1931 Bentley 4 Litre,
Lot 316
1931 Bentley 4-Litre Coupé Chassis no. VF 4018 Engine no. VF 4009
Sold for £194,000 (US$ 246,671) inc. premium

Lot Details
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1931 Bentley 4-Litre Coupé
Coachwork by H J Mulliner

Registration no. SV 6626
Chassis no. VF 4018
Engine no. VF 4009


  • The Bentley 4-Litre was the old Cricklewood company’s swansong model before its absorption by Rolls-Royce. With the Depression biting, sales of the old 4½-Litre declining and its newest, 8-Litre, model costing all of £1,850 in chassis-only form, Bentley Motors desperately needed a new smaller model to compete with Rolls-Royce’s successful 20/25hp. The result was the 4-Litre. The six-cylinder engine was designed by Ricardo, with overhead inlet/side exhaust valves and a claimed output of 120bhp at 4,000rpm. A double-drop chassis was adopted, closely based on that of the contemporary Bentley 8-Litre, and offered in two wheelbase lengths: 11’ 2” and 11’ 8”, both of which were shorter than the shortest of the two 8-Litre chassis available.
    Although ‘W O’ did not like the Ricardo design (considering it difficult to tune) the fundamental soundness of the inlet-over-exhaust arrangement would be demonstrated after the war, engines of this configuration powering Bentley and Rolls-Royce motor cars up to 1959. The 4-Litre has been much maligned and is little understood, as very few were built. Because it was too heavy for its power, yet had the best chassis, gearbox and rear axle of all the Bentleys, many were converted very early on into 6½- and 8-litre specials. Only 50 4-Litres were completed before the original Bentley company’s liquidation, of which only 12 are known to exist today.
    This unique car was originally ordered by Philip Carr of Carr's biscuits. Built on the shorter of the two chassis, it was delivered on 3rd September 1931 and first registered ‘GT 27’. The 4-litre engine could never wear out the over-engineered running gear, which is why this particular example remains mechanically ‘like new’ today. Similarly, the rigidity of the heavy chassis has ensured the survival of the original H J Mulliner, Weymann-type, fixed-head coupé body, whereas very few original closed bodies on anything but the 8-Litre and 4-Litre cars have survived, the frames of other Bentleys being far too flexible.
    Mr Carr would appear to have owned the Bentley almost up to WW2, as evidenced by service records on file. The car was subsequently owned by a Major Gregson and then by a Mr Harper, who registered it with the Bentley Drivers Club in 1985. The next owner after Mr Harper was a Mr Vassiliadis in Canada and the car subsequently found its way to the USA where it was owned by John and Kathryn Porter, and then J Kamper.
    In 1995 ‘VF 4018’ was imported into the UK from the USA by William Sykes, of Cambridgeshire. He would appear to have sold the Bentley to Chris Williams, who rebuilt the engine before selling the car on. The current vendor acquired ‘VF 4018’ two years ago and since then has spared no effort in making the car run beautifully, describing it as mechanically perfect. ‘VF 4018’ remains absolutely original, even down to the paint and interior, while the H J Mulliner body is very sound and, unusually, still carries the original Weymann stamp.
    Rebuilt by Chris Williams, the engine is said to run beautifully, with excellent oil pressure and no oil consumption. The gearbox has been removed for inspection, the rear axle thoroughly checked, and the clutch and brakes completely rebuilt. New hubs, drums and Perrot shafts have been fitted, the road springs overhauled, and new gaiters and shock absorbers installed. The carburettors have been adjusted and special Bosch sparkplugs fitted, and we are advised that this car can climb Swiss mountain passes using the original Autovac; no electric pump is fitted. There is a complete tool tray in the boot and a Dunlop tyre pump under passenger door, retained by special clips. A current UK Swansea V5 registration document comes with the vehicle also.
    ‘VF 4018’ was displayed at the Paleis Het Loo Concours d’Elegance in 2006 (carrying ‘GT 27’ numberplates) and is illustrated in ‘Coachwork on Vintage Bentleys’ by Rowan Isaac (page 84) and ‘Bentley: The Vintage Years’ by Michael Hay (pages 221 and 226). Ultra rare and very special, ‘VF 4018’ represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire an exceptionally original example of the last of the Cricklewood-built Bentleys.
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