10-11 March 2017
A Gentleman's Collection: The Pride & Passion of Orin Smith
1939 Bentley 4¼-Litre "Embiricos" Coupe Recreation by Bob Petersen Engineering
- Chassis no. B119MX
- Engine no. W9BC
Sold for $671,000
- An exquisite, faithful recreation of the fabled “Embiricos Bentley”
- Exceptional build quality and craftsmanship; true to the original
- Built on an original, correct 4¼-Litre overdrive “MX” engine and chassis
- Inarguably one of the most beautiful streamlined designs of all time
The Derby Bentley has a reputation as “The Silent Sports Car” – elegant, swift, but always controlled, and not the brawny and imposing performer of the “W.O.” years. There were some exceptions to that rule, none more prominent and notable than the so-called “Embiricos Bentley,” commissioned by Walter Sleator from French coachbuilder Marcel Pourtout for Sleator’s great client, international sportsman Andre Embiricos.
Pourtout’s official stylist, the brilliant Georges Paulin, drew up a coupe to strict aerodynamic principles, tested in wind tunnels in France and England. Looking more Delage than Derby, the result was a stunning streamlined coupe, mounted on the ultimate 4¼-Litre chassis with factory overdrive. Reportedly it was the fastest saloon in England prior to the war. Embiricos drove it enthusiastically, as did later owners; post-World War II, it ran three times in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It is widely credited with planting the idea in Bentley management for the 1939 Corniche prototype, designed in collaboration with Paulin, which would evolve into the R-Type Continental – a car much in the same character as Embiricos’ special creation.
Today the original “Embiricos Bentley” happily survives, in the care of one of the world’s finest collections. Unhappily for the many who would like to own it, it is not for sale.
The car offered here is the solution to that conundrum. Built by the renowned British firm of Bob Petersen Engineering, celebrated for its especially beautifully crafted Bentley “specials,” it is a line-for-line copy of the Embiricos car, on a correct 4¼-Litre overdrive chassis, as was used for the original. The car retains the original chassis’ engine, number W9BC, as well as its original British registration numbers. Everything else is true to Pourtout, down to the rear fender “markers,” the shapes of the windows, the concealed door handles, and the shapes of the hood latches. Much of the trim was exquisitely machined from scratch in the Petersen shops.
Under the hood, the engine, correctly restored with a few bright “flourishes,” received light performance upgrading, as well as improvements to aid in its cooling under hard use. This car was, significantly, not built as a showpiece, but, in both Embiricos and Petersen tradition, as a car that a new owner could and should drive extensively and with rapidity. It was fitted with a polished aluminum dashboard, carrying a full complement of correct instrumentation and gauges, facing upholstery in saddle tan leather in a “Deco” pleating design. Eighteen-inch wheels hide behind Ace wheel discs, while the body was finished in lustrous gunmetal pewter metallic.
Following its completion in 2011, the stunning car was shown throughout Europe, then made its way stateside, to join Orin Smith’s collection. It was a natural acquisition for the Smith Collection, as it represents one of the most beautiful Bentleys ever created, as well as a landmark in the company’s performance heritage.
Thus it stands, still in utterly immaculate condition, among its “Silent Sports Car” brethren, a glorious tribute to what vast funds and a talented designer can bring to the world.
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