NDR Ltd

1925 Bentley 3/ 4 ½ Litre Speed Model

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In 1927 when the 4 ½ Litre Bentley was announced it was possible to order this engine in the 9’ 9 ½ inch wheelbase as opposed to the standard 10’ 10-inch offering. Should the customer wish to take up this option, the factory would take a new 3 Litre Speed Model chassis from stock and build the car around it. In the event only 10 customers took advantage of this and so the short chassis 4 ½ Litre Bentley remains the rarest of all Cricklewood Bentleys. Subsequently, as the sporting nature of the vintage Bentley gained broader appeal and the demand for saloons simultaneously declined, the more spirited and sports minded motorist awoke to the idea of a powerful, open sporting Bentley. By then it was too late. The Cricklewood factory had closed its doors for the last time. Thus, our sporting motorist was left with two options; to go in search of one of the ten, or to produce his or her own. The shortening of the standard chassis was one method, the other was to find a 3 Litre Speed model and to change the engine. Ninety years later it is still a popular choice.
So, our Bentley here is what has become popularly known as the 3/ 4 ½ Litre Speed Model and may the explanation above give guidance to the many enquiries we receive asking exactly what that nomenclature means. It is a format widely loved, accepted and approved of by Bentley enthusiasts.
This Speed model left the works in 1925 with an open Vanden Plas 4 seat body and weighed in at 1 ton 8 ¾ cwt. Supplied to a Mr. Pope of Woking in Surrey it was purchased by its second owner, the enthusiastic PGA Harvey of London in 1927. Harvey entered this Bentley as part of a team event at the Brooklands Six-hour race, described by the late motoring historian Bill Boddy as one of the most ambitious races ever held in this country. Other Bentleys in the team were driven by works driver Frank Clement, Bentley chairman Woolf Barnato and racer Tim Birkin. Harvey paired with Le Mans driver Leslie Callingham but it was not their finest hour. The Bentleys had been fitted with experimental duralumin valve rockers by the newly formed race shop and this proved to be very unsuccessful.
Our Bentley passed through half a dozen subsequent keepers before being rebuilt in 1948 with a 2-seater Corsica body, having already been fitted with a later “big sump” 3 Litre engine of the type favoured for the 4 ½ Litre conversion. This engine purchased from Marcus Chambers, who enthusiasts amongst you may remember as not only a very capable Bentley engineer, but also the man behind the competition department of BMC, taking the Austin Healey to fame. It took another 50 years for a long-term owner to get around to doing the 4½ Litre conversion, spending, on a Bentley which cost £1245.00 in 1925, £57,000. Such is the enthusiasm for keeping the marque alive.
By 2010 with the performance of the engine proving more that the Corsica body could handle, a Bentley enthusiast of note reached into the depths of his inner Bentley self and his savings account and commissioned a complete cosmetic refurbishment, with an inspection and overhaul where necessary, of all mechanical components.
Taking two years, the result is a you see it today. All work carried out by notable Bentley specialists with no expense spared. The engine performs superbly, the steering has the later 4 ½ Litre gearing the differential has a 3:3 to 1 ratio for long legged touring and 8 Litre driveshafts have been fitted. The body is in the Vanden Plas style by specialist R.C. Moss and the quality of the whole affair is enduring with this Vintage Bentley driving and handling splendidly and giving that full motoring experience which a Cricklewood car so beautifully provides. Smooth and powerful on the open road, an enchanting demeanour in traffic and supported by excellent steering and brakes and a light and effortless gearchange. The work included the installation of a correct 4 ½ Litre bulkhead and radiator and the 35 gallon Le Mans fuel tank providing a purposeful and bold stance.
This vintage Bentley has continuous ownership history from new and has been the subject of continuous development, maintenance and expenditure.
And does it show! A terrific vintage Bentley which lives up to all the superlatives.