ONE of the rarest, most valuable and most significant Bentleys in the world is currently making a guest appearance at the marque’s home in Crewe.
Fresh from taking part in the ‘Serenissima Run’ in Venice and featuring at the Le Mans Classic, the sleek and beautiful 4¼-litre Embiricos special is occupying pride of place in the Bentley lineage showroom for a couple of weeks.
Throughout the 1930s Bentley, then owned by Rolls-Royce, were producing fast, grand tourers from their Derby factory. While many customers sent their chassis to traditional coachbuilders such as Vanden Plas, Mulliner or Park Ward for elegant bodywork, enthusiasts from across the Channel, where the roads were longer and faster, were eager to explore the new world of aerodynamics.
One such owner, André Embiricos, a wealthy Greek racing driver living in Paris, decided to investigate the possibility of a streamlined high-performance Bentley. The result was the most famous Bentley of the era.
Walter Sleator, Bentley’s Paris agent, put him in touch with Georges Paulin, a designer working for coachbuilders Pourtout Carrossier. In 1937 they produced a striking aerodynamic body for the Bentley that would be suitable for fast touring and track records alike. To keep weight down the fastback body with split rear window was crafted in an aluminium alloy.
The Embiricos Bentley fulfilled all the criteria for a Bentley high-performance grand tourer, achieving a timed 114.64mph over an hour at Brooklands yet being civilised enough to be used as a road car. Embiricos sold his Bentley late in 1939 to H.S.F. Hay who raced it in three post-war Le Mans 24-hour races, achieving a creditable sixth place in 1949.
Reaction to the unique Embiricos Bentley encouraged the company to explore more streamlined styles for future production models. In 1939 Bentley designer Ivan Evernden worked with Paulin on a sleek prototype called Corniche but sadly it was in France when war broke out and was destroyed during a bombing raid on Dieppe while awaiting shipment to Britain.
After the war, many of the lessons of the Embiricos Bentley reached fruition in the glorious lines of the 1952 R-Type Continental and so continue to be reflected in the iconic shape of today’s Continental GT coupé.
Richard Charlesworth, head of the Bentley Heritage Collection, said: “It is an honour for Bentley to exhibit this unique car for the first time. Its sleek form was extremely advanced for the time and its DNA can still be seen in modern Bentley coupés today.”
The Embiricos is on temporary display at the Bentley factory and will be shown to the general public at the Windsor Castle Concours d’Elegance from 7th to 9th September.