1929 Bentley 4½-litre Two-Seater Drophead Coupé  Chassis no. AB3373 Engine no. AB3374

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Lot 153
1929 Bentley 4½-litre Two-Seater Drophead Coupé
Registration no. GU 6544 Chassis no. AB3373 Engine no. AB3374

Sold for £ 117,000 (US$ 153,901) inc. premium
1929 Bentley 4½-litre Two-Seater Drophead Coupé
Coachwork by Salmons & Son, Newport Pagnell

Registration no. GU 6544
Chassis no. AB3373
Engine no. AB3374
George Milligen’s abiding interest was vintage sports cars, and so it was inevitable that his collection should include a fine example of the archetypal vintage sports car – the 4½-litre Bentley. This particular Bentley, bought from vintage car dealer Dan Margulies in 1974 in, as Milligen noted, “perfect condition,” is outstanding in retaining its original coachwork, a fine drophead coupé by the old-established house of Salmons & Son of Newport Pagnell, who had been making fine coachwork since the early 1800s, when they built curricles – the horsedrawn equivalent of the sports car – for the nobility of the Georgian era. This car is one of 244 4½-litre Bentleys built during 1929 (total production of the model was 665) and typifies the model at its peak of development, when the cone clutch fitted to early models had been replaced by a plate unit.

It was delivered in May 1929 to its first owner, Edward William Hunter, founder and chairman of Sun Printers and Sun Engraving of London and Watford, who was, incidentally, the uncle of the well-known Brooklands racing driver Hugh Hunter, who recalled: “Although a reasonable driver, my uncle used the car quite hard – indeed, in my youth it was used to pull a caravan!”

Edward Hunter, a keen fisherman, had a special compartment built into his car behind the driver’s seat to take fishing rods for his weekend trips from his London home in Upper Phillimore Gardens to his country retreat at Frensham in Surrey.

In the postwar period, when Bentley Motors no longer serviced cars of this age, it was maintained by the well-known Bentley specialists McKenzie-Guppy & Sons, who informed George Milligen, “owing to the advanced age of Mr Hunter and the fact that the car was chauffeur-driven, very little work of a major nature was undertaken”. It was, however, regularly serviced and a note handwritten by Mr Hunter indicates that in 1961 or ’62 the brakes and back axle were overhauled and work was done on the engine and fuel system.

Under George Milligen’s ownership, the engine was rebuilt by noted specialists Antique Automobiles, who also retrimmed the interior and recovered the folding head, while work on the valve rockers and clutch was carried out by Arthur Archer of Dunmow.

The 4½-litre Bentley was a logical evolution of the original 3-litre Bentley, developed when keen Bentley owner (and steam wagon manufacturer) E.R.Foden complained to W.O.Bentley that while his new six-cylinder 6½-litre Bentley was very nice, he missed the “bloody thump” of the 3-litre!

With a fixed-head single overhead camshaft 16-valve four-cylinder engine developing some 105-110 bhp, the 4-litre Bentley was a very fine fast touring car capable of taking any kind of coachwork, with a top speed of over 90 mph in standard trim. Launched in 1927, it brought the marque the third of its five Le Mans victories the following year. When the stresses of that 1928 Le Mans race revealed a tendency for the frame to crack, the chassis was strengthened in all respects and additionally fitted with girder trusses obviously inspired by W.O.Bentley’s early training as a locomotive engineer.

This fine example of the Vintage Bentley would be a valued addition to the ranks of the Bentley Drivers Club and a strong contender for the coveted “W.O. Patina” class in their annual concours.
1929 Bentley 4½-litre Two-Seater Drophead Coupé  Chassis no. AB3373 Engine no. AB3374
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