In 1986 I became the proud owner of a 25/30 Rolls Royce with a Park Ward sports saloon body. Then in 1999, after along search, I part exchanged the RR for a 4 1/4 Derby Bentley with a unique Belgium body. In finding this car a dream came true as it was the style of the car that I first saw 30 years earlier when I was a student in Paris; I had dreamt of owning it ever since.
In 2001 I sold my company and began touring with the Derby; covering about 30.000 mils in 10 years. We joined the South Africa tour in 2003, the only Derby tour John White organized. In SA the right hand drive steering was great, so it was on our tours to the UK but on the continent my wife Gerry did not really enjoy sitting on the “wrong side” of the car.
So I started looking for another dream car, a search which took me two years. This time it had to be a post-war Bentley and, of course, left hand drive and with a Drophead body as well. It was quite difficult to find all those wishes in one Bentley but in September 2006 I got a tip from a Belgian RREC member that there was such a car for sale in Zurich (Switzerland) at Lucas Huni. I went there with a technical man to examine the car and, at first glance, the car did not look bad at all but the engine sounded very poor so we could not test drive it.
I did not have a good feeling about the car. I also found out was still owned by Vantage motors in Miami who had sent the car to Switzerland more than 10 years earlier. Why had it been hidden away in a cellar there I could not find out. However, it was left hand drive and a Drophead coupe R type with chassis number B 202 LWH ( note: the L stands for lefthand so the actual chassis number starts with a W) for which I have been looking for such a long time.
We went home and I started investigating the car and contacted Bernard King and found out the following: and now I quote Bernard “from the magnificent Park Ward design 552 there were only 9 cars made and this is the only left hand drive one made!” Early November I made the deal with Vantage Motors in Miami and the car was trailered from Zurich to the Netherlands.
My first goal was to get the car running, which was not easy as the petrol tank was dried out and now filled with a sort of gum. The tank had to be cut open cleaned and it got a new tin interior. Of course the petrol pump was also not usable anymore. The carburettors and the brakes have been overhauled and after a while the car was running, but the sound of the engine was very poor. We did some touring in 2007 but beginning 2008 I decided to bring the car to a so called specialist in the north of Holland. It took him 9 months to overhaul the engine as well as sort out the front suspension, including kingpins and steering. He also overhauled the brakes and central lubrication. And finally I got a Dutch registration.
As I have a ramp myself I spent the whole winter of that year cleaning the car underneath, which did not look bad at all as mud, grease and oil had protected the chassis and underside.(photo 3 and 4) I also removed all the bright wood interior, boxed it and sent it to City polishers in Spalding (UK) who did a very good job for an acceptable price. As the car had a plastic wind screen we had to make a mould from wood as there was no existing screen available for this coach built car. Note: I have now the mould, so if anyone needs a PW curved screen, I can help!
As I was unhappy with some of things done by the “specialist” in North Holland I brought the car to Dave Terry Mobile repairs that also now have a workshop just a few miles from my house. He checked a couple of things and repaired some, so I was ready to travel to the 2009 annual rally from the RREC where I proudly showed my car, back in the UK after 55 years away.
As we intended to join a Bentley tour through Switzerland in August that year I went back again to Dave Terry to do a total check-up and he repaired again most of the things at the front as well as a full service on the brakes, servo, steering and new wheel cylinders.
The Bentley tour in Switzerland was great with magnificent hotels and wonderful driving. The R type behaved well even climbing steep hills and we had no problems, although the kick down from the automatic gearbox didn’t work as the rod to the gearbox was missing. We enjoyed the car so much that Gerry and I decided on a cosmetic restoration, a decision made quickly but which took more than 2 years to complete ….. and endless payments…
I followed the advice of a friend to work with various companies in Hampshire who work closely together. I brought the car to the Old Coach Works in Over Wallop (nr Andover) the rates were very reasonable and the small companies did not have charge VAT. The problems came later as there were too many people working on my car and there was not ONE person responsible for the whole job, so when the panel beater was ready the paint shop did not find the panels smooth enough and charged me for a lot of extra work.
Next to The Old Coach Works’ paint shop are two other specialists who stripped the car down as well as stripping the engine of all ancillaries to paint it whilst the wings were off. When all was built up again I found out that the engine had been painted in matt paint as were all the pipes which are normally cad plated. We decided only to repaint the engine with glossy paint and did not touch the pipes anymore as cad plating was too expensive and too time consuming in this stage. Finally mid-November 2010 the car went to Mike Thomas in Petersfield and Mike trimmed the car back to the original state. The result was fantastic but a new problem arose. With the hood re-trimmed as the hood material and lining were too heavy for the electric motor and hydraulic pumps! As the car was intended to go to A&S Engineering for a total check-up I asked Paul Brown to solve that problem as well.
So at end of February the car went to A&S. I was expecting the work to take a couple weeks but it ended in a 6 months job! The first quote was based on a quick check up for a reasonable price but the longer they worked on my car the more they found. So now we had a complete overhaul from the power hood system, a complete overhaul from the automatic gearbox (with the kick down rod). There was one nasty surprise after another! Upon test driving the car Paul found out that also the back axle was not working as it should. So they part exchanged the back axle with a Continental one (13/40). Then somebody noticed that nails from the hood trim protruded from a piece of wood above the windscreen so the car had to be transported to Somerset to wood specialist Gareth Burnard who did a great job in a very short time. Then back to the trimmer in Petersfield to repair the trim afterwards.
After 2½ years standing most of the time the car with the doors open both doors had dropped, so we decided to come back to England to replace the hinges and back plates early in 2012 when the car went back for some service work too.
Finally end of August 2011 my brother and I took the plane to England to collect the car and drive it home; we stayed in a small hotel not far from Alton. The next morning it was raining very heavily and soon I lost a wiper and strange stripes appeared on the windscreen. I decided to go back to A&S in Alton to get the wipers fixed and to figure out the strange stripes. At A&S we found out that the rubber compound used for fitting the screens was dissolving due to the rain! We cleaned the screen and continued our trip along the south coast towards Dover. We stayed overnight in Belgium and next morning after lots more rain my car looked terrible and we had to clean the screens again with white spirit to get the rubber compound off the glass. Happily we kept it dry for the rest of the day.
Back home and with the help of a specialist we found out that the coach man used a rubber compound for bedding and not a fitting compound. A specialist in Holland solved the problem and the specialist in the UK paid the bill.
In the spring of 2012 I brought my R type back for several guarantee repairs as well as the hinges and a total check up by A&S in Alton and some paint repairs in Over Wallop.
In June I attended the RREC annual rally where I was awarded with two trophies: best in class and best European entered car, so my 5 year restoration project was successful according to the judges.
End of June we joined a Bentley venue in Germany and after that trip I decided one final investment: electric power steering from EZ Power steering in Holland and in August we went on a long tour of Germany, Austria and the Dolomites in Italy and, thanks to my new power steering, it was fantastic touring through all these passes with hundreds of hairpin curves.
Since August 2011 we have driven 7000 miles trouble free and now I am preparing B202 LWH for a long trip to Spain and Portugal.
Hans Van Eeuwijk
Heusden, The Netherlands
Phone: +31 (0) 653 180 916