The original owner of this 3 Litre Speed model, Bentley chairman Captain Wolf Barnato clearly saw the wisdom and mutual commercial opportunities of involvement with a major oil company and having taken delivery of this 3 Litre in May 1926, transferred ownership in August of that year to Shell Petroleum executive Leslie Callingham. An aviator, scratch golfer, technical author and spirited motorist, Callingham was something of a conundrum. Whilst his sporting and military activities were ideally suited to the Bentley mold, he was neither wealthy, nor aristocratic after the famed "Bentley Boys" He was mechanically skilled and an enthusiastic driver who covered long distances in his 3 Litre Bentley, as evidenced by the service records from the works. His motoring life was not entirely without incident as shown in those records and the 3 Litre underwent the fitment of specific items by the works as fitted to the new 4 ½ Litre including the larger 18 gallon fuel tank and lower geared steering box.
Callingham was selected to drive the new 4 ½ Litre " Mother Gun" at Le Mans in 1927, along with works driver Frank Clement, and the outcome of his debut is recorded in the description of LM1341, the engine of this 3 Litre,
To return to the Bentley itself, it was immediately pressed into service in the General Strike of May 1926, whilst in Wolf Barnato's ownership, as part of the "Brooklands Squad" of racing drivers seconded by Scotland Yard to carry newspapers and documents between London and Birmingham. Barnato received special mention for covering the 106 mile distance in two hours and eleven minutes,, only 11 minutes behind the express train. Callingham drove the Bentley to Le Mans in 1927 as part of the five car convoy laden with spares. No stranger to technical matters, Callingham's proud boast that he had fitted a foolproof anti-theft device to his car was deflated by the works team mechanics who made off with the car outside a Le Mans café. Naturally there was great amusement all round.
In 1929 Callingham specified the fitment of a closed coupe body and retained ownership until 1934, passing it on to one of his colleagues at Shell with a mileage of 90,000.
Emergence in the post war years saw the body replaced with a 2 seater Corsica style body in the hands of an enthusiastic Bristol family where it was presented as a 21st birthday present, replacing the fortunate recipient's Morgan given to him 3 years earlier. A trip around the family estate culminated in a minor incident with an outbuilding, the Bentley was replaced with a new Sunbeam Rapier and banished to storage in a hay barn for a number of years until the custodians set about a full restoration.
The restoration by marque expert Tony Townsend retained the factory fitted components and whilst the engine had been replaced post war, all other components were as numbered by the Bentley works in period., The restoration which is as seen today is of an excellent and appealing standard with coachwork by the renowned Meynall Phillips of Burton On Trent to correct Vanden Plas specification. Nearly sixty years later this 3 Litre Speed model has aged beautifully with a mellow and charismatic appearance.
upon the death of the owner in 1969 the Bentley passed to noted collector Nigel Dawes who kept her for seven years and was sold to a friend who was to retain ownership for 37 years.
Residing in a collection of vintage Bentleys for 10 years, the custodian took the opportunity of uniting Callingham's car with Benjafield's engine which was in his collection. It is thanks to this enthusiasm, (and no small amount of money) that this engine can still be enjoyed not merely in a correct Speed Model Bentley, but one with such history with a beautiful twist as both Leslie Callingham and Dr. Dudley Benjafield were friends, racers, Le Mans drivers and founder members of the BRDC.
To drive this Bentley today is to experience the best in vintage motoring. a strong and willing engine combines with the delightful original A type gearbox, light but positive steering and nimble handling.
Fully documented and researched this is a very special Bentley with the heart of a motoring hero