1925 Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model Sports Two-Seater Coachwork by Park Ward Ltd Registration no. BW 8619 Chassis no. 1025 Engine no. 451
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) André Hartford shock absorbers. Bentley made approximately 1,600 3-Litre models, the majority of which was bodied by Vanden Plas with either open tourer or saloon coachwork.
Michael Hay's authoritative work, Bentley, The Vintage Years, records the fact that chassis number '1025' was completed as a Speed Model with two-seater sports coachwork by Park Ward and registered 'BW 8691' in March 1925. The car retains its original body and chassis, the number '1025' appearing on the bonnet edges and also on the front dumb iron. Engine number '451' is not original to this chassis, which was completed with '1037', but is an earlier unit (from chassis '443') complete with SU 'Sloper' carburettors and the early-type sump. One of only 513 Speed Models built, 'BW 8619' was first owned by one H F Rutter followed by The Hon Mountjoy-Fane (1927), Stanley Robinson (1928), four other owners, David Dolton (1966), John Malyan of Billingshurst, Sussex (1997) and Peter Gwynn from June 2003.
Previous owner John Malyan had acquired the car via Tim Houlding of Court Consultancy. Described by them as having original and unique coachwork, the Bentley had been in single ownership for 31 years and was said to be 'scruffy'. Malyan restored the car, the engine being completely rebuilt by renowned marque specialist Roger Cook. Invoices on file from Elmdown Engineering of Hungerford, Berkshire, James Pearce of Wisborough Green, Sussex and Bruce Young of Worcestershire detail the work carried out from 1998 to 2001 while 'BW 8619' was in Mr Malyan's ownership. Sensible modifications incorporated include Kenlowe electric cooling fans, Laycock overdrive and large, finned brake drums. Other noteworthy features include a side-mounted spare and a lovely, delicate windscreen. The rear compartment in the tail is lockable and ideal for stowage on longer runs and rallies. Peter Gwynn acquired gears for the close-ratio 'A'-type 'box from Brineton Engineering.
A class winner at the BDC Concours in 1999, the 3-Litre remains in generally very good order but has mellowed a little since its restoration. It started on the button for the recent photo shoot and 'gave the feeling that you could hop in it and trundle around France for two weeks quite happily'.
Finished in black with matching hood and Burgundy wheels and interior, the car is offered with a beautifully presented file containing restoration invoices and photographs; Bentley service record sheet (up to 1933); most MoTs dating back to 1997; sundry old tax discs and bills for maintenance; Swansea V5 registration document and MoT to 14th July 2012. Open vintage Bentleys rarely come to market with their original body, and this Speed Model Two-Seater with unique coachwork by Park Ward is a welcome change to the archetypal Four-Seat Venden Plas Tourer.