From the Estate of the late Michael Sydney ('Mike') Smith 1923 Bentley 3 litre TT Replica Two-seater Registration no. HB 747 Chassis no. 296 Engine no. 298
Bentley entered three Team Cars in the rain-sodden 1922 Isle of Man TT Race, one entrusted to ace engineer Clement while 'W.O' himself drove the second car and the third was entrusted to Hawkes. The Coatalen Sunbeams were the team to beat while Vauxhall provided the only other competition in the 3-litre class. Richard Hough in his history 'Tourist Trophy' recorded that 'the only machines bearing any relationship to catalogued models were the Bentleys' and against this backdrop it is remarkable that the Bentleys took 2nd, 4th and 5th places, winning the Team Award, with Clement taking 2nd place at a speed of 52.21 mph despite the disadvantage of only two wheel brakes. His amusing report in The Motor magazine related that 'Two of the "Bugs' gave me no trouble, but a third I followed for miles and the blessed mechanic wouldn't look round. Mile after mile I tried to get by, and I felt round for a heavy spanner to throw at them, but couldn't find anything likely to hurt enough. And there I was on half throttle with only Chassagne in front of me.' The 1922 TT race result could perhaps have been so different.
Bolstered by this undoubted success, Bentley launched and marketed the TT Replica on the 9ft 9 ½ in chassis, with slightly higher cylinder compression than the standard cars. Perhaps the earliest 'production' TT Replica (no.153) was delivered to Gordon Crosby no less in January 1923 while other notable owners included Viscount Curzon, Lord Westmorland and Lord Glenconner. The TT Replica was to evolve into the legendary Speed Model which was to establish the Bentley name at the forefront of British motor racing successes, with notable 3 Litre victories at Le Mans (Duff/Clement in 1924 and Davis/Benjafield in 1927) while winning much acclaim at the Brooklands circuit in England.
Our good friend and much missed former Bonhams motoring specialist, the late Mike Smith, had been brought up with a spanner in his hand in a household where the only place for the right foot was flat on the floorboards and where the garage invariably housed a Bentley in some guise or other. He campaigned AC Cobras, (he would say in the days before posh people called them Coebras!), with much success at Silverstone and elsewhere and flung Jaguars quickly up Harewood Hill and at Castle Howard hillclimbs. When he set is mind on acquiring a 'W.O.' Bentley some 25 or so years ago he was not going to settle for the ordinary and Chassis no. 296 which he found in Cumbria in 1991 was exactly what he was looking for. He famously described it as "just like a giant Airfix but without assembly instructions and with several pieces missing." But here was a matching numbers car, chassis and engine starting life together, and he saw its potential.
Chassis no. 296 had been delivered new to Australia in June 1923 to A.B.Howett at The Commercial Travellers Club at Flinders Street in Melbourne, Victoria. It is thought that the car originally carried Weymann-style drophead coupe coachwork and later fixed head coupe coachwork by Martin & King of Melbourne, which had been removed from Chassis no. 1135. In this guise 296 had been photographed in Australian Motor Sports magazine in 1947 participating in the Peninsula Car Trial, at that time in the ownership of Alex Bryce. His brother Bill Bryce is thought to have later campaigned the car before it was dismantled, in which condition it remained for many years before coming to the UK in the late 1980s.
Mike Smith acquired the car in 1991 and embarked on a comprehensive rebuild which is exceptionally well documented. Cutting no corners, Mike turned to marque specialists Briardale Engineers, Donald Day, the Bentley Drivers' Club Spares Scheme and others to assist in those parts of the restoration where he felt their skills would contribute to a car that would be quick and safe. Front wheel brakes were top priority for a car which was going to be driven quickly and a Phoenix crankshaft was a no brainer the restoration files reveal other sensible modifications including a fitted overdrive, to ensure that 296 would be as bullet-proof as possible and yet remain as original as possible. An aluminium flywheel made to replicate the original but one-third of the weight, contributed to the performance that would perplex many a 4 ½ litre owner and bring that familiar broad smile across Mike's face at the wheel as he overtook. The two-seater body acquired with the car had been built by Roy Ashton in the 1980s in the spirit of the factory TT cars and Mike retained that coachwork. Perhaps with a slight rebel streak Mike chose not to livery the car in the traditional British Racing Green, instead selecting a fine claret livery and hence in BDC circles, and elsewhere where it was well known, the car became known as 'Victoria Plum" or by close friends as 'Vicky P'!
In this guise Mike, with ever-present wife Carol at his side, campaigned 'Vicky P' extensively from 1992 to 2012 in BDC and VSCC events, rallies, sprints and hillclimbs and it served him well during the demanding times of his Chairmanship of the Bentley Drivers' Club Northern Region. 'Vicky P' was always immaculately turned out and maintained to Mike's own exacting standards and so it is offered here today.
Chassis no 296 comes with a good history file, old tax discs, expired MOT certificates and copious invoices for restoration and maintenance work carried out in the hands of its Bentley connoisseur owner. The car is currently road licenced with a Swansea V5C document and comes with a copy of Bentley records briefly recording its early years. We feel a careful service would be advisable following the 296's short period of limited use, before exploiting Vicky P's full driving potential.
The club membership badge as illustrated is not offered with this car.