Although the prevailing image of Bentley cars during the vintage Cricklewood period of the company's life is that of out-and-out sportscars and fast tourers, it is often overlooked that W O Bentley made a determined bid for the 'carriage trade', particularly with his larger 4-, 6- and 8-litre models, and it is largely because of this that Napier's bid for the company in 1931 was thwarted by Rolls-Royce, who doubtless saw that a rejuvenated Bentley company would present strong competition to their own models.
As it is, only 100 examples of the 8-litre model had been produced before bankruptcy overtook the original Bentley company, but had they been in a stronger financial position it might well have been a different story. The chassis price of the 8-litre Bentley at £1,850 was in direct competition with the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, allied with better performance, and the contemporary press were lavish with their praise for the 8-litre model. "One of the finest examples of British automobile engineering that has ever been produced," said The Sphere in 1931; "Motoring in its very highest form: the tremendous performance," eulogised The Autocar in December 1930, having already asserted (in September 1930) "To say that a car possesses that much quality is to pay it the highest compliment in one's power."
Chassis number 'YX 5103' was delivered new in December 1931 and first registered on Christmas Eve to V L Frazer - the ultimate Christmas present! At that time it carried bespoke saloon coachwork by Thrupp & Maberly. Shipping magnate Sir Harold Bibby was a subsequent owner before the car passed in 1933 to Jimmy McAlpine, who retained it until his death in November 1991, and thereafter it remained for some years in the McAlpine family. Shooting ranked with motorcars as a passion in Jimmy McAlpine's life, and later during his ownership the car was fitted with a shooting brake body (complete with oil-fired central heating!) and for many years performed sterling service on the grouse moors. A delightful personal touch is the presence of a mascot of 'Vodka', Jimmy's faithful retriever, mounted unusually in the warmth of the engine compartment.
In 1986 the car was sent to Grosvenor Panelcraft, where a major restoration was undertaken, with a mechanical rebuild and the construction of a magnificent dual cowl open sporting body replacing the ageing shooting brake. An outside handbrake, fold-flat screens front and rear and beautifully sculpted wings, with traditional straps over the bonnet, all added to the traditional sorting appeal of the Bentley marque, as did the finish in British Racing Green. Burgundy leather upholstery and trim completed the ensemble, topped out with black duck tonneau cover and hood, and all completed to the highest standard.
'GT 8868' was purchased directly from the McAlpine family by the previous owner. The latter kept it for some eight-or-so years, covering only 100-or-so miles, before offering the car for sale at Bonhams' Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale in 2002. There it was purchased by the present owner, a well known figure in UK rallying from the 1970s through to the 1990s and latterly head of a leading engineering company involved in the British Touring Car Championship. Its new owner was already seriously ill when he finally realised his lifelong ambition to own a 'vintage' Bentley, but for a short time enjoyed a great deal of pleasure using the vehicle. His engineering firm was able to add an electronic power steering system - a commonplace modification to larger vintage Bentleys and almost totally concealed. All the original steering gear remains with the vehicle. Immediately prior to sale in 2002 the car had been despatched to renowned Bentley specialist Dick Moss, who carried out works to the value of approximately £7,000. It is presented in very good condition throughout and performs exactly as one would expect.
The single family ownership of some 60 years is a unique feature of this superb Bentley's history, and during that period the car was maintained irrespective of cost and always 'on the button' for both local trips or the fast run to warmer climes. It is offered with road fund licence to July 2003, MoT to July 2004 and Swansea V5.