1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485
Lot 28
1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer
Sold for £281,500 (US$ 361,615) inc. premium

Lot Details
1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485 1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer  Chassis no. 485
1924 Bentley 3-Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer
Registration no. GB 5759
Chassis no. 485
*The archetypal Vintage sports car
*One of 513 Speed Models built
*Matching chassis, engine, and registration numbers
*Restored in the late 1980s
*Present ownership since 1990

Footnotes

  • 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" (the 'short standard') 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) Andre Hartford shock absorbers. Bentley made 1,613 3-Litre models, the majority of which was bodied by Vanden Plas with either open tourer or saloon coachwork, 513 of which were to Speed Model specification.

    Vanden Plas had been founded in Belgium in the 19th Century, gaining a British offshoot when Warwick Wright obtained the UK rights to the name in 1913. After an uncertain start and numerous changes of ownership, the British firm went on to forge its not inconsiderable reputation by a most fortuitous alliance with Bentley, bodying some 700-or-so of the latter's chassis during the 1920s, including the Le Mans team cars.

    Factory records held by the W O Bentley Memorial Foundation show that this car, chassis number '485' with engine number '491', was supplied via George Gilmour Ltd, automobile engineers of Glasgow, and originally bodied by James Young. Registered 'GB 5759' around April 1924, it appears to have been retained as a demonstrator and was not sold until May 1926, the first private owner being Captain Robert G Williamson of Birkdale, Lancashire. Captain Williamson is the only owner recorded on service sheets up to 1939. Various other owners are recorded from 1953 onwards, including the current vendor, who purchased '485' from Vintage Bentley specialist Stanley Mann in February 1990. The recorded mileage at date of purchase was 1,844, and is now 4,890.

    The Bentley was totally rebuilt in the late 1980s to full Le Mans specification. When acquired by its previous owner, this car had been dismantled for at least 15 years, and while what remained of the original body was in poor condition, examination confirmed that '485' was a complete and unusually original example of the desirable Speed Model, and that all the parts were from one car. On this basis the then owner undertook a comprehensive restoration 'from the ground upwards' to the highest standards and using the finest materials at every stage. The body is a Vanden Plas Le Mans replica by Hastings & Harding, complete with Le Mans fuel tank and interior trim by Alan Geator. In excess of 2,500 man-hours were spent on the restoration.

    The chassis frame was carefully and thoroughly examined and found to be both sound and dimensionally correct. The springs were re-tempered and set to the original specification, and all bushes and pins were replaced as necessary. The springs were then bound in black cord.

    The front axle was completely dismantled and new kingpins and bushes fitted, while the rear axle likewise was completely dismantled and re-assembled with new bearings and bushes. It is believed that a 3.53:1 crown wheel and pinion is fitted.

    The car has correct finned brake drums at the front and plain drums at the rear. These were machined true. The Perrot shafts were overhauled and the pedal shaft re-metalled and ground to the correct dimensions, and every joint and moving part in the system re-metalled as required or re-bushed with new pins to eliminate all wear. New brake linings were fitted together with new André Hartford shock absorbers front and rear.

    The engine was totally rebuilt by Roger Cook. The crankshaft was reground and crack tested, and new main bearing caps fitted. New big-end caps were fitted also, these being of the correct four-bolt type in keeping with the original specification. The cylinder block was bored out to 0.060", and the Mahle pistons are believed to give a compression ratio of 7.0:1. A new Reece camshaft was fitted with the correct BM 1800 profiles. The valve seats were re-cut and new valves and springs fitted, while the original rockers were re-bushed as necessary. A high-pressure oil pump and new water pump were fitted. Induction is by means of correct twin SU 'Sloper' carburettors. Both magnetos, the starter motor, and dynamo were rebuilt to aircraft standards. An electric fan helps keep the engine cool in traffic.

    In 1995, some seven years after restoration, '485' was inspected by the BDC's B W Fenn, who remarked: 'this is the highest value I've ever given for a 3 Litre! It is quite splendid.' The valuation certificate is on file.

    Since its acquisition by its current owner the Bentley has been regularly maintained by VBE (Richard Cresswell) while in 2013 the clutch was rebuilt by Brewster Mudie. Significant enhancements include a new set of A-type gears; new rolled-edge wheels rims with new spokes and centres together with Blockley tyres (fitted in 2004); and a modern Hardy Spicer prop shaft assembly. (The original prop shaft is still stored by the current owner).

    By acquiring '485', the vendor fulfilled his childhood dream of owning a Vanden Plas Bentley. Over the last 27 years the car has been cherished by him and his family, though sparingly used, and is now offered for sale to make way for a 'modern classic' that his wife will drive also. Offered with a history file, this Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model is described as in generally excellent condition and is ready for the next chapter in its life.
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