1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551

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Lot 87
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer
Registration no. TX 8038 Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551

Sold for £ 320,700 (US$ 411,569) inc. premium
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer
Registration no. TX 8038
Chassis no. DS3551
Engine no. DS3551

*Single family ownership since 1969
*Originally a Weymann-type sportsman's coupé
*Off the road for 30 years
*Requires re-commissioning

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 sports car.

    Early success in the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, when Bentleys finished 2nd, 4th and 5th 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.

    The 4½-Litre was produced for four years, all but nine of the 667 cars 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.

    According to the typically thorough report prepared by renowned marque specialist Clare Hay (perusal recommended), chassis number 'DS3551' was built as a 1929 Model 4½-Litre on the 10' 10" wheelbase chassis with the light crankshaft engine and 15/53 (3.53:1) ratio rear axle. The Service Record, reproduced in the Report, does not note any deviation from the standard specification. The current chassis is to the correct specification but no markings can be seen to the front cross-member or nearside front dumb iron knuckles, so it is likely that it is the brand new and unnumbered frame fitted by Bentley Motors during accident repair work in December 1931. The front axle is marked 'FT3203' and probably was fitted by Bentley Motors during the aforementioned accident repair work (however, there is no mention of a change of front axle in the Service Record for 'FT3203'). This accident must have been a serious affair as the Service Record notes that even the crankshaft required straightening. The change of bonnet to 'FB3305' might also be a legacy of that accident, although there is no mention of any repair work in the Service Record for that chassis. Suspension originally was by leaf springs with light pattern Bentley & Draper friction shock absorbers all round. 'DS3551' is currently fitted with Hartford friction shock absorbers all round.

    Bentley engines would be taken from the Engine Shop and assigned to chassis at random, which makes this car, with its identical chassis and engine numbers, somewhat unusual. 'DS3551' is a 1929 specification engine with aluminium castings throughout, Smiths starter motor, twin SU HVG5 carburettors, and twin ML ER4 magnetos. It is currently fitted with earlier SU G5 'Sloper' carburettors and twin distributors with coil units to the front of the magneto turret on a bracket off the original fan pillar mounting.

    The 'C' type gearbox originally fitted to 'DS3551' is recorded as '6652'. The current gearbox, numbered '6003', is a standard 'C' type but of earlier date. Records for gearbox numbers are incomplete, but this 'box is probably from a 1927 3-Litre Speed Model chassis. Bentleys designed the 'C' type gearbox as a universal unit suitable for all chassis, fitting it to late 3-Litre Speed Model; early 1928, 1929 and later model 4½-Litre chassis; and to the vast majority of 6½-Litre chassis.

    'DS3551' was originally bodied by Gurney Nutting as a Weymann-type sportsman's coupé. The agent was Howell's Garage Ltd of Cardiff, so the order was placed specially for the first owner rather than this being a body made for a dealer for stock. That first owner was Mr Ralph Pomeroy of Lisvane House, Lisvane, Glamorgan, who owned a Bentley 3-Litre at the same time (see photograph in Report). The registration number allocated was 'TX 8038', from a Glamorgan series issued between January 1926 and July 1930.

    'DS3551' has Lucas P100 headlamps and Lucas snail pattern sidelights; these were often fitted in the 1930s as the standard Smiths headlamps are poor. Of the instruments, only the Smiths 0-60lbs oil pressure gauge looks to be original. The fuel tank is the standard 16-gallon, with fuel supply by a Zenith filter and Autovac; this is all still in place, augmented by electric pumps to the offside of the engine compartment.

    The last Service Record entry for work carried out by Howell's Garage is dated September 1933, with a gap until April 1937 when 'DS3551' was worked on by Grosvenor Motor Co of Chester. It is likely that the car had changed hands by this date even though no new name is recorded in the Service Record. Further entries dated July 1937 and April 1938 are for parts sent to Dex garages in Newcastle, so it is possible that the Bentley had changed hands again. The records all end in 1939/1940 when Rolls-Royce shut down the old Kingsbury Service Department and moved it to new premises in Hythe Road, selling the stock of old spares to McKenzie Motors.

    As usual, the war years are a blank as cars were laid up for the duration. In the case of 'DS3551' there in an unusually long gap in the records until 1963, when it was owned by Syd Lawrence. Mr Lawrence ran a business, ML Motors, that specialised in Bentleys, so it is likely that he rebuilt 'DS3551' in its present form and had the Vanden Plas-style four-seater open body made.
    On file is a purchase invoice from Frank Dale for £4,600 dated 16th May 1969 and made out to the current vendor's late father, its next recorded owner. There are also various items of BDC correspondence relating to the vendor's father's ownership of the car (he appears to have joined in August 1971). The Bentley was subsequently displayed in the Strathallan Aircraft Museum in Perthshire for many years.

    It was rediscovered inside a Carcoon in a garage at the side of a house in Scotland where it had been, it is believed, since last taxed for the road in 1981. Not wanting the car to endure another cold winter, the vendor consigned it to Bonhams' sale at the Goodwood Members' Meeting; it spent last winter in dry storage at one of Bonhams' facilities in London. There are invoices on file for general maintenance dating from 1972-1976, issued by a garage in Perth, and two expired MoTs dating from 1973 (5,061 miles) and 1975 (5,753 miles). Not run for over 30 years, the car will, of course, require re-commissioning before returning to the road.
Contacts
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer  Chassis no. DS3551 Engine no. DS3551
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