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SNAPSHOT 93: 4½-litre Bentley

This photograph, taken at Oulton Park Richard Seaman Trophies meeting in 1971, is clearly of a Bentley – and, from the stylish mid-1930s coachwork, the car should logically be a Derby-built car.  But it is not; it was built in Cricklewood.  Chassis number XT3630 started life in 1931 as one of the last 4½-litre Bentleys.  It was sold as a chassis only on 11th August 1931, and first bodied as a Gurney Nutting saloon, and then as a tourer by an unknown coachbuilder.

But in 1936 it was again re-bodied, this time with a body taken from a Triumph, the style being known as “Flow-Free”, and fitted by Coopers of Putney. As is the case with so many Bentleys, it was re-bodied again as a VdP 4-seater tourer in 1930, but the Coopers body survived, and has a fascinating history.

This body style was fitted to the Triumph Gloria and was designed by Triumph’s in-house stylist, Walter Belgrove around 1934-35, in a ‘streamline’ year in which many manufacturers exhibited this ‘wind-cheating’ coachwork at the Olympia Motor Show.  50 of these streamlined Triumphs were sanctioned for production, but fewer than half that number were thought to have been produced – because at £425 they failed to sell well, despite their rakish looks.

No Flow-Free Triumph Gloria models still exist, but in the 1930s a number of small companies – one of them Cooper Motor Bodies of Putney – bought end-of-the-run bodies from major manufacturers, and this one was fitted to Bentley XT3630.  The body had to be adapted to the Bentley: the rear and the body below the doors were extended downwards, and the rear wings were enlarged to cope with the bigger wheels and tyres.  A new bonnet and front wings were made.

In 1994, pre-war Triumph expert and restorer Rob Green purchased the body when the Bentley was converted to a VdP replica and, by reversing the previous alterations, fitted the body to a Triumph Vitesse that was otherwise beyond repair.

Although no Vitesse models originally carried this type of body, the resultant car is a unique example of a Triumph with Flow-Free coachwork, and a fitting tribute to the streamline era.


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