1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349

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Lot 219
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer
Registration no. CX 7658 Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349

Sold for £ 157,700 (US$ 201,802) inc. premium
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer
Registration no. CX 7658
Chassis no. HP388
Engine no. XR3349

Footnotes

  • W O Bentley proudly debuted 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. In only mildly developed form, this was the model which 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 sportscar.
    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). However, by the middle of the decade the 3-Litre’s competitiveness was on the wane and this, together with the fact that too many customers had been tempted to fit unsuitably heavy coachwork to the excellent 3-Litre chassis rather than accept the expense and complexity of Bentley’s 6½-litre ‘Silent Six’, led to the introduction of the ‘4½’.
    The new 4½-Litre model effectively employed the chassis, transmission and brakes of the 3-Litre, combined with an engine that was in essence two-thirds of the six-cylinder 6½-litre unit. Thus the new four-cylinder motor retained the six’s 100x140mm bore/stroke and Bentley’s familiar four-valves-per-cylinder fixed-’head architecture, but reverted to the front-end vertical camshaft drive of the 3-Litre. Bentley Motors lost no time in race-proving its new car. It is believed that the first prototype engine went into the 3-Litre chassis of the 1927 Le Mans practice car. Subsequently this same engine was fitted to the first production 4½-Litre chassis for that year’s Grand Prix d’Endurance at the Sarthe circuit.
    The original 4½-Litre car, nicknamed by the team ‘Old Mother Gun’ and driven by Frank Clement and Leslie Callingham, promptly set the fastest race lap of 73.41mph before being eliminated in the infamous ‘White House Crash’ multiple pile-up. Driven by Woolf Barnato and Bernard Rubin, ‘Old Mother Gun’ (race number ‘4’) won the famous French endurance classic the following year and finished 2nd in 1929 carrying race number ‘9’, its drivers on that occasion being Glen Kidston and Clive ‘Jack’ Dunfee.
    The 4½-Litre was produced for four years, all but nine of the 665 cars made being built on the 3-Litre’s ‘Long Standard’, 10’ 10”-wheelbase chassis. Purchasers of the 4½-Litre model were, in common with those of all vintage-period Bentleys, free to specify their preferences from a very considerable range of mechanical and electrical equipment, in addition to whatever body style and coachbuilder might be required.
    Michael Hay’s definitive work, ‘Bentley: The Vintage Years’ lists chassis number ‘HP 388’ as a 3-Litre Speed Model with coupé coachwork by Surbico that was first owned by a T Grahaeme Ferguson. The car’s original engine was number ‘HP391’ and its original registration ‘ YM 7877’. It is not known when it was fitted with the current 4½-litre engine, number ‘XR3349’, which started life in chassis number ‘XR3342’, a car believed burnt out.
    ‘HP388’ was acquired by the current vendor in 1996 and immediately subjected to an extensive programme of refurbishment. The wheels were sent away for rebuilding and a new set of tyres fitted, while a family friend, member of the BDC and professional marque specialist rebuilt the engine, cleaning out the crankshaft sludge traps and magnetically crack-testing the crank, which was reground and fitted with new main and connecting rod bearings. Perhaps surprisingly, the cylinders and pistons were in good order, only requiring new rings, while all 16 valves were renewed and a new camshaft and rocker set fitted. At the front of the engine, the magneto drive cross-shaft gear set was renewed and a new water pump fitted. The opportunity was taken to unobtrusively incorporate a modern full-flow oil filter and the car has the popular and powerful CAV axial starter motor, which does not damage the flywheel’s starter ring gear, unlike the standard Bendix drive. Other modifications include a lightened flywheel and an increased-capacity oil pump.
    We are advised that the engine now performs extremely well while at the same time being smooth and docile at low speeds on a mere whiff of throttle, just like a Bentley’s should. The car is reported to be tremendous fun to drive, being well able to hold its own in today’s traffic, a fact much helped by the excellent brakes, which can be relied upon in ‘competitive’ driving. To this end they have finned drums of Meehanite iron and are ventilated by large air scoops.
    At some time the car has acquired a ‘D’ type gearbox, the most sought after of all the Bentley gearbox types with its very easy smooth change, great mechanical strength and delightfully close ratios. We are told that giving this car a quick blast in 2nd gear will definitely put a smile on one’s face. Gear changing is much enhanced by the new clutch cone and ring, demonstrating how good W O Bentley’s design is when kept in 1st class condition.
    The car comes with current MoT and Swansea V5 registration document. Its present owner is the daughter of the late John Bolster, one-time Grand Prix racing driver and Technical Editor of Autosport magazine. After a lifetime of driving ‘the right sort of car’ she is now parting with the Bentley, most regretfully, because of ill health.
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. HP388 Engine no. XR3349
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