With the 'Bentley Boys' success at LeMans, owners of Bentley touring cars for decades have had theirs re-bodied to emulate the LeMans winner. This car, #YU7692, received this upgrading including a proper 4.5-liter engine with Phoenix crank and rods, 4.5 gearbox and transmission, larger racing fuel tank, long racing bonnet, cycle wings and larger racing gauges.
As noted Shelsley Special racer J.G. Fry said back in 1943, 'Recipe: take a good three-liter Red Label Bentley chassis, mix in a good 4.5-liter engine, gearbox and transmission, and add a light two-seater body with accessories to taste. The result is a motor car which, while still retaining good vintage flavor, possesses performance equaled by few other machines even of the most modern and expensive type.'
This #YU7692 is a fully sorted example that was owned by the same Bentley Drivers Club owner since the 1960s and VSCC raced throughout Europe and is ready for vintage racing or any historic tours or events.
At the 1919 London Olympia Motor Exhibition, on Stand 126, W.O. Bentley introduced the new 3-liter car bearing his name. It would become a legend in motor racing history. At the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, Bentleys finished second, fourth and fifth to take the Team Prize. This led to the introduction of the TT Replica - later to become known as the Speed Model.
As the 3-Liter's competitiveness began to wane over the years, Bentley introduced the '4½'. Along with increased performance, it allowed for customers to fit heavier and more luxurious coachwork.
The new 4½-Liter model used many components from the 3-Liter, such as the chassis, brakes, transmission, and base engine. The engine's bore and stroke was increased by 100x140mm. The 4 valves per cylinder, 5 main bearing crankshaft, and dual ignition of the 3-Liter were retained.
Just like the 3-Liter, the 4½-Liter was entered in competition events, including the 1927 LeMans. The original 4½-Liter car, nicknamed by the team 'Old Mother Gun' and driven by Frank Clement and Leslie Callingham, set the fastest race lap of 73.41 mph before retiring early due to the infamous 'White House Crash' pile-up. A year later, a 4½-Liter won the event.
During the four-year production, all but nine of the 665 cars built use the 'Long Standard', 130-inch wheelbase chassis.
This particular example is the 15th ½-Liter Bentley built. It was dispatched from the Cricklewood works to Vanden Plas Coachbuilders, and fitted with VDP body number 1428, a 3-Door 4-seater Sports Tourer, which it retains. It was originally finished Thornly and Knight No.6 Grey, with the wings and chassis in black cellulose, and upholstered in brown antique leather.
The wings and running boards were custom ordered to extend all the way to the body, which aided in keeping passengers dry in wet conditions. The door locks and windscreen surround were originally finished in black nickel. It has its original wheel discs and rear auster screen.
The original owner of the Bentley was Ernst Waring Spencer of Rotherham, England, who retained the car until 1934. It then passed to Bentley dealer H.M. Bentley and Partners, a firm run by W.O. Bentley's brother. From there it went to a Captain John MacGillivray in Ross-shire, Scotland. In 1938 the car was registered to Lt. Col. William Douglas Bruce-Watt of Wardlaw, Kirkhill. During World War II, it was put into storage. By 1946, it was owned by a Bentley Drivers Club member Mr. J.A. Stodent and in 1954 the original engine was removed and fitted with engine number MR3392. The original engine numbered ST3015 is currently installed in another car.
During this period, the original back axle was replaced with a 6½-Liter unit numbered WK2654, but the car retains its original numbered axle carrier. The front axle may also have been replaced during this period with the later spec 4½-Liter unit.
Geoffrey Rowland Sandwith of Bracknell, Berkshire purchased the car in 1960 and it remained in the Sandwith family until 1997. During their ownership, the car was fitted with touring boxes under the original running boards. Mrs. Llewellyn (Sandwith's daughter) had the engine rebuilt at 46,847 miles. This rebuild incorporated a new crankcase, crank, rods, pistons, valves, and Phoenix roller rockers. It also included new thin wall bearings and an uprated oil pump. During this rebuild the original block, cam chest, and sump were retained.
Roy Southward of New Zealand purchased the car in 1997 and kept it until 2011, when he sold it to Peter Dunkerley. In 2016, it was acquired by the current caretaker who had it imported to the United States.
The car is currently finished in green with black leather interior.By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2017
The Bentley 4 1/2 liter came into existence to fill a void left by the 3-liter and the 6.5-liter variants. The 3-liter suffered from underperformance while the 6.5-liter was unsafe for the roads. The 6.5-liter was powerful, and with poor road-conditions often caused tires to fail quickly. The solution was the Bentley 4.5-liter; a vehicle that had enough power to carry the vehicle down the road at a good pace. The chassis consists of channel-steel, front and rear suspension by semi-elliptic leaf springs, and 4-wheel drum brakes.
Production amounted to a total of 733 cars of all body styles. Fifty-four cars were equipped with the famous supercharged engine, 'Blower Bentleys,' built by the race driver Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin as a private venture - against W.O. Bentley's wishes.
The 4.5-Liter Supercharged Bentley, better known as the 'Blower' Bentleys, is a sporting automotive icon that earned its place in history as an engineering marvel and powerhouse. Only 50 examples, plus an additional five racing prototypes, were created. In the modern era, they are among the top rank in collector cars throughout the world.
Engineer and founder W.O. Bentley was hesitant to adapt a supercharger to his 4.5-liter engines. Rather, the development was financed by a woman, the Honorable Dorthy Paget, who provided the funds necessary to complete the project. It was for Henry R.S. 'Tim' Birkin, one of the 'Bentley Boys' who campaigned the Bentleys at many venues and various competition events bringing recognition and victories to the Bentley marque. The list includes Brooklands with its closed oval course, and the other extreme, LeMans, with his challenging road course.
Birkin had intended to race the supercharged 4.5-liter Bentley at LeMans in 1929, but lubrication problems on the early cars halted those plans. Instead, Woolf Barnato (Bentley's chairman and fellow factory team racer), Birkin, and Glen Kidston drove the Bentley Speed Six Models in 1929 to victories at LeMans.
Birkin was able to convince Barnato to enter the 'blower' Bentley in the 1930 LeMans race. In order to do so, homologation requirements had to be satisfied. The rules stated a minimum of 50 examples had to be built. Bentley officially introduced their production versions of the cars at the 1929 Olympia Motor Show, with the fist cars on sale in April of 1930.
With homologation requirements satisfied, Bentley entered two blowers and three Speed Six models. Birkin's LeMans blower was co-drive by Jean Chassagne. The Blower Bentley showed great promise early in the race, and by the fourth lap had passed a highly-competitive supercharged Mercedes at 126 mph. In the process it shredded a tire and was forced to stop. At the time, they had been averaging 89.66 mph per lap, which was a new lap record for the course.
The other Bentley's were given the job of chasing down the Mercedes. Their job became much easier when the Mercedes was forced to retire when their battery died. The Blower Bentley's would endure similar fate, as they were forced to retire in the 20th hour. The Speed Six models went on to secure a 1-2 Bentley victory.
1930 was the last year the Bentley factory team would compete at LeMans, as the company had fallen on very difficult economical times. Dorothy Paget eventually withdrew her support for the Birkin blowers as the cost to compete continued to escalate. This brought an end to the short-lived saga of the Bentley blower era.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2008