Dazzling oldie to lift display

THE cogs are turning quickly for this year’s The Herald World of Wheels Nelson Mandela Bay Motor Fair and excitement is building for the Eastern Cape’s premier motoring exhibition.

The fair, hosted by the Eastern Province Veteran Car Club, is due to take place on Saturday December 1, at the Newton Tech Sports fields in Westview Drive.

The expo will feature a number of new events and an auction of classic cars from all over South Africa, by the Knysna- based House of Classic and Sports Cars, is expected to be one of the main attractions for buyers from around the country.

And, in keeping with the theme of classic cars, we feature one of the stars of the fair this week.

Eastern Province Veteran Car Club members, Rob Lawrence and the late Mike Jones, heard about the restoration of a 1937 Derby Bentley and visited Johan Schultz at his workshop to find out more.

Lawrence recaps: “The work is now almost complete and Johan will display it at the motor fair if he can get it ready in time, so we hope to see it there.

“The Derby Bentley started life as a four-door coach-built saloon, but Johan has transformed it into a two-door drop head.

“The elegant body is now separated from the chassis, the restoration of which is now practically complete – except for some minor details and wiring still to be done,” Lawrence says.

If you thought building the body was a huge task, think about restoring a chassis.

“The chassis has refinements as central lubrication – yes, each joint, spring and moving part is lubricated with oil, not grease, and controlled by the driver by a lever under the fascia from a reservoir under the bonnet.

“The lever-arm dampers are connected to a pump on the gearbox. It hardens the ride the faster you go, but can be overridden by a control on the steering boss.

“More refinement yet is the famous Rolls Royce mechanical braking servo also driven by the gearbox. This is designed to release the pressure as the point of wheel lock approaches.”

Lawrence says a refinement, which Schultz has added, is a Laycock de Normanville overdrive – as developed by The Bentley Drivers Club – which allows five forward gears and makes high- speed travel less stressed on long runs on the open road.

The chassis, axles, dampers and springs have all been reconditioned and the leaf springs encased in leather gaiters.

“All this undercarriage is painted in gleaming black and almost sadly will not be seen again once the elegant body is in place.”

The engine is finished in the finest black enamel, as is the valve cover, twin SU carburetors and other parts. No fancy hot rod- type chrome work here, only where it was original such as the oil sump filler cap with its iconic “B” and beautifully crafted over- centre catch, Lawrence says.

“Details like this make classic expensive cars stand out, as their designers obviously wanted to produce more than a temporary product but a lasting monument.”

In the ’30s, a car like this Bentley would have cost about £1500, as much as three or four average homes in a decent English suburb. At the same time, firms like Ford, Austin and Morris were able to produce quite comfortable well equipped family cars for between £100 and £200.

The Bentley’s body – presently on a cradle next to the chassis – has been painted in a dazzling black, its elegant lines reflecting the workshop’s neon lighting, and awaits being re-united with the chassis. This car is going to look stunning with beige leather upholstery and trim, and the “wire” wheels covered by highly polished aluminium disk covers.

This 1937 Derby Bentley is sure to be one of the glowing stars of this year’s Motor Fair!

Leave a Reply