1923 Bentley 3-Liter Short Chassis Sports Open Tourer  Chassis no. 332 Engine no. 337

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Lot 618• W
1923 Bentley 3-Liter Short Chassis Sports Open Tourer
Registration no. EL 8239 (Bournemouth 1923) Chassis no. 332 Engine no. 337

Sold for US$ 203,000 inc. premium
1923 Bentley 3-Liter Short Chassis Sports Open Tourer
Coachwork by Park Ward & Co Ltd., London

Registration no. EL 8239 (Bournemouth 1923)
Chassis no. 332
Engine no. 337
It may be said that for Walter Owen Bentley, the Bentley 3-Liter model, the design of which commenced as early as January 1919, represented the realization of an ideal. It was the culmination of his pioneer work with aluminum pistons in D.F.P. cars in competition before the Great War, and his work on the BR1 and BR2 aero engines during that conflict. It was his recognition of the fact that the allied aims of power and reliability for light weight made horsepower per unit of cylinder capacity irrelevant, but low weight per unit of capacity most desirable.

In the Bentley 3-Liter the four valve cylinder head with its inclined valves and overhead camshaft made large airflows and compact combustion chambers possible; the cylinder head combined with the barrel to permit full casting fettling and so cooling water access to all critical points, and over a period, the gradual diminution in overall car weight and bulk was without detriment to passenger accommodation, comfort or performance. It was these attributes that made the 3-Liter so successful, if not unique, when introduced.

Chassis No. 332 left the factory at Cricklewood in August 1923, its first owner having specified a 9'9" short replica TT chassis fitted with raised compression engine - a replica, in fact, of the cars raced in the 1922 Tourist Trophy Race. The chassis went to Park Ward & Co Ltd., of Willesden, London, a coachbuilding company that had also been founded in 1919 by two ex-employees of F W Berwick & Company, the producers of the prestigious Sizaire-Berwick car. They were commissioned to build a special lightweight touring body, with a single door to improve rigidity, and suitable for Brooklands competition.

The lightweight chassis frame with its O.144" thickness provided exceptional torsional flexibility, and was fitted with an extended radiator for improved cooling. This, together with a 3.53 back axle ratio all made the car eminently suitable for Brooklands competition, and on July 5th 1924 the car's first owner, Mr. L J R Lapisburn of 'Ravensworth', East Cliff, Bournemouth, duly entered the car for the 1924 Brooklands Summer Meeting. William Boddy, founder editor of Motor Sport and author of the standard work on Brooklands, 'The History of Brooklands Motor Course' has consulted his Brooklands records, and confirms that Mr. Lapisburn turned in several average laps of 93.62 mph in this event. Given the nature of Brooklands track at the time this indicates that his speed down the Railway Straight must have been around 95 to 96 mph.

Presumably having proved his point Mr. Lapisburn sold the car later the same year to W Thomas of Morris Motors in Cowley, Oxford and two years later it passed to W S Hatterll (sic) of Coventry and then had a succession of owners in Coventry, Kent and Surrey up to the 193O's. At the time of its Brooklands appearance it featured distinctive gray livery with maroon wings. In the 195O's the car came to the United States and was sold on by its Connecticut-based owner when his employers transferred him to South Africa. It came into the possession of the present owner in 1987.

At that time it was sent to the specialists McKenzie & Guppy of Dorset, England, for a complete mechanical restoration. Every chassis rivet was replaced by hand; a new radiator core was fitted, together with a Phoenix crank, camshaft, Moller pistons and needle rockers. Subsequently, and following the car's return to the United States in 1989, Ray Wiltshire, the late and revered President of the Bentley Drivers Club, having completed several laps at Lime Rock Park in the car, commented that it seemed to behave as it must have done when new. Praise indeed, from a man who certainly knew his Bentleys.

In more recent years, the car has toured Europe on several occasions, enjoyed multiple attendances at the BDC's concours event in Kensington Gardens, London, and has been actively campaigned on tracks on both the East and West Coasts. Ideal for both competition and comfortable fast touring, and epitomizing W O Bentley's original concept of the fast sports tourer, the car (and it's owner) were both featured and illustrated in the Forbes FYI magazine article "Hell Bent for Bentleys" on September 3Oth 1991. Surely this is one of the most original and useable early vintage Bentleys, in excellent restored condition, and ready for road or track.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that the wing-mounted sidelight on the driver's side is missing its lens. The car is sold as viewed.
1923 Bentley 3-Liter Short Chassis Sports Open Tourer  Chassis no. 332 Engine no. 337
1923 Bentley 3-Liter Short Chassis Sports Open Tourer  Chassis no. 332 Engine no. 337
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