Walter Owen Bentley was well known in the motorcar world when he introduced his first three-litre model at the 1919 London Auto Show. Racing successes earned Bentley world-wide prestige. In fact, these automobiles won the grueling 24-hour race at Le Mans five times between 1924 and 1930. To many, the 3-Litre Bentley has become the ultimate expression of the pre-World War II English sports car.
It is believed that its coachwork is original to the car; it is also believed that the coachwork was the work of H.J. Mulliner. The car was sold new to Eric G.S. Gordon of Burton Court in London by Gaffikin Wilkinson & Co. of Dover Street in London's West End. The vehicle is a 'Speed Model' specification and is fitted with twin S.U. carburetors, a short chassis, and is badged with an iconic 'Red Label.'
By the spring of 1933, the car is known to have had a new owner, Sidney Rogerson of Albert Hall Mansions in South Kensington, London. Prior to 1940, it was owned by Mr. Mawnsell of Colyton in Devon in the West Country region of England, and then to R. L. Bawden, now in London again in Walthamstow.
It is believed it spent most of its post-war life in a single long-term ownership. It is believed that in the early 1950s the car was given to Dr. Ashworth off Stalybridge in Cheshire as a gift for his 21st birthday. It is also believed that he retained the car until its sale in 1989. By this point in history, it was powered by engine number 403, which had originally been delivered in a long chassis car in 1923. The new owner began a restoration which took nine years to completion. Upon completion, it was offered for sale publicly in 1998. The car was purchased in March of 1998 and migrated to the United States where it has resided ever since. It was owned by Mr. Reid in Vermont in 2002/3 before coming into the care of its current caretaker.
Until recently, the coachwork was believed to have been performed by VandenPlas. New research suggests it was actually the work of H.J. Mulliner.
The current caretaker had the re-freshened and has been actively campaigning the vehicle on a multitude of road touring and show events including several Mille Miglias, the Colorado Grand, and those of the Bentley Driver's Club. It has competed at the Mille Miglia retrospective in 2004, 2005, and 2007.
The British automaker Bentley Motors Limited was founded in 1919 by W.O. Bentley who was known for his World War I rotary aero-engines used in the Sopwith Camel. The company was also well respected for its racing success. In the 1930s, Bentley was at the top of the British sports car market, with only a few competitors - primarily Bugatti and Hispano-Suiza. In 1931, Rolls-Royce acquired Bentley and has been owned by Volkswagen since 1998.
A Bentley similar to this car won at LeMans in 1924 and won again in 1927. In 1924, it was the fastest car on the course - achieving a speed of 100 miles per hour on the straightaway.
The first car had a 3-Liter 4-cylinder overhead cam engine with 4 valves per cylinder. Production started in 1921 after a year of development and testing. It was designed as a fast car suitable for races and it enjoyed rapid success, winning at Le Mans and other races throughout the 20s. Different versions were made with the 4-1/2L engines and with superchargers up to 1931. In 1927 they introduced a larger 6 cylinder 6-1/2 L model. By 1929, they had introduced a faster Speed Six version, which enjoyed racing successes and was produced until 1930.
Their swan song was a large luxury model, the 8 Liter, produced in 1930 and 1931. As with many expensive cars of the era, they went bankrupt in 1931 and their assets and name sold to Rolls-Royce.
This Bentley is equipped with its original nine foot, nine-inch Speed chassis, with original crankcase and gearbox. Originally built as three-liter automobile, it now sports the larger 4.5-liter cylinder blocks.
Bentley introduced its 3-Liter motorcar in 1921. It was a big car that was powered by an innovative 3-liter overhead cam 4-valve engine producing 70 horsepower. It used two spark plugs per cylinder and twin carburetors. The Speed models, like this one, were capable of 100 mph.
This car rides on its original 9 foot, 9-inch chassis and is equipped with a newer Bentley 4.5 liter engine block on its original crankcase. Like many Bentley's, this car was equipped with a body built by Vanden Plas. It was imported by its current owners from England in 2008.
This Bentley 3-Liter model was originally fitted with body number 1089 and a matte black Sports body. It was delivered to Air Commodore Webb Bowen in December of 1924. It has a Vanden Plas body and rides on chassis number 815 and powered by engine number 806.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jan 2013
Hawkeye Special Chassis Num: 477 Engine Num: TW2702
Sold for $671,000 at 2012 RM Sothebys. When World War I came to a close, W.O. Bentley began work on designing a new engine. With the help of F.T. Burgess from Humber and Harry Varley from Vauxhaull, the work was complete and all the parts were manufactured by September of 1919. Nobby Clarke, chief mechanic of one of the R.N.A.S. squadrons was hired to assemble the first car engine. The long-stroke four-cylinder engine displaced 2,996 cubic-centimeters and offered maximum power at just 3,500 RPM. A mock-up chassis was made ready for the Olympia Motor Show in London.
The new Bentley was a well-designed vehicle that also achieved incredible success for many years in motor racing, including victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours four times in a row during the 1920s. Bentley's drivers included Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry 'Tim' Birkin, Jack Barclay, Glen Kidston, and George Duller. These individuals would become known as the 'Bentley Boys.'
The first customer's 3-litre was delivered in August of 192. Bentley would go on to produce models of 4.5-litres, 6.5-litres and, finally, between 1930 and 1931, the 8-Litre. The 8-Liter version was basically an enlarged version of the Speed Six. They had a newer and lower chassis with out-set rear springs and an F-Series gearbox. This layout allowed for larger bearings, which provided extra strength and reduced engine noise.
The first 8-Liter Bentley's made their appearance at the Olympia Motor Show in October of 1930. With the large engine, these mighty vehicles were capable of carrying heavy and elegant coachwork to speeds exceeding 100 mph.
Unfortunately, Bentley ran into deep financial trouble and by 1931, the company effectively ended. Bentley's assets were sold to the British Central Equitable Trust which was representing Rolls-Royce.
A few years after the introduction of the three-liter Bentley, 4.5- and 6.5-liter Bentley engines were commonly installed in a number of three-liter chassis. The original closed bodies were often discarded in favor of custom sporting open designs. The lighter coachwork and more powerful engines continued to keep the Bentley's in top racing form. Other times, Bentley owners just wanted vehicles that resembled the LeMans winning Bentleys. Bentley cars, after all, had won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929, and 1930.
This particular example, chassis number 477 with engine number TW2702, is a Bentley 3/8-Liter 'Hawkeye Special.' It is based on a three-liter chassis and powered by an eight-liter engine. Records indicate that it was a Speed or 'Red Badge' model and was first assigned British registration plate number DK2695. The original engine was replaced with a 6½-litre unit offering 140 horsepower, which was enlarged to an eight-liter, 437 horsepower specification, along with an alloy body in the early-1970s by Bentley builder John Guppy and Hawkeye 'The Flying Swede' Wijkander.
This car is finished in British Racing Green with a two-place bucket seat leather interior. Its original 'Red Badge' can still be found on the radiator shell.
In 2007, this Hawkeye Special was purchased by Stanley Mann and brought to America.
This Bentley 3 - 4 1/2 was originally delivered in 1924 to W. Norcliffe of the United States. Like so many old cars it disappeared into decay until the early 1960s when it was unearthed in the United Kingdom as a true 'barn find.' While many of the original pieces were collected, there was a glorious scavenger hunt for supplies needed to restore the car. In fine form, CX6624 raced back to the road and rapidly won six rally first prizes. In the 1970s the car was again spruced up, hit the asphalt and ran from Colorado to Briggs Cunningham's for the '50 Years on the Run' celebration. After a sojourn at Austin Clark's Long Island Auto Museum, it completed the Mt. Equinox Hill Climb as well as vintage Bentley tours. This adventure loving Bentley has brought joy to drivers on both sides of the Atlantic. In its latest chapter, the car has been optimized for touring the United Kingdom. It has a sporty body and an enlarged gas tank.
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.