Lot 244: 1928 Bentley 4˝-Litre Tourer
Coachwork by W H Knibbs & Son
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 that 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 6˝-litre ‘Silent Six’, led to the introduction of the ‘4˝’.
The new 4˝-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 6˝-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 4˝-Litre chassis for that year’s Grand Prix d’Endurance at the Sarthe circuit. The original 4˝-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 4˝-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 4˝-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.
The car offered here - chassis number ‘FT3205’ - incorporates some elements from another 4˝-Litre Bentley, ‘KM3096’, including the latter’s original body. Michael Hay’s authoritative work, Bentley, The Vintage Years, records that ‘FT3205’ was sold new fitted with Weymann-type saloon coachwork by the Birmingham coachbuilder Flewitt to first owner, one F W G Warren. The currently fitted metal-panelled four-seat tourer body - a pleasant change from the more commonly encountered fabric-covered coachwork - is by W H Knibbs & Sons Ltd (later Knibbs & Parkin) of Ardwick, Manchester. Its proportions are well balanced and set off nicely with the slightly vee-shaped multi-piece windscreen and gentle cutaway on the driver’s side of the body.
An older restoration, now charmingly mellowed somewhat, the car has formed part of a large private collection and was last taxed for the road until 2005. On a recent test drive it was found to pull strongly, maintaining good oil pressure and cooling, while possessing a slick gear change to boot.
|Hammer Price (inc premium)||£146700|
|Registration number||RF 4808|
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