Bentley's domination at Le Mans from 1924 to 1930 is indeed the stuff of legends, the sturdy reliability and high speed endurance capabilities of the British Racing Green team cars being a far cry from the humble beginnings in a mews garage off Baker Street in 1919 when the first 3 litre car was fired up. No-one recognised the commercial value of motor racing achievements more than W.O. Bentley and the herculean efforts of such giants as Woolf Barnato, Jack Dunfee, Tim Birkin and Sammy Davis consistently hurling the Cricklewood sports cars to victory undoubtedly created instant sales demand for the production models.
The first 4 ½ litre engine, complementing Bentley's 3 litre and 6 ½ litre models, appeared in the 1927 Le Mans practice car and probably went on to be fitted in the first production 4 ½ litre chassis at Le Mans that year, the car campaigned by Callingham and Clement and affectionately known as 'Old Mother Gun'. The 4 ½ litre model was catalogued from 1927 to 1930, attracting a clientele who sought fast and comfortable motoring and wished to emulate their racing heroes on occasion on the open road. Some 667 production 4 ½ litre models were built in total, 658 on the long chassis and just nine on the 9ft 9 ½ in wheelbase
RL3441 was supplied in February 1929 to a Captain K. Shennan who had ordered Weymann-style saloon coachwork by Freestone & Webb Ltd. Surviving records suggest that by 1932 the car had covered approximately 36,000 miles quite a substantial annual mileage in those days. Records do not survive recording the car's history between 1932 and the 1960s when the car was acquired, by then in a rather dilapidated condition, by M.L. Murphy of Oxford, England. Murphy suggests that the reason the car had been placed in storage had been the collapse of the crosshaft gears. The fragility of Weymann Patent lightweight coachwork necessitated construction of new coachwork in the 1960s and this work was entrusted to Basset Down Farms Ltd., Engineering Division, a company operated by Nigel Arnold-Foster, a Past President of the Vintage Sports-Car Club. Invoices on file from Basset Down record significant mechanical work undertaken in 1969 and labour charges of 30 shillings per hour! Murphy records that the chassis had been shot blasted, zinc dipped and painted and the engine completely re-built with new bearings throughout; the block had been re-bored and new pistons, valves, etc, fitted. The front crosshaft gears had been replaced and all components restored by original manufacturers where possible. The steering and gear boxes were found to be in perfect condition. Sercks rebuilt and nickel plated the radiator and the Lucas Bullseye P100 headlamps were rebuilt by the manufacturers 'at very considerable expense'. Murphy further records that the replica coachwork was 'superbly built by local craftsmen whom I understand used to work for the Vanden Plas factory'.
Having completed the restoration Murphy offered the car to Richard A. Bartlett Esq, M.D., of Bolton, Massachusetts, advising him by letter that the reason for sale 'is that the total cost of the project has caused me a certain amount of financial embarrassment' and that at 30 shillings per hour. Murphy had covered approximately 3,500 miles in his restored car before shipping it in March 1970 to Bartlett in Massachusetts. The car was shipped with very detailed running instructions etc for Bartlett's attention. Some 19 years later the car arrived back in the U.K. and was acquired by the present owner.
It could not have found a better home, its new owner being an enthusiastic driver of his exclusive collection of veteran and vintage motor cars, maintaining his cars to the highest standards so that reliability on long distance motor tours would be undoubted. During this ownership RL3441 has participated in Bentley Drivers' Club Tours to South Africa (1990 and 1995), New Zealand (1995), Spain (2000), France (2004) and New Zealand (2006), as well as many other motoring events all with impeccable proven reliability. Modifications, all reversible, to enhance the driving experience include an overdrive unit, the fitting of an alternator, a Fram oil filter, twin coils using the magnetos as distributors and two Kenlowe radiator fans. A spare half shaft is mounted alongside the offside chassis rail and the original prop shaft is offered with the car.
RL3441 is very smartly presented in blue livery with that delightful patina which is only acquired during long and careful use. The coachwork is upholstered in grey leather and furnished with over carpets back and front and is equipped with tonneau covers and side-screens and hood. Driving equipment includes Lucas P100 headlamps, Butlers side lamps and Lucas auxiliary driving lamps, together with flashing indicators with side markers, so essential for continental touring. Other essential touring equipment includes twin side-mounted spare wheels, fold-down windscreen with side wind deflectors, luggage rack with substantial luggage trunk, matching rear-view mirrors, leather spring gaiters and a GB plate. A toolbox is fitted on the offside running board and the car carries two fire extinguishers and an Esso two-gallon spare fuel can.
RL3441, well known in Bentley Drivers' Club circles, comes with a good history file recording its restoration, a quantity of expired MoT certificates and tax discs and is offered with a Swansea V5C registration document, current road fund licence and a recently issued MoT certificate.
Please note the registration number for this car is BF60 72 and not FH 19 as illustrated.