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Lot 430: Bentley 3-Liter Sport Tourer

Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia, Bonhams (3 June 2012)

With characteristic humility, 'W.O.' was constantly amazed by the enthusiasm of later generations for the products of Bentley Motors Limited. This enthusiasm, combined with the soundness of his engineering design skills, are a testimony as to why so many of his products have survived. From the humblest of beginnings in a mews garage off Baker Street, London in 1919, Bentleys rapidly achieved fame as an exciting, fast touring car, amply competitive with the best European and American sports cars in the rivalrous world of motorsport in the 1920s. Bentley's domination at Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930 is legendary, and one can only admire the Herculean efforts of such giants as Woolf Barnato, Jack Dunfee, Tim Birkin, and Sammy Davis consistently wrestling the British Racing Green sports cars to victory. W.O. Bentley proudly unveiled the new 3-liter car bearing his name on Stand 126 at the 1919 Olympia Motor Exhibitionthe prototype engine having fired up for the first time just a few weeks earlier. Bentley's four-cylinder 'fixed head' engine incorporated a single overhead camshaft, four-valves per cylinder and a bore/stroke of 80x149mm. Twin ML magnetos provided the ignition, and power was transmitted via a four-speed gearbox with right-hand change. The pressed-steel chassis started off with a wheelbase of 9' 9" then adopted dimensions of 10' 10" ('Standard Long') in 1923, the shorter frame being reserved for the TT Replica and subsequent Speed Model. Rear wheel brakes only were employed up to 1924 when four-wheel Perrot-types were introduced. 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 hood, classical radiator design, and British Racing Green livery, has become the archetypal Vintage sports car. Early success in the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, where Bentleys finished second, fourth, and fifth and took the Team Prize, led to the introduction of the TT Replica (later known as the Speed Model) on the existing 9' 9" wheelbase, short standard chassis). Identified by the Red Label on its radiator, the Speed Model differed by having twin SU 'sloper' carburetors, a higher compression ratio, different camshaft, and the close-ratio A-type gearbox, the latter being standard equipment prior to 1927 when the C-type gearbox was adopted. These engine changes increased maximum power from the standard 70 to 80bhp and raised top speed to an impressive 90mph. Other enhancements included the larger (11-gallon) fuel tank and (usually) Andre Hartford shock absorbers. Bentley made approximately 1,600 3-Liter models, the lion's share of which was bodied by Vanden Plas with either open tourer or saloon coachwork. This 1924 3-Liter is a particularly handsome example. Delivered new in September of '24 to a Mr. William Bastard, it originally wore Freestone and Webb saloon coachwork, which was replaced in 1949 by the present Park Ward sport-tourer coachwork which it is thought had been previously fitted to another Bentley of this vintage and compliments the 10' 10" chassis perfectly. The extended cowl and low beltline give a sleek but husky appearance to this sporting machine. Anyone familiar with a Vanden Plas tourer will be surprised by the quality and robust construction of the Park Ward coachwork. This Bentley benefits from numerous mechanical upgrades including 4-liter axles and brakes as well as a set of original "sloper" carburetors. The addition of the 4-liter axles with their larger brakes, on the long low coachwork, impart a look more like a 4 than a 3-liter. The subject of single family ownership for over two decades, in recent years the car has benefited from thorough work to rectify even the smallest mechanical details and to make the car as smooth, powerful, and reliable as possible. The valve train was the subject of a recent overhaul and precise machining of all the valve seats was performed. One of the magnetos has been equipped with an electronic ignition (easily reversed) that makes the car start with ease. A new, English fabricated, modern-type drive shaft was installed (the original is included) in addition to a new water pump that has been recently fitted. The car is equipped with Dunlop well-center wheels with straight-sided tires for touring reliabilitythe original beaded edge set (in fine condition) is included with the car. The (up-rated) "sloper" carbs are fed by an original Auto-vac. Today the car is in pleasing cosmetic condition. The upholstery has patinated nicely and the paint has mellowed to give the car a fine, uniform look. The correct, enamel finished lights and minimal bright work keep to the sporting character of this open Bentley. We encourage interested parties to view the extensive documentation referencing the work performed over the years. The file also includes correspondence from noted Bentley historian Michael Hay relating to his inspection of the car at the time of the vendor's purchase in the early 90s. An authentic, period handbook is also included with the car although it is most likely not the original handbook to this particular model. Seldom do we see a vintage Bentley in such thoroughly sorted condition. This service work alone represents tremendous value as the amount of money and time required to bring a lesser car to this level would be staggering. The car is highly recommended for anyone looking to enter the world of vintage Bentley motoring in a "turn key" and handsome machine.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcars and Automobilia
Bonhams, Greenwich, Connecticut
Lot Number430
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$225000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$254500
Condition rating1
Registration number
Chassis number792
Engine number801
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors4