The best way to describe this 4 ½ Litre tourer is as described by a crowd who recently stopped to admire her. The diverse comments ranged from “Wonderful”, “Amazing” “Charming” “ “Magnificent” to “Are you going to restore it” and then “I hope you never restore it”
And here she is. An enigmatic, charismatic, character of a Bentley in a wonderful state of originality which is an absolute delight to drive and captivates the driver as much as the bystander.
Specified by Bentley Motors with sports 4-seater coachwork by Vanden Plas, chassis number HF 3192 was delivered to Lady Alnes in Edinburgh in February 1928 and led a modest motoring life in the hands of two subsequent keepers. Both of whom kept her maintained by the works.
However, the most fascinating part of her history starts in 1937 when she was acquired by MR. C.J.E. Mertens of London NW2.
Christian Mertens, forever known by the abbreviation "Con," joined the then fledgling Bentley Drivers Club and became a club stalwart, diehard enthusiast and all round bloody good chap. HF 3192 was to become his almost daily driver for the next forty years. Still spoken of in Bentley circles, in fact there is a trophy awarded in his name at the Brighton Speed Trials, Con drove to race meetings and hill climbs, competed and drove home. With this and his other 4 ½ Litre, Con covered over 200,000 miles. Man, and machine in motoring unison. He was a great mate of Lewis “Mac” McKenzie all round famed Bentley guru, racer and engineer who maintained it for him and added all those little Bentley tweaks which made all of his cars drive so well. It is interesting to note that the D type gearbox as favoured by the racing fraternity was fitted.
Passing to Con’s daughter on his death, the Bentley remained in the family until 1993 when it was purchased by the current owner who has toured the UK, the North and South Islands of New Zealand and South Africa from Durban to Cape Town. He describes his thirty-year ownership as a relationship and a privilege.
Totally unrestored and continuously driven from new there is no part of this very special Bentley left untarnished. For those who understand these things it is a remarkable object. The body is the original numbered item as fitted for Lady Alnes in 1927 with its delightful opening windscreen. The paint, refreshed during Con’s ownership has faded once more and is all the better for that. There is a remarkable age to the whole affair, with the leather revealing the odd sprig of horsehair for good measure.
During Con’s ownership the engine was replaced with a heavy crank unit from a later Bentley, but this was later swapped for her original engine so, she is a matching numbered example – for those of you who lay awake at night fretting of such things.
She is a fabulous car to drive, tonking along in proper old school Bentley fashion with a great ride, smooth gearchange and an engine which pulls like a train. It is a very rewarding motoring experience.
In stock here at NDR and worthy of a viewing to see just what a real enthusiast’s Bentley is all about. It is neither a concourse example to be polished nor a museum piece to be preserved. It is a proper Cricklewood Bentley – to be enjoyed.
For scholars of literature this can be summed up by the words of William Ernest Henley:
“Bloody but unbowed” from his poem “Invictus” – meaning undefeated.
Or as we say here at Watford – Stonking Bentley stuff.