19th Oct, 2022 13:00

Imperial War Museum, Duxford

 
Lot 50
 

1925 Bentley 3 Litre Speed Model Vanden Plas Tourer
82 years in current family ownership

Sold for £191,250

(including buyers premium)


Lot details

Registration No: GB 8075
Chassis No: 854
MOT: June 2023

  • Purchased by the vendor's father shortly after the outbreak of WW2 and used on Ministry of Aircraft Production business during the hostilities
  • Original albeit much weathered Vanden Plas coachwork complete with Bentley Motors ID plaque and chalk marking
  • Invited to participate in the 2022 Isle of Man TT, 3-Litre Bentley Centenary celebrations

Mindful that the 3 Litre model which bore his name was among the most expensive cars on the market, W.O. Bentley wasted little time in proving its competitive worth. Victorious in the Whitsun Brooklands meeting on May 16th 1921, the design also distinguished itself the following year at the Indianapolis 500 and Tourist Trophy with Bentley netting the Team Prize on the latter event. Justifiably proud of its achievements on the Isle of Man, Bentley not only published a celebratory booklet entitled `The Blue Riband' but also launched a commemorative `T.T. Replica'. Based on the short standard 9ft 9½in wheelbase chassis, the newcomer boasted a high compression engine, close-ratio gearbox and 90mph top speed. Responsible for giving Bentley its first taste of success at Le Mans when Captain John Duff and Frank Clement drove one to fourth place overall during the inaugural 24-hour race on May 26th-27th 1923, the ‘T.T. Replica’ evolved into the ‘Speed Model’ that same year. Achieving two outright Le Mans 24-hour victories and some 513 sales, the latter has long been among the most sought after 3 Litre variants.

Fitted with Four-Seater Sports Tourer coachwork by Vanden Plas, chassis 854 was supplied new via G.M. Gladstone Motors Ltd of Glasgow to Charles F. Kennedy Esq. of Finnarts, Ballantrae and first registered as ‘GB 8075’ on 4th March 1925. Directly descended from Hugh Kennedy of Ardstinchar who famously fought for Joan of Arc and is often cited as Scotland’s first golfer, ‘C.F.K.’ sold the Bentley to H.W.J. Taylor Esq. of Woodlands House, Trossachs in 1929 before accepting Lord Inchcape’s offer for his estates and emigrating to Tasmania the following year. Remaining north of the border with its third and fourth keepers, M. Mitchell Jnr and Ronald Graham Esq., the 3 Litre suffered accident damage in the latter’s hands such that its frame was straightened, and a reconditioned front axle bed installed (an earlier mishap had already resulted in a new radiator). Passing to Yorkshireman Anthony Metcalfe-Sibson Esq. thereafter, the Sports Tourer had been fitted with a replacement engine and gearbox (1126 taking the place of 855) by the time that the vendor’s father encountered it in a Richmond field! Bought with the last of his wedding present money, the 3 Litre spent the Second World War ferrying its new owner around on Ministry of Aircraft Production duties (he had been invalided out of the Army following a double dose of pneumonia). The advent of peace saw the family relocate to Rochester, Kent and take up residence on a government surplus motor torpedo boat. Refusing forty times what he paid for it, the vendor’s father used ‘GB 8075’ to move his brood and their possessions to a bricks and mortar home in Iver Heath during the 1950s (one memorable copy photo on file depicts the Speed Model with a teak dingy on its back). Another house move to Lichfield in 1957 saw the Speed Model taken off the road and subsequently stripped pending an intended restoration. Still in pieces when the vendor inherited it during 1985, the refurbishment finally began two years later but was not completed until 2010.

The different stages and costs of the work, or at least parts thereof, can be deduced from an accompanying typewritten log of receipts. Rebored to 82mm and fitted with new pistons and hardened valve seats, the replacement 3 Litre engine (which the vendor’s father had already uprated to Speed Model specification) also benefited from a full flow oil filter conversion and re-white metalled bearings etc. A new 4-star differential cage and associated bolts were acquired and an uprated 3.78:1 crown wheel and pinion installed. The front and rear wings were repaired and the original Vanden Plas coachwork reunited with the chassis. The steering, brakes and suspension were gone through (albeit the original and rare ‘Andre Hartford’ remote damper adjustment mechanism was not reinstated). The plywood seat backs were renewed but an original kept which quite remarkably appears to be numbered in chalk as ‘1112’ (the same number that Vanden Plas allocated to the body). The dashboard carries a host of original instruments, and a surviving door card sports a Bentley Motors Ltd Standard Bodies plaque for chassis 854 (Bentley and Vanden Plas numbering the coachwork differently).

Sparingly but regularly driven since 2013, one of the Speed Model’s most memorable trips was to the Isle of Man for the Bentley Drivers’ Club’s Three Litre Centenary Raid earlier this year with ‘GB 8075’ successfully completing a lap of the famous TT circuit (which was the site of Cricklewood’s first major competitive success). Retaining its original chassis, front crossmember, bonnet, Vanden Plas coachwork, steering box and rear axle nosepiece, this glorious W.O. Bentley exhibits an inimitable patina. Paperwork on files includes: a V5C registration document, two ‘buff’ logbooks, current MOT Certificate, old tax discs, photographs, a chronological schedule of expenditure during the restoration (with supporting invoices, notes and sketches), a copy of ‘Technical Facts’ and other literature. Additionally, ‘GB 8075’ comes with various service parts and spares etc encompassing an original radiator stone guard, scarce ‘Andre Hartford’ remote damper adjustment mechanism and an ultra-rare (and likely original to the car) ‘map wallet’. It is rare indeed for a W.O. Bentley to retain its original coachwork and rarer still for one to have been in single-family ownership for eighty-two years. A wonderful opportunity.

 

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

An auction of classic & collector motorcars

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VIEWING TIMES
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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