19th Oct, 2022 13:00

Imperial War Museum, Duxford

Lot 111

1924 Bentley 3 Litre Vanden Plas Tourer
No Reserve

Sold for £157,500

(including buyers premium)

Lot details

Registration No: VS 911
Chassis No: 619
MOT: Exempt

  • Retaining its original Vanden Plas Tourer coachwork, and notably, the very first Long Standard wheelbase car to be fitted with this style of four-door coachwork
  • Photographed for publicity photos by Vanden Plas following completion, and featured in marque books by Johnnie Green and Brian Smith
  • The beneficiary of an engine overhaul c.1,000 miles ago by marque specialists Hofmann’s of Henley, costing over £30,000
  • In the custodianship of just three individuals since the late 1980s with current ownership for almost twenty-years
  • One of just 765 Bentley 3 Litres to be built on the Long Standard wheelbase
  • A wonderful, imposing and unusually correct Vintage Bentley
  • Offered at No Reserve from the late Robert Riding’s Estate, the vast majority of which has been left to charity with the RNLI as the predominant beneficiary

"It was not the means whereby the 3-Litre Bentley performed, but the manner in which it did it, that endeared the car to sportsmen who took pride in their driving. The engine was remarkably flexible, strong and reliable, the gear ratios were admirably chosen, the handling excellent and the quality unremittingly high. So, also, was the price, but an ever-growing reputation, augmented by striking racing victories - including the Le Mans 24 hours of 1924 and 1927 - ensured its success" ('Classic Sports Cars' by Cyril Posthumus and David Hodges).

A railway engineering apprentice turned aero-engine designer, Walter Owen Bentley previewed his first creation, the immortal 3-Litre, at the October 1919 London Motor Show (though, he would not deem it production ready for another two years). Inspired by a 1914 Humber TT racer, the newcomer's ladder-frame chassis was equipped with all-round semi-elliptic leaf-sprung suspension and rear-wheel drum brakes (four-wheel brakes becoming the norm from 1924 onwards). The car's heart and most advanced feature was its 2996cc engine. A long-stroke four-cylinder (80mm x 149mm) that prioritized torque over top-end power, it boasted a five-bearing crankshaft, shaft-driven overhead camshaft, monobloc construction, twin ignition, four valves per cylinder and aluminium pistons.

Developing between 65bhp and 88bhp, the unit was allied to a separate four-speed gate-change gearbox. Supplied in bare chassis guise only, albeit with a choice of wheelbase lengths and engine tune, the 3-Litre remained in production until 1929 by which time some 1,621 are thought to have been made. As well as its two Le Mans victories, the Bentley enjoyed considerable success at Brooklands and even broke the 24-hour world record around Montlhery setting a 95mph average speed.

One of just 765 Bentley 3 Litres to be built on the long standard (10ft 10in) wheelbase, chassis 619 is understood to be the first of its kind to wear this particular style of four-door Vanden Plas coachwork. Sold new via Gilmour Ltd of Glasgow to G.F. Fulton Esq of Lang & Fulton (a Greenock-based company whose Ard Steam Ship Fleet extended to twenty-nine vessels), the four-seater was specified with a B-type gearbox and 13/55 rear axle ratio. The accompanying copy factory service record shows that ‘VS 911’ subsequently belonged to R.A. Morrison Esq of Rutherglen and A.S. Eastburn Esq of Helensburgh before being bought by B.L. Martin Esq of Surrey in 1937. Surviving World War Two, the Bentley is then known to have passed through the hands of Captain J.H. Lane, M.H. Fountain, Brigadier R. Phillipson, R.F. Read Esq and D. Baracos Esq. The latter gentleman took the 3 Litre to Greece from whence it returned during 1989 amassing two further keepers and attending various BDC Hatfield House Concours events prior to joining the late Robert Furness Riding’s collection in 2003.

Drawn to chassis 619 because of its high degree of originality – aside from being upgraded with a more powerful 3 Litre Speed Model engine at some stage (number 983, ex-chassis 977) – Mr Riding thought the four-seater to be to factory specification throughout complete with four-wheel brakes. The chassis number is stamped into the inside of the front dumb iron, front cross member, magneto switch plate and bonnet edges as expected, while the steering box and gearbox are numbered correctly as 615 and 274 respectively. The original Vanden Plas coachwork remains in situ and boasts an Auster-type foldaway rear windscreen.

A true Rolls-Royce and Bentley enthusiast and frequent concours entrant, the late Mr Riding had ‘VS 911’ treated to some sympathetic coachwork renovation and repainting upon acquisition. New under-wing guards and upholstery repairs and retrimming were provided as required, as well as a new hood bag trimmed in Black leather, with the total reaching approximately £7,800 with J. & M. Bentley and Partners. Renowned marque specialist Hofmann’s of Henley were then employed to completely overhaul the engine, with works comprising supply of a new crankshaft to improved design (with large diameter journals and integral counterweights); new centre bearing; overhauled oil pump; Arias pistons; new valves and valve seats; replacement camshaft; magnetos re-wound by D. H. Day; and carburettor servicing amongst much more. Many of the parts were supplied by VBE Restorations. Brake system fettling and specialist radiator repairs were also undertaken while with Hofmann’s, with the expenditure exceeding £30,000.

Covering less than 1,000 miles since it was overhauled, the revitalised engine can still be said to be in the ‘running in’ phase. Further improvements were also made to the Bentley by way of a replacement exhaust system, additional magneto fettling, Autovac refurbishment, carburettor jet assembly overhaul, and a new fuel tank. Now offered at No Reserve from the late Robert Riding’s Estate, the vast majority of which has been left to charity with the RNLI as the predominant beneficiary.

The four-seater is accompanied by full weather equipment, comprising hood, side-screens, the aforementioned leather hood bag and tonneau cover, all trimmed in Black. The dashboard features period correct instrumentation including an A.T. speedometer and rev counter, Smith’s MA clock, oil pressure and ammeter/electrics cluster. Riding on original specification beaded edge tyres making for ‘light’ steering, running board toolboxes and rear luggage rack complete the period look. The documentation file comprises a copy factory service record; invoices relating to the current and previous ownership; previous MOTs dating from between the 1980s and 2010s; technical literature; a copy instruction book and a current V5C document.

Featured in the Johnnie Green book ‘Bentley: Fifty Years of the Marque’ and Brian Smith’s ‘Vanden Plas Coachbuilders’ and offered from a private collection, this handsome, well-proportioned W.O. is pleasingly original and ready to be enjoyed and would naturally provide entry to many prestigious events.

About Robert Furniss Riding:

Born in 1940, the only child of only children parents, Bob was educated at Stockport Grammar School then read natural sciences at Christ Church, Oxford. He joined William Deacon’s Bank, and had a stellar ascent through it and its subsequent iterations ending up as Group Treasurer of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He grasped the opportunity of early retirement in 1990 and moved to the Isle of Man where he had been left a house by an aunt. But Bob was far from being inactive, throwing himself into the local community and taking on the turnaround of a local private bank as its Executive Chairman.

Sailing had been a preoccupation during his time in the City, but on coming to the Isle of Man, Bob switched his energies and focus to collecting “quality cars” – principally the products of Cricklewood, Derby and Crewe, but with some maverick exceptions such as Maserati and Caterham. Daimlers and Lanchesters also featured, and he had to move to a large country house to find garaging for the ever-growing collection. His cars were regularly campaigned at rallies for the appropriate marque and were often deserved winners of various trophies. He also got involved in the relevant enthusiast clubs, usually ending up as Chairman – and his list of appointments included the Chairmanship of the Manx Classic Car Club and the Manx Motor Racing Club.

Bob was always a keen supporter of local charities, particularly maritime and those involving young people, and many will have cause to remember with gratitude his generosity and his apparently bottomless well of technical knowledge on “quality cars”, so freely shared. Bob left his Estate predominantly to Charity with the RNLI being the Residuary Beneficiary. Thus, in effect, the entire proceeds of the car collection sale will be received by the RNLI.

For more information, please contact:
Paul Cheetham
07538 667452


Auction: Imperial War Museum, Duxford, 19th Oct, 2022

An auction of classic & collector motorcars


Tuesday 18th October 2022 from 12pm to 6pm
Wednesday 19th October 2022 from 9am
Additional viewing for lots 200-254 on Thursday 20th October 2022 from 9am

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