1923 Bentley 3-Liter news, pictures, specifications, and information
Sold for $203,000 at 2005 Bonhams
Coachwork by Park Ward & Co. Ltd. Delivered to Mr. L.J.R. Lapisburn of Ravensworth, England who ran the car at the 1924 Brooklands Summer Meet. The editor of Motor Sport confirmed Mr. Lapisburn turned in several laps averaging 93.62 mph at the event. Given the nature of the track, the speed down the Railway Straight was about 95mph. This is one of the most original early vintage Bentleys which is now been restored to excellent condition and ready for road or track. In 1987 the car was sent to specialists, McKenzie & Guppy of Dorset, England for a complete mechanical restoration. Every chassis rivet was replaced by hand; a new radiator core was fitted, together with a Phoenix crank, camshaft, Moller pistons and needle rockers. In 1989, Ray Wiltshire, President of the Bentley Drivers Club having completed several laps at the Lime Rock Park in this car, commented that it seemed to behave as it must have when new.
Bentley produced seventy-one examples of their TT Replica models. These models were produced following the Bentley Team's 2nd, 4th and 5th place finishes in the 1922 Tourist Trophy Race. Their success in the race convinced the company to produce a replica model. The TT Replicas rode on a 117.5-inch wheelbase and were fitted with a close-ratio gearbox. Top speed was in the neighborhood of 90 mph.
W.O. Bentley delivered the first TT Replica to his good friend F. Gordon Crosby who had designed the winged B radiator badge and designed the three-liter radiator itself.
This Tourer wears a recent restoration by Northumberland Engineering Inc. in New York. It has been retrofitted with period front wheels, steering upgraded to 4.5-liter specification, removable steering damper and dual SU 'sloper' carburetors. There are correct Thee-Liter Tourer sidelamps and tail-lamps, and later Lucas headlamps.
The 299cc four-cylinder OHC engine produces 80 horsepower and powers the rear wheels via a four-speed manual gearbox. There are four-wheel mechanical brakes and a front beam axle with a live-rear setup.
There are 21-inch wheels and Blockley tires. There is a period Shell gas can mounted on the running board, modern seat belts and a battery cut-off switch.
In 2010, this vehicle was offered for sale at the Pebble Beach Auction presented by Gooding & Company. The car was estimated to sell for $225,000 - $275,000. The car would leave the auction unsold.By Daniel Vaughan | Dec 2010
Sold for $451,000 at 2015 Bonhams
Bentley's fame would be well-deserved earning five victories at Le Mans between 1924 and 1930. The small British manufacturer was the famed endurance race's most prolific performer until well after the Second World War. But, Bentley not only set the standard at Le Mans, it set the standard for the touring automobile of the early 20th century. The model that started it all would be Bentley's 3-Liter Tourer.
In 1924, Frank Clement and John Duff would hang on by a lap to take victory in the 2nd Grand Prix of Endurance. At the time, no one really knew of the lasting fame Le Mans would evoke. At the same time, hardly anyone knew, or ever would have believed, the place of importance Bentley would occupy. Perhaps only W.O. did, and even then it had to be just a hope.
Bentley would make its start in London in 1919. Bentley would get to work developing a new engine. Combined with coachwork, the new model, which would be simply known as the 3-liter, would make its first appearance at the 1919 Olympia Motor Exhibition. If that first victory at Le Mans gave little sense as to Bentley's immortality, then that first appearance in 1919 would be even more ambiguous. Only future history would demonstrate Bentley's genius. The 3-Liter would be that first glimpse.
Chassis 409 would be an early example of the famed 3-Liter. This particular example is a Speed Model Four Seater Tourer and it would be completed in the fall of 1923 with Chalmer & Hoyer bodywork over the Bentley chassis. Given that Chalmer & Hoyer only remained in operation during the early part of the 1920s, this Bentley would be one of just six Bentley's clothed by the company. However, it is entirely possible 409 is the sole remaining example of a Chalmer & Hoyer tourer.
Delivered in November of 1923, the original owner would be T. Bennett. Following Bennett, the car would change hands a couple of times before the end of the 1920s. Not only would the car hands between people, but also lands. By the early 1930s, the car would be in Ireland as the property of Trevor McCella. Then, some time later, it would be found in Scotland, owned by a Hon. J.D. Carnegie in Angus.
Being a Bentley, the tourer would be used in a number of driving expeditions. Service records would indicate 409 was in Antibes, which is located in the south of France. Besides regular servicing and repair, the tourer would also receive the braked front axle upgrade around this time as well.
The Second World War would be looming large when John Brocklebank took ownership of the Bentley. Brocklebank would be resourceful when rationing of gasoline hit the country during the war. Being a shareholder of Cunard Steamship Lines, John would have ample access to diesel, and therefore, would take steps to remove the 3-Liter engine and have it replaced with a Perkins P6 diesel unit. This enabled Brocklebank to continue driving his beloved Bentley without having to worry about rationing.
John would not part with the car until friend, Daniel Murphy, inquired about it. Amazingly, John would part with the car and it would make the trip across the Atlantic to Gladwyne, Pennsylvania.
Nearly four decades would pass with the Bentley remaining in Murphy's care. Bentley corrector, Bill Ford, would manage to get Murphy to part with his beloved 3-Liter. Soon afterward, David George of Cochranville, Pennsylvania would be commissioned to perform a thorough restoration.
All throughout Murphy's ownership the Perkins diesel remained in the Tourer. Therefore, George would set about finding a correct 3-Liter engine. The Bentley Drivers Club in the U.K. would come through with a Service Engine replacement. This example would be a Speed Model specification with the larger sump.
Another challenging undertaking during the restoration efforts would be to reduce the size of the passenger door, which had been made larger some time earlier in its history. Refinished in dark British Racing Green, George would not only manage to paint the car in an extremely evocatively-British hue, but the fact the efforts would manage to save the original bodywork would only make 409 that much more remarkable.
Soon after the restoration, Ford would campaign the car in the North American Vintage Bentley Meet in Massachusetts. After 600 miles, there would be some wear and tear, but it was only befitting the Bentley reputation.
Around 2000, the current owner would come to own the car and would continue to campaign the car all throughout the United States, including the Colorado Grand in 2013.
Extremely rare and befitting of the Bentley legend, chassis 409 would be part of Bonhams' impressive 2015 Quail Lodge auction. Sporting its original body, well-documented and a part of a legend that will live on in eternity, chassis 409 would earn a respectable sum of $451,000 at the time the gavel fell.By Jeremy McMullen
Walter Owen Bentley, commonly known as 'WO', worked as an apprentice at the Great Northern Railway where he designed airplane engines. The first Bentley automobile was created in London just after the end of World War I, and given a three-liter four-cylinder engine that produced 65 horsepower. It was designed by the company's founder, Walter Owen, and benefited from his technical abilities and skill. This car was the first to carry the flying 'B' insignia and the hallmark radiator casing. An example was shown at the 1919 London Motor Show, though it was void of an engine which was not ready in time.
The 3-litre Bentley would remain in production until 1929 with a total of 1622 examples being produced in various configurations. A total of 513 examples of the Speed Model were created during this time. The 3-Litre Bentley was the car that would give the Bentley Company its fame. The car would emerge victorious at the 1924 24 Hours of LeMans race, which is a true testament to the cars abilities, stamina, technology, ingenuity, and speed. The Bentley's would win LeMans again in 1927, 1928, 1929, and 1930. They competed at various other important races, such as the Tourist Trophy and Brookland's Double 12, where the cars proved they were the fastest.
Under the bonnet was the powerplant, which was a technical marvel and advanced for its time, featuring aluminum pistons, twin spark ignition, and an overhead camshaft that operated four-valves per cylinder. The cylinder block and head were cast as a single piece which prevent leakage from the gaskets. The dry-sump lubrication allowed for increased oil capacity, lower center of gravity for the engine, and reduced energy/power loss.
Various coachbuilders were tasked with creating the bodies; Vanden Plas was one of the popular favorites, as was the LeMans type bodystyle which closely mimicked the bodystyle of the LeMans racer. During that era, the cars that raced at LeMans were often given bodies of road-going Tourers, at the request of the organizers of the event. The Bentley's that raced at LeMans were given lightweight bodies, 25-gallon fuel tanks, and a re-worked suspension that included double hydraulic shock absorbers in the front with improved front axle beams. To help while driving at night, some cars were given a central Marchal headlight.
A six-cylinder engine soon followed, appearing in 1925, and provided additional power to carry the large and elegant coachworked bodies. It displaced nearly 6.6-liters and was given all the technology and mechanical ingenuity of the 3-liter units. In 1928 a high performance version was introduced, dubbed the 6.5-Liter Speed Model, also known as the Speed Six. In the capable hands of the 'Bentley Boys', the works drivers spearheaded by Woolf Barnato, captured many important victories for the company. Their first major success came in 1928 at LeMans where Barnato and Rubin drove a 4.5-Liter Bentley to victory. The Speed Six would dominate LeMans again in 1929 and 1930 with Barnato as their driver. The success of the Speed Six was due to its reliability and 200 horsepower engine.
Bentley was unable to compete in 1931 at LeMans due to financial difficulties. The company would soon be acquired by Rolls Royce which spelled an end for the racing program.
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2007
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