1926 Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model Tourer Registration no. YO 3595 Chassis no. RT1541 Engine no. BL1609
With characteristic humility 'W O' was constantly amazed by the enthusiasm of later generations for the products of Bentley Motors Limited, and it is testimony to the soundness of his engineering design skills that so many of his products have survived. From the humblest of beginnings in a mews garage off Baker Street, London in 1919 the Bentley rapidly achieved fame as an exciting fast touring car, well able to compete with the best of European and American sports cars in the tough world of motor sport in the 1920s. Bentley's domination at Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930 is legendary, and one can only admire the Herculean efforts of such giants as Woolf Barnato, Jack Dunfee, Tim Birkin and Sammy Davis, consistently wrestling the British Racing Green sports cars to victory.
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 that chassis number 'RT1541' was completed as a Speed Model with engine number 'RT1545' and four-seat coachwork by Vanden Plas. Registered 'YO 3595', the car was first owned by 'Bentley Boy' Captain Woolf Barnato, whose injection of fresh capital and assumption of overall control in 1926 saved the ailing company. Inspired by the factory's 1924 Le Mans win, Barnato had bought his first Bentley in 1925 and would go on to win the famous French endurance classic for the Cricklewood manufacturer on three consecutive occasions from 1928 to 1930.
Although not used at Le Mans, 'YO 3595' was built to team specification, entered by W. O. Bentley, and raced at Brooklands on 7th May 1926 in the Essex Motor Club's Six Hours Race, an event regarded as a Le Mans dress rehearsal. Driven by Leslie Callingham and S G A Harvey, the car was sidelined when the engine's new duralumin rocker arms broke, a failure that eliminated two of the other works entries.
In Bentley, The Vintage Years, Hay states that 'YO 3595' was rebuilt on a new chassis frame in January 1928 and again in December of that year, though it is claimed that both of these earlier frames still exist in other cars. Further to this the car was rebodied as a Saloon in 1928/29 and now carries replica four-seat touring cochwork more in keeping with the car's Brooklands heyday. The Bentley is also equipped with a genuine 18 Gallon long range fuel tank.
Hay records the engine as 'BL1609', ex-chassis number 'BL1610'. Restored more than 30 years ago and described as in generally good condition, 'YO 3595' was previously owned by the uncle of well-known car collector, the late Barry Burnett before being sold to Nigel Dawes. The Bentley was sold by Mr Dawes to the current vendor's late father many years ago. Offered for sale by his family, the car comes with MoT to June 2012 and Swansea V5 registration document.
One of only 513 Speed Models built, 'YO 3595' represents a wonderful opportunity to acquire a 3-Litre Speed Model first owned by one of the most significant figures in the Bentley story and possessing Brooklands competition history.