1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034
Lot 237
1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville
Coachwork by H J Mulliner
Sold for £779,900 (US$ 1,028,403) inc. premium

Lot Details
1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034 1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville  Chassis no. YM 5034
1931 Bentley 8-Litre Sedanca de Ville
Coachwork by H J Mulliner

Registration no. GT 18
Chassis no. YM 5034
*First owned by Lord Brougham & Vaux
*Outstandingly original
*Known ownership history
*The ultimate development of the W.O. Bentley
*Recent extensive refurbishment

Footnotes

  • Although the prevailing image of Bentley cars during the Cricklewood period of the company's life is that of out-and-out sports cars and fast tourers, it is often overlooked that W O Bentley made a determined bid for the carriage trade, particularly with his larger 4½-Litre, 6½-Litre and 8-Litre models, and it is largely because of this that Napier's bid for the company in 1931 was thwarted by Rolls-Royce, which doubtless saw that a rejuvenated Bentley company would present strong competition for its own models.

    As it is, only 100 examples of the 8-Litre model had been produced before bankruptcy overtook the original Bentley company; had they been in a stronger financial position it might well have been a different story. With a chassis price of £1,850, the 8-Litre Bentley was in direct competition with the Rolls-Royce Phantom II while offering better performance, and the contemporary motoring press was lavish with its praise for the 8-Litre model. The latter had debuted at the 1930 London Motor Show, and was the largest-engined car made in the UK at that time and arguably the fastest. Bentley's advertising claimed '100mph without noise' and tests bore out that claim, the 8-Litre being fully capable of the 'ton' even when burdened with weighty formal coachwork. As W O Bentley himself said: 'I have wanted to produce a dead silent 100mph car, and now I think we have done it.'

    The 8-Litre represents an evolutionary step in the development of the Vintage-era Bentley, combining proven features of the 6½-Litre model with the latest engineering advances. Rather than trying to extract more power from the existing 6½-Litre engine, W O Bentley followed his long-preferred method of improving performance and simply enlarged it, increasing the bore size from 100 to 110mm. Although the 8-Litre's engine followed conventional Bentley practice, its gearbox - designated 'F-type' - was radically different from its predecessors, the redesign having been necessitated by the greatly increased power and torque it was required to transmit, as well as the quest for silence.

    The massive chassis frame likewise was entirely new, being of the 'double drop' design that enabled overall height to be reduced and the centre of gravity lowered, these aims also dictating the use of a hypoid-bevel rear axle. Seven tubular cross members resulted in a much stronger and less flexible frame than hitherto, which was available in a choice of two wheelbases: 12' or 13'. Revised suspension incorporating longer road springs, out-rigged at the rear, together with Bentley & Draper shock absorbers made for increased smoothness and stability, both vital considerations when designing a large and weighty vehicle capable of three-figure speeds. The 8-Litre's steering and braking systems also featured numerous detail improvements.

    'Motoring in its very highest form,' eulogised The Autocar in December 1930, having recorded a top speed of 101.12mph in W O Bentley's own saloon-bodied 8-Litre over the half-mile. Between 1930 and 1939, Britain's foremost motoring magazine bettered that figure only once, while testing an Alfa Romeo 8C 2300. The 8-Litre was destined to remain the fastest production Bentley until the R-Type Continental's arrival in 1953.

    Completed in May 1931 and the 59th of its type produced, Bentley 8-Litre chassis number 'YM 5034' was built to the 1931 specification, complete with F-type gearbox number '8060', and delivered to H J Mulliner in that same month. The engine (number 'YM 5034') was made to standard specification with 5.1:1 compression ratio, while the chassis itself was the long (13') wheelbase version. H J Mulliner's body was of the Sedanca de Ville type, a formal town-carriage design. The car was ordered new by Lord Brougham & Vaux, who at the same time also ordered a sporting two-seater 8-Litre, chassis number 'YR 5097' (no longer extant). His Lordship's Bentley Speed Six was taken in part exchange. Passed off final test on 18th August 1931, the 8-Litre was delivered to Lord Brougham & Vaux via Jack Barclay Ltd and issued with the London registration mark 'GT 18' in that same month. By this time Bentley Motors was already in receivership.

    Coachbuilder H J Mulliner had plenty of experience of bodying the Bentley 8-Litre chassis, being responsible for nearly 25% of the production run. They were adept at producing well-balanced designs that succeeded, to a degree, in disguising the actual size of the lengthy chassis, as clearly demonstrated by this car. The Sedanca de Ville coachwork is enhanced by features such as the small 'helmet' style wings and pram irons adorning the rear quarters, all of which contribute to an elegance of style belying the 13' chassis beneath. When chauffeur driven, the car would have the (Barker patented) Sedanca De Ville extension open and the internal division raised, thereby emphasising the physical – and social – separation of the owner from his or her driver. With the extension closed and the division lowered, the Bentley transforms into a comfortable owner-driver car.

    As one would expect of a coachbuilder long associated with marques of the highest quality, H J Mulliner equipped their products with luxurious appointments appropriate to such expensive chassis. Among other fittings, this 8-Litre's quite stunning interior – re-trimmed to the original pattern - is equipped with compact twin occasional seats which fold neatly into its central division, a cocktail cabinet and vanity units (see illustrated Hay Report on file).

    Lord Brougham & Vaux kept the 8-Litre for approximately one year, during which time it covered some 10,000-or-so miles. The car then passed to Mr F W Keddie, a wealthy businessman from Southend-on-Sea, Essex, whose family kept it until the outbreak of WW2, if not later (see photograph in Hay Report). The Bentley is believed to have passed to one of the Keddies' sons before leaving the family's ownership. Throughout this time, servicing was documented in Bentley factory records, which note a total pre-war mileage of around 72,500. No major work was carried out on the Bentley pre-war.

    By 1954 the car was the property of Dr A W O Taylor, from whom it was purchased by the renowned collector John Sword of East Balgray in 1957. The 8-Litre was included in the first Sword Collection dispersal sale in 1962 (Lot 94). It was sold for £400 to a C G Waite, who kept the car until 1965 when it was purchased by J Landless. In 1986 the Bentley was purchased by W G Lassiter of Florida, and left the UK, remaining in America ownership until the early 1990s (the second, and last, American owner recorded is Mrs C W Lampert from December 1987). Various restoration works were commissioned while the car was in the USA, including a full mechanical rebuild and cosmetic refurbishment of the body, paintwork, and interior.

    In the early 1990s, 'YM 5034' passed into the ownership of Alan C Prince of Leatherhead, Surrey. In Mr Prince's enthusiastic ownership the 8-Litre was used regularly and fastidiously maintained, as evidenced by bills on file approaching some £30,000 in total, mostly from marque specialists McKenzie Guppy & Sons. In 1994 it was awarded the Connolly Trophy at the Hurlingham Concours for 'Best Interior'.

    The Bentley passed into the immediately preceding ownership early in 2005 and has since benefited from an engine rebuild, including the installation of new pistons, undertaken by marque specialists Neil Davies Historic Racing (NDR) in August 2006 at a cost exceeding £6,000 (bill on file). As well as the aforementioned service/maintenance invoices, the comprehensive history file also contains ownership notes, copies of the factory records, an original Bentley 8-Litre handbook, and the aforementioned Hay Report. Typically thorough, the latter confirms that 'YM 5034' remains in outstandingly original condition, and Bonhams recommends that prospective purchasers should take the time to read it.

    The 8-Litre was purchased by the current private-collector owner at Bonhams' Olympia auction  in December 2008 (Lot 651). Since then it has been used sparingly, being driven for less than 1000 miles; it has nevertheless wanted for nothing, being routinely serviced and benefiting from extensive refurbishment at the hands of marque specialists Sergeants of Goudhurst Ltd, and James E Pearce Coachbuilders. Works undertaken include replacing the roof and Sedanca section; making a new tool tray to fit beneath the driver's seat, with a full compliment of correct tools; removing the wheel discs and repainting the wheels in red, moving the spare wheel to the nearside front wing; and a bare-metal repaint in black with red coachline. The latter work being carried out to make the car look just as it had when new, as shown in a photograph found of the car in 1932. Details of these works are on file, and the car also comes with a quantity of spares to include the original mechanical cooling fan and drive belt and an original (restored) jack.

    This car's Sedanca de Ville body was the only one of its type built by H J Mulliner on the Bentley 8-Litre chassis, and 'YM 5034' is the sole survivor of the six Sedanca-bodied 8-Litres made. A therefore unique and quite magnificent example, this beautiful 8-Litre is presented in very good order and would be most welcome at all the many celebrations planned to celebrate Bentley's 100th centenary in 2019.
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