Monterey

19-20 August 2016

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Lot 241

1939 Bentley 4¼-Litre Sports Coupe "Honeymoon Express" by Park Ward

  • Chassis no. B30MR
  • Engine no. C8BM

Sold for $770,000


126 bhp (29.4 hp RAC), 4,257 cc OHV inline six-cylinder engine with two SU carburetors, four-speed manual transmission with an overdrive fourth gear, front and rear semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension with adjustable hydraulic shock absorbers, and four-wheel servo-actuated mechanical drum brakes. Wheelbase: 126 in.

  • The 1938 Earls Court Motor Show car
  • “The Bentley Autobahn Kurier;” a design of exceptional historical significance
  • The only example ever built; numerous unique features
  • Full restoration with original body, chassis, and engine
  • 2016 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance Best in Class winner


One of the most famous “Derby Bentleys,” chassis number B30MR was displayed by Park Ward at the 1938 Earls Court Motor Show in London. A unique design, the sleek two-seater sports coupe was intended to be Bentley’s contemporary to the Mercedes-Benz 540 K Autobahn Kurier, with a smooth fastback tail and aerodynamic close-coupled lines on the most up-to-date “MR” chassis, equipped with fixed radiator shutters, a more sporting dashboard layout, a Marles steering box, and, most prominently, a transmission with an overdrive fourth gear.

Typical of a showpiece, the car was equipped with the latest “trick” features, including a “sunshine roof,” frameless Triplex side windows with mechanical lifts, an illuminated number plate with reverse and brake lights, cigar lighters, and full rear wheel spats. Use of the 4¼-litre chassis for a two-passenger body allowed for quite a bit of additional space behind the seats, which was intended to be used for luggage. Park Ward’s most creative feature was a power-operated roller blind that could be lowered to cover the rear window.

The latter was seen as a somewhat racy touch for a two-passenger automobile, and along with the extra luggage space, led the car to be nicknamed “Honeymoon Express” by period press, a moniker that has stuck ever since.

The “Honeymoon Express” was the showstopper that it had been intended to be, and after the Earls Court Motor Show, the chairman of Park Ward, having become smitten with it, took it as his personal automobile. Later, during World War II, the car is known to have been used by the London Rolls-Royce dealer R.A. Robertson, who had it finished in camouflage in what was obviously a successful effort to avoid German bombs.

In the 1960s the car passed to Maurice Richmond, who is thought to have purchased the car while on active duty for the U.S. military in England. Richmond used the car regularly, including to attend a Bentley Pageant held at Goodwood with the Bentley Drivers Club in 1967. It was subsequently imported stateside on MS Brasilia, arriving in Los Angeles on 11 July 1967, and remained with Richmond until 2002.

Soon thereafter the car returned to the United Kingdom, where it underwent a concours-quality restoration by the noted facilities of Alpine Eagle between 2006 and 2011. It was displayed at the 2011 RREC Rally, winning its class and the Peter Blond Award, and it was also invited on the Louis Vuitton Classic Serenissima Run in 2012, winning the Coachbuilders, Golden Age prize.

In its present ownership, the car underwent further sorting and concours preparation by RM Auto Restoration, including minor repairs to its finishes and detailing inside and out. Most prominently, 60 hours were invested in the design and fabrication of a correct-style rear window blind, as had been installed in 1939. The power-operated blind was the final touch, bringing this car back to its original “Honeymoon Express” configuration.

Since this work, the car has been enjoyed in North American concours competitions. It was awarded 3rd in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2015, as well as a thrilling 1st in Class at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance this March. These have been the car’s only two concours appearances on this continent, thus opening up a world of further possibilities for the new owner to show and enjoy his or her Bentley.

Exceptionally well-known to enthusiasts, the original “Honeymoon Express” appears in Stanley Sedgwick’s All the Pre-War Bentleys As New (p. 114), validating that the original engine and registration numbers are still those present today, as well as in Johnnie Green’s Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque (p. 202), Michael Ellman-Brown’s Bentley:The Silent Sports Car, 1931–1941 (p. 120), and Neill Fraser and Tomas Knapek’s Bentley Beauty: The Art of the Coachbuilder on the Derby Bentley, 1933–1940 (p. 22). It is documented by a collection of receipts for its Alpine Eagle restoration, copies of detailed build and ownership records from the Hunt House and Rolls-Royce Foundation, and copies of vintage photographs taken throughout its existence.

The “Honeymoon Express” name has been worn by several two-passenger Bentley and Rolls-Royce show cars over the years, but this 4¼-litre was its originator. It stands among the most memorable “Silent Sports Cars” of its generation, both for its high-performance specification and its stunning one-off coachwork that was designed to compete among the greatest showstoppers that Europe had to offer. With similar cars of that era, such as the extant Autobahn Kuriers and Pierce Silver Arrows, largely out of circulation, the opportunity to acquire Park Ward’s streamlined stunner is a singular moment in the history of aerodynamic design.

Addendum

Please note that contrary to the print catalogue description, the majority of the restoration work on this car was performed by Wildae Restorations Ltd. of Devon, including restoration of the chassis, ash body frame, body panels, mechanical components, chrome, and paintwork. Alpine Eagle was responsible for the upholstery, interior detailing, and road testing.

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

aweaver@rmsothebys.com

+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

asabatie-garat@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 74 1511 4179
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

bruprecht@rmsothebys.com

+1 203 912 7168
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

dswig@rmsothebys.com

+1 415 302 2247
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

drose@rmsothebys.com

+1 617 513 0388
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

dgould@rmsothebys.com

+1 954 566 2209
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

gduff@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
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

jauerbach@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
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

kforry@rmsothebys.com

+1 717 623 1638
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

mmalamut@rmsothebys.com

+1 805 231 6410
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

msquire@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

mfairbairn@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 352 4575
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

ocamelin@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 75 0110 7447
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

pdarvill@rmsothebys.com

+44 (0) 20 7851 7070
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

pfisher@rmsothebys.com

+1 519 784 9300
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

smyers@rmsothebys.com

+1 310 559 4575
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

tvandervelden@rmsothebys.com

+31 653 84 19 60
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