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Lot 674: 1928 Bentley 41/2-Litre Tourer

Sports, Competition & Collectors' Motor Cars, Bonhams (24 June 2005)

W O Bentley proudly debuted the new 3-litre car bearing his name on Stand 126 at the 1919 Olympia Motor Exhibition, the prototype engine having fired up for the first time just a few weeks earlier. In only mildly developed form, this was the model which was to become a legend in motor racing history and which, with its leather-strapped bonnet, classical radiator design and British Racing Green livery has become the archetypal vintage sportscar.
Early success in the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, when Bentleys finished second, fourth and fifth to take the Team Prize, led to the introduction of the TT Replica (later known as the Speed Model). However, by the middle of the decade the 3-Litre’s competitiveness was on the wane and this, together with the fact that too many customers had been tempted to fit unsuitably heavy coachwork to the excellent 3-Litre chassis rather than accept the expense and complexity of Bentley’s 61/2-litre ‘Silent Six’, led to the introduction of the ‘41/2’.
The new 41/2-Litre model effectively employed the chassis, transmission and brakes of the 3-Litre, combined with an engine that was in essence two-thirds of the six-cylinder 61/2-litre unit. Thus the new four-cylinder motor retained the six’s 100x140mm bore/stroke and Bentley’s familiar four-valves-per-cylinder fixed-‘head architecture, but reverted to the front-end vertical camshaft drive of the 3-Litre. Bentley Motors lost no time in race-proving its new car. It is believed that the first prototype engine went into the 3-Litre chassis of the 1927 Le Mans practice car. Subsequently this same engine was fitted to the first production 41/2-Litre chassis for that year’s Grand Prix d’Endurance at the Sarthe circuit.
The original 41/2-Litre car, nicknamed by the team ‘Old Mother Gun’ and driven by Frank Clement and Leslie Callingham, promptly set the fastest race lap of 73.41mph before being eliminated in the infamous ‘White House Crash’ multiple pile-up.
The 41/2-Litre was produced for four years, all but nine of the 665 cars made being built on the 3-Litre’s ‘Long Standard’, 10’ 10”-wheelbase chassis. Purchasers of the 41/2-Litre model were, in common with those of all vintage-period Bentleys, free to specify their preferences from a very considerable range of mechanical and electrical equipment, in addition to whatever body style and coachbuilder might be required.
This 41/2-Litre Bentley is one of the very few unmodified, unrestored and completely correct examples. Indeed, its originality goes as far as still retaining the original fabric body and brush painted coachwork. Components like the engine, gearbox and differential, still retain the factory lead and wire seals on filler plugs, etc. The engine was replaced by the factory within the first three weeks of supply from new. It is believed that this was purely due to a casting fault.
The car has a recorded mileage of fewer than 21,000 miles, and this lack of use is evidenced by the absence of apparent wear: for example, where the tachometer drive runs along the cam cover. There is no wear at all on this original casting.
The car was owned and housed for a number of years by the Sword collection in Scotland. Ownership then passed to the Rt Hon Alan Clarke MP, who sold the car to purchase a restored and modified Bentley. His regret about selling the car continued until his untimely death, and until that time he expressed an interest in reacquiring it.
Chassis number ‘RL3427’ retains its original classically proportioned four-seat tourer coachwork by Vanden Plas, widely recognised as the most pleasing ever to clothe the Bentley chassis. The fabric coachwork is finished overall in mid-grey. The black leather front seats were re-upholstered and the brown leather-edged carpeting renewed circa 15-plus years ago, while the rear seat upholstery is obviously older. Other noteworthy features include original Smiths and Jaeger instruments, three-piece screen, Dunlop 21” tyres all-round, Bosch lights and twin horns.
This car has not been out of the United Kingdom and therefore retains the full and free circulation within the EEC with all taxes paid.

Lot Details
Auction Sports, Competition & Collectors' Motor Cars
Bonhams, Goodwood Festival Of Speed, Chichester
Lot Number674
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£168000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£186300
Condition rating
Registration numberDS 1567
Chassis numberRL3427
Engine numberRL3429
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors