and at the time a Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force. Photocopies of the original British registration documents show a succession of future British owners through the early 1960s, including, briefly, the famous broker “Bunty” Scott-Moncrief.

In 1967 the car was sold by London dealers Frank Dale & Stepsons to Art Mullaly of Carmel, California. Mr. Mullaly would own the car for 14 years before selling it to the well-known West Coast Bentley collector, Gary Moore. It next passed in 1987 to Malcolm Schneer of Newport Beach, who documented the car’s ownership history through the years, and was able to confirm its exhibition at Olympia. Now finished in its striking red over beige livery, it was prominently featured in the March 1989 issue of Car Collector magazine. Mr. Schneer exhibited the car at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 1995, and at the Rolls-Royce Owners Club National Meet the same year.

Following another West Coast ownership, the car was acquired in 2010 by Orin Smith and has remained in his collection for the past seven years.

The car presents with its original restoration, with the more recent addition of rear fender “spats,” which are similar to those fitted to the other 4¼-Litre Airflow saloon. The wheels are covered by Ace wheel discs, a distinctive and tasteful touch. Both the paint and interior show considerable patina, as does the interior woodwork, which has dulled but remains solid aside from a replacement dashboard carrying correct instruments and an original “sprung” steering wheel. Overall the car has potential to attract crowds, with sympathetic restoration and mechanical attention, and become a lovely tour car or show-stopper at local meets. Alternatively, and perhaps most tantalizingly, as the recipient of a body-off, correct and complete concours restoration, it would be a surefire contender at any number of national concours d’elegance.

Rolls and Bentley historian Diane Brandon, surveying this 4¼-Litre in the Smith stable, said it best: “It is a stunning car, with no awkward views or angles.” The judges will agree.

Please contact our exclusive automotive transportation partner, Reliable Carriers, for a shipping quote or any other information on the transport of this vehicle.

Alexander Weaver

+1 864 313 6844
California, United States

Alexander Weaver joined RM Sotheby’s in 2011 as a Car Specialist after graduating from Furman University in South Carolina. Born... read more

Augustin Sabatié-Garat

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United Kingdom

Augustin Sabatié-Garat joined RM Europe in 2012 as a Car Specialist after more than a decade in the collector car hobby. Gradua... read more

Barney Ruprecht

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Ontario, Canada

Barney’s interest in classic cars began at an early age after being introduced to his father’s all-original 1965 Porsche 911. Barney l... read more

David Swig

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California, United States

David Swig joined RM Sotheby’s West Coast division as a Car Specialist in May 2015. David is a life-long automobile enthusi... read more

Don Rose

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United States

Don joined RM in 2006 after several years of professionally trading sports and classic cars, and after earning a reputation as a noted... read more

Donnie Gould

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Florida, United States

Donnie Gould joined the RM team in 2002 as a partner and Car Specialist after more than two decades in the vintage automobile auction ... read more

Gord Duff

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Ontario, Canada

Gord Duff began his journey with RM Sotheby’s in 1998. Since then, he has gained an intimate knowledge of a variety of marques a... read more

Jake Auerbach

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California, United States

Jake Auerbach got his start in the automotive industry at an early age, spending his summers during high school working at a classic c... read more

Kurt Forry

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California, United States

Having worked for Bonhams’ Automobilia department for over 10 years, Kurt Forry joined RM Sotheby’s with more than a decad... read more

Matt Malamut

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California, United States

A long-time car enthusiast and Southern California native, Matt studied Automotive Technology at San Diego Miramar College and complet... read more

Michael Squire

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United Kingdom

Michael Squire joined RM Sotheby’s European Division in the summer of 2016. He comes to RM with a prestigious racing background ... read more

Mike Fairbairn

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Ontario, Canada

As one of the three founding partners of RM Sotheby’s, Mike has a long-standing interest in the classic car industry. Graduating... read more

Oliver Camelin

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United Kingdom

With an extensive background in exotic sports car history and sales, a particular passion for American curves, and fluency in three la... read more

Paul Darvill

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United Kingdom

Paul Darvill joined the RM Sotheby’s European team at the beginning of 2015. Paul holds a degree in French and Politics from the... read more

Pete Fisher

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Ontario, Canada

Pete Fisher was first introduced to antique cars in high school, working for Classic Coachworks in his hometown of Blenheim, Ontario. ... read more

Shelby Myers

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California, United States

Shelby Myers grew up with the classic car industry infused into every aspect of his life. He had the unique opportunity to watch the R... read more

Tonnie Van der Velden

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United Kingdom

Tonnie Van der Velden joined RM Sotheby’s European division in September 2015 as a Car Specialist. A lifelong enthusiast, Tonnie... read more