Perfect Pre-War Package: 1935 Bentley 3.5-litre Coupe

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We head to Knysna to drive a uncommon pre-war Bentley that has been completely researched by its present custodian and his workforce.

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1935 Bentley 3.5-litre Coupe by Barker Quick Info

  • Engine: 3 669 cm3, six-cylinder, petrol 
  • Transmission: 4-speed guide, RWD
  • Energy: 89 kW @ 4 500 r/min 
  • Most pace: 145 km/h 
  • Gas tank: 80 litres 
  • Weight: 1 759 kg 
  • Manufactured: 1933–1939 


There’s a stage of opulent class from the pre-war period that fashionable automobiles merely can’t replicate. It was a time when a targeted, handmade effort went into almost each element, leading to a number of the most trendy automobiles in automotive historical past.

Bentley has been up there with the most effective, particularly should you take all of its early racing success into consideration, most notably its achievements on the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the place it was victorious in 1924 and from 1927 to 1930. Most of us now affiliate the model with excessive luxurious, and it was no totally different again within the thirties. As indicated on the metallic sill plates you see if you open the doorways, this 1935 Bentley 3.5 Coupé’s coachwork was performed by famend London coachbuilders Barker & Co, which additionally labored with different prestigious marques similar to Daimler and Rolls-Royce.

This automobile’s present custodian is a passionate, educated collector primarily based in Knysna. His curiosity in automobiles spans throughout borders, however there’s a clear lean in the direction of automobiles from the early to mid-Twentieth century. Earlier than he handed over the important thing, he listed all of the vital historic details about this particular instance off the highest of his head. “This automobile was on the Olympia Motor Present stand, the place it was purchased by a girl known as Mary Straker. Ultimately, it grew to become the property of Dame Mary Bailey, the aviatrix. We came upon Mary Straker was Mary Bailey’s aunt.”


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Additional analysis by the present proprietor revealed one other airborne risk to its possession historical past, as the following custodian was commodore Jack Holmes, a revered World Struggle II hero within the Royal Air Pressure. He continued, “That was the automobile’s early historical past however I do have the remainder written down. It was lately owned by a chap who lived in Knysna for about 15 years after which moved to Johannesburg, which is the place I purchased it in 2014. It has been in South Africa since 1946. The automobile is completely unique and we managed to get the unique leather-based preserved.” 

“It was initially painted the one inexperienced color however Jack Holmes didn’t prefer it, so he hand-painted it the second color and flattened it. It stayed like that for a few years. After we acquired the automobile, it had black fenders, which had been a little bit ropy. After some additional analysis, we determined to return the automobile to its unique colors in these areas, much like the inexperienced of that period, however we saved the patina of a number of the unique paint. Even the chassis nonetheless has that unique paint on it.”


“We haven’t performed any main work on the engine. The carburettors, gas pumps and distributor had been all serviced, and so was the coolant and the braking system.” Taking my place within the driver’s seat, it was thrilling to think about the individuals who had sat there earlier than me. The truth that that is nonetheless the unique, albeit closely cracked, leather-based is a feather within the cap of all of the automobile’s custodians, and the seats are impressively snug. There’s greater than sufficient house for adults within the rear, an space that can present a soothing trip and a little bit of privateness due to the curved rear aspect home windows. 

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An air of stable high quality permeates the cabin. Above the windscreen are lovely solar visors that may wind all the way down to your chosen top. You pull the door shut by tugging on a thick leather-based strap, and it’s a must to determine the place the choke is and the perform of every dial, lever and button. 

The green-hued cabin ties in completely with the outside. This Bentley got here with metallic wheel spats that screw onto the wheel, completed in the identical inexperienced because the physique. By hiding the multitude of spokes, the spats give this automobile a clear, easy look. To my proper was the very lengthy, chromed gear lever. Whenever you look down, you’ll be able to see it seated in a kind of open-gate system that clearly signifies the place of every gear. Choosing first gear offers a robust reminder of the mechanical effort required to pilot these previous automobiles. As I elevated my pace and became second after which third gear, a little bit little bit of throttle helped to maintain up the revs and aided the motion of slotting the gear lever into the following ratio.


It actually serves you effectively to have a good bit of mechanical sympathy as you have interaction every gear. The extent of torque makes cruising at a low 1 500 or 2 000 r/min attainable, however I saved the throttle pedal down, and the revs enthusiastically climbed previous 3 000 r/min in the direction of 4 000 r/min. Though it’s nearly 9 a long time previous, the engine felt robust and the automobile would in all probability be completely happy to cruise at pretty excessive speeds (for its time) all day lengthy. Gearing down is barely trickier…

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It’s important to use the throttle however, on the identical time, there needs to be no hesitation to place it into the decrease ratio. Should you take your time, the gears may scratch and you actually don’t need that. The clutch engages excessive up, and also you additionally must brake earlier due to the Bentley’s comparatively primitive braking system. Ultimately, it’s the kind of automobile that you must respect and perceive methods to drive correctly.


When you attain prime gear and have that view forward over the lengthy, vented bonnet with the Bentley emblem on the sting, there’s a craving to settle into a protracted drive on essentially the most scenic roads in South Africa. Contemplating the entry-level automobiles that had been obtainable available on the market throughout this period and the worth of those Bentleys, it’s clear these had been aimed on the elite. They supplied peak efficiency, model and luxurious along with a style of Bentley’s racing success. Fairly a mixture! 

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