1934 3 ½ Litre derby – axb 3

AXB 3 is claimed to be one of the first 3½ Litre Derby Bentleys to be delivered to a customer, as earlier examples were either experimental cars or demonstrators. It is an excellent example of the Bentley known as the ‘Silent Sports Car’, which was produced in Derby after the company changed hands in 1931. The model redefined Bentley; compared with a maximum production at the former Cricklewood factory of around 200 Bentleys a year, Derby produced around 500 Bentleys per annum.

The Silent Sports Car

The six-cylinder, 3½ litre engine of the ‘Derby’ Bentley was smooth, refined and produced around 120 bhp, a respectable output for the era. Quality was superb; the cars were stylish, fast, refined, elegantly proportioned and easy to drive. Compared with the old Bentley D Type crash gearbox, the advantages of synchromesh were clear, while supple springs and stiffer chassis frames set high standards of handling.

Sales Success and Later Development

The Derbys were more refined and more agile than their Cricklewood predecessors yet cost up to £400 less, and so reached a wider clientele than any previous Bentley. The 3½ Litre was endorsed by celebrities including racing drivers Sir Malcolm Campbell and Archie Frazer-Nash.

The 3½ Litre Bentley needed some developmental changes during production, including an additional chassis cross-member in front, and harmonic-stabiliser bumper to improve ride and handling.  In 1936 a larger engine was offered as an alternative to the regular 3½ Litre. For an extra £50 owners could opt for quarter of an inch (6.35 mm) wider cylinder bores and a few cosmetic additions. This model became the 4¼ Litre and by 1940 production numbers had passed those of the earlier car.


AXB3 was delivered by dealer Jack Barclay to its first owner, Alex Mitchell of Tulliagan Castle in Scotland, early in 1934. He’s known to have kept the car until the war, and sadly records have been lost for the next owners, but at some time it made the journey across the Atlantic. It was discovered in a barn in East Otis, Massachusetts in 1968. Charles H. Wolfe of Lancaster, Philadelphia was recorded as the next owner in 1987 and he gave the car to the care of Bentley Motors in 2004.

Date ProducedFebruary 1934
Chassis/Engine No.B53AE / W3BD
BodyThrupp and Maberly 4 door sports saloon
Engine6-cylinders; 3669 cc. Pushrod overhead 2-valves; gear-driven camshaft; cast iron cylinder head, block, aluminium crankcase; 7-bearing crankshaft
Power120 bhp (89.5 kW) @ 4,000 rpm 
TransmissionSingle dry plate 10.5 in dia clutch; 4–speed gearbox, synchro 3 and 4; hypoid bevel final drive
Chassis10’6” wheelbase with centralised Bijur lubrication system. Semi-elliptic leaf spring suspension; anti-roll bar; hydraulic lever arm dampers, hydraulic ride control; mechanical brakes
DimensionsWheelbase 126 in (320 cm);  track 56 in (142.2 cm); length 174 in (441.9 cm);  chassis 2,510 lb (1,140 kg); complete car 3,360 lb (1,524 kg)
PerformanceMaximum speed approx 94 mph



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