1924 Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 840 Engine no. 744
Lot 320
1924 Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model Tourer Chassis no. 840 Engine no. 744
Sold for £163,900 (US$ 272,003) inc. premium
Lot Details
1924 Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model Tourer
Registration no. KU 5200
Chassis no. 840
Engine no. 744


  • With characteristic humility 'W O' was constantly amazed by the enthusiasm of later generations for the products of Bentley Motors Limited, and it is testimony to the soundness of his engineering design skills that so many of his products have survived. From the humblest of beginnings in a mews garage off Baker Street, London in 1919 the Bentley rapidly achieved fame as an exciting fast touring car, well able to compete with the best of European and American sports cars in the tough world of motor sport in the 1920s. Bentley's domination at Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930 is legendary, and one can only admire the Herculean efforts of such giants as Woolf Barnato, Jack Dunfee, Tim Birkin and Sammy Davis, consistently wrestling the British Racing Green sports cars to victory.
    W O Bentley proudly unveiled the new 3-litre car bearing his name on Stand 126 at the 1919 Olympia Motor Exhibition, the prototype engine having fired up for the first time just a few weeks earlier. Bentley's four-cylinder 'fixed head' engine incorporated a single overhead camshaft, four-valves per cylinder and a bore/stroke of 80x149mm. Twin ML magnetos provided the ignition and power was transmitted via a four-speed gearbox with right-hand change. The pressed-steel chassis started off with a wheelbase of 9' 9½" then adopted dimensions of 10' 10" ('Standard Long') in 1923, the shorter frame being reserved for the TT Replica and subsequent Speed Model. Rear wheel brakes only were employed up to 1924 when four-wheel Perrot-type brakes were introduced.
    In only mildly developed form, this was the model that was to become a legend in motor racing history and which, with its leather-strapped bonnet, classical radiator design and British Racing Green livery, has become the archetypal Vintage sports car.
    Early success in the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, when Bentleys finished second, fourth, and fifth to take the Team Prize, led to the introduction of the TT Replica (later known as the Speed Model) on the existing 9' 9½" wheelbase, short standard chassis. Identified by the Red Label on its radiator, the Speed Model differed by having twin SU 'sloper' carburettors, a higher compression ratio, different camshaft and the close-ratio A-type gearbox, the latter being standard equipment prior to 1927 when the C-type 'box was adopted. These engine changes increased maximum power from the standard 70 to 80bhp and raised top speed to an impressive 90mph. Other enhancements included the larger (11-gallon) fuel tank and (usually) Andre Hartford shock absorbers. Bentley made approximately 1,600 3-Litre models, the lion's share of which was bodied by Vanden Plas with either open tourer or saloon coachwork.
    London-based coachbuilder Vanden Plas forged its not inconsiderable reputation by a most fortuitous alliance with Bentley, bodying some 700-or-so of the latter's chassis during the 1920s, including the Le Mans team cars. The firm survived Bentley's demise and resurrection under Rolls-Royce ownership, diversifying into other makes and resuming the relationship with its old partner to produce some of the most sublime designs on the later 'Derby' Bentley chassis.
    Michael Hay's authoritative work, Bentley, The Vintage Years, records the fact that chassis number '840' was completed in January 1925 as a Speed Model with engine '830' and Vanden Plas four-seat tourer body '1110'. The Bentley was registered 'KU 5200' (a Bradford mark) and first owned by one H Dunnington. An Albany saloon body was fitted prior to the car being rebuilt in 1935, which presumably is when it received the current Vanden Plas body ('1231') from chassis number 'AP304', another Speed Model. Engine number '744' started life in standard chassis '736' while the original ('830') is recorded as in '684'. Fitted with twin SU Sloper carburettors, the engine has never been dismantled during the current ownership and its internal specification is not known.
    The Bentley has been in the same family ownership for the last 35 years having been purchased in 1977 by the current vendor's late father from a family friend, an engineer who had spent many years restoring it. In 1998 the car featured in the Channel 4 mini-series 'Mosley', about the eponymous British fascist leader, appearing as his own 3-Litre carrying the registration 'GU 2511'. The current vendor acted as Mosley's chauffeur.
    Between 2008 and 2010 further extensive works were carried out to bring the Bentley up to good, useable and reliable condition including replacing the front springs, clutch, radiator, water pump, rear hubs, tyres and battery. In addition, the wheels were completely overhauled and reconditioned, the carburettors overhauled and the magnetos refurbished, etc. Well maintained and used regularly, though covering only a limited mileage in recent years, 'KU 5200' is described by the private vendor as in generally good/very good condition. The car is offered with sundry invoices, old-style continuation logbook, current road fund licence, MoT to December 2012 and Swansea V5 registration document.

Saleroom notices

  • The vendor has informed us that the dynamo is not currently charging on this car.
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