4,398cc SOHC Inline 4-Cylinder Engine - 4 Overhead Valves Per Cylinder
110bhp at 3,500rpm
4-Speed 'C' Gearbox
Front and Rear Leaf Spring Suspension
4-Wheel Drum Brakes with Servo Assist.
* First time ever publicly offered for sale
* Well-documented car
* Offered with comprehensive report by Dr. Clare Hay
* Archetypal 'WO' look, great physical presence
* Eligible for Vintage Bentley and other events
* Successfully completed Pebble Beach Motoring Classic and Colorado Grand in 2019
THE BENTLEY 4½ LITER
W O Bentley proudly debuted the new 3-liter 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. In only mildly developed form, this was the model which 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). However, by the middle of the decade the 3-Liter's competitiveness was on the wane and this, together with the fact that too many customers had been tempted to fit unsuitably heavy coachwork to the excellent 3-liter chassis rather than accept the expense and complexity of Bentley's 6½-liter 'Silent Six', led to the introduction of the '4½'.
The new 4½-liter model effectively employed the chassis, transmission and brakes of the 3-liter, combined with an engine that was in essence two-thirds of the six-cylinder 6½-liter unit. Thus the new four-cylinder motor retained the six's 100x140mm bore/stroke and Bentley's familiar four-valves-per-cylinder fixed-'head architecture, but reverted to the front-end vertical camshaft drive of the 3-liter. Bentley Motors lost no time in race-proving its new car. The new model also retained that "bloody thump", as noted Bentley owner Walter Foden referred to it, a characteristic that enables one to clearly identify a 4-cylinder Bentley from many miles away. Bentley Motors wasted no time in proving the new car in competition. It is believed that the first prototype engine went into the 3-liter chassis of the 1927 Le Mans practice car. Subsequently this same engine was fitted to the first production 4½-liter chassis for that year's Grand Prix d'Endurance at the Circuit de la Sarthe. The original 4½-liter car, nicknamed by the team 'Old Mother Gun' and driven by Frank Clement and Leslie Callingham, promptly set the fastest race lap of 73.41mph before being eliminated in the infamous 'White House Crash' multiple pile-up. The new engine quickly proved its worth, and it managed an outright win at Le Mans in 1928.
The 4½-liter was produced for four years, all but eleven of the 662 cars made being built on the 3-liter's 'Long Standard', 10' 10"-wheelbase chassis. Purchasers of the 4½-liter model were, in common with those of all vintage-period Bentleys, free to specify their preferences from a very considerable range of mechanical and electrical equipment, in addition to whatever body style and coachbuilder might be required. The most iconic of course were the cars fitted with tourer bodies by Vanden Plas, which provided 669 bodies from 1922 to 1931. Bentley's relationship with Vanden Plas began in 1922, and by 1924, the company bodied 84 Bentleys alone. In 1925, Vanden Plas leased a portion of their premises to Bentley for the latter's service department, securing their role as the coachbuilder of choice for Bentley.
THE MOTORCAR OFFERED
This striking and impressive car is an archetypal example of its genre and makes exactly the statement that one expects when one conjures the idea of a Vintage Bentley – a beautiful sports tourer with great physical presence.
Thanks to existence of the Cricklewood factory records and exhaustive work by historians, most notably Dr. Clare Hay, the histories of these iconic automobiles can be accurately researched and combining all knowledge of the car, we can chart almost all of its history. This includes copies of the road registration log books for most of the car's life listing each and every change of ownership from 1929 through to the 1970s.
Copies of the factory records within the Hay report show that FB 3320, equipped with engine number FB 3322 was dispatched to the coachbuilder Harrisons on November 8, 1928 before returning to the factory to be passed off on January 1929 as a complete car and was ultimately guaranteed on March 16, 1929 having been registered for the road 4 days earlier. The lucky new owner of this sporting 4½ is known to have been Carol Vaughan Miller of 'Montreux' a house in Bitterne Park a suburb of Southampton, in the U.K. 'Montreux' appears to have been a rather large property, from which Miller moved north in February 1931 to another similarly impressive residence at 49 Carpenter Road, Edgbaston in Birmingham which still stands today. Maintenance work carried out by Henry Garner Ltd of Birmingham is listed in this period on the factory records.
In Hay's forensic research, the car can be traced to an advertisement by Bertram Alvares Ltd. in the heart of the Bentley Boys stomping ground in Mayfair on Davies St. off Berkeley Square. The buyer from Alvares was W. Nightingall of Epson, who looks to have kept the car for 3 years. In his time, the engine was bored out by 0.5mm and new pistons fitted, and in keeping with the current fashion, its german silver radiator was plated with chrome.
Ownership passed to dealers W.T. Blackenshaw & Co. Ltd. of Burton on Trent, on July 12, 1935, and next to James Ian Robertson of Westgate House, Alvreivas, Staffordshire in July 27, 1935. Robertson would keep the Bentley for a dozen years spanning the war, through to 1947. The oldest known photo of the Bentley is from Robertson's years, showing it in Germany on tour in 1936 as a smart two-seater drophead coupe, which is presumed to be its original coachwork that Harrison had built. During his tenure, cross referencing the factory records with correspondence by Robertson to 1970s owner John Middleton we know that, not unlike many of the Bentley sportsmen drivers of the day, he suffered an accident while in the car. In his words he insisted with his insurers that the car be rebuilt by the factory, work which is then annotated in detail on the build sheets. Bentley describe their work to have included the 'exhaust and chassis frame reset', as well as various other repairs, and a rec. road wheel, rear spring and rear axle banjo. Today, this remains stamped with the factory chassis number which is presumed to have been redone by the factory and the chassis cross member stamping which is noted by Hay to be a little 'awry' is assumed to date from this period.
Robertson, in addition to having the car rebuilt by the factory also took the opportunity to modernize the coachwork and commissioned a up to date version of its previous form, being a sporting two seater with swept back tail and fully valenced fenders, his recollection is that Carbodies were responsible for this work but in the opinion of Clare Hay, it seems more likely that local coachbuilder Corsica built it, since they had a good relationship with the Bentley works. The work was completed and Robertson was back on the road in 1938. He served the war years in the Army and during this time the Bentley was laid up. It emerged in 1947 being re-registered for the road into fresh ownership with a Mrs. Gladys Woodall also in a similar area of Staffordshire.
Further custodians were George Russell Snow in Birmingham in 1947, a David Spencer Johnson 21 years later in Buckinghamshire in 1968 and then John Middleton in November 1971. It is thanks to Middleton that we find the car the way we see her today, for rebuilt the car and commissioned sports touring bodywork from respected restored Elmdown Engineering, run by Tony Townshend. Period photos from this time confirm it to be much in the form it still is today, now fitted with distinctive features of its Zeiss headlamps, and sprung steering wheel
When the car emerged from this rebuild it began an altogether new career much in keeping with the Bentley Boys actions of the Roaring Twenties, being actively raced by Middleton in British Vintage Sports Car Club events frequently at Silverstone and other meetings. He would retain the Bentley throughout the rest of the century and right up to 2012 when it left the UK for the first time to arrive on these shores.
Ownership in the USA has consisted of a series of luminaries in the pre-war and Bentley world, including noted enthusiasts and dealers the Hageman family. Liaison with Clare Hay in the UK resulted in the full report being finished in 2019. During this time, it has continued to have an active career being exercised on the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic, covering some 1,500 miles from Seattle to Pebble Beach in 2019 and the same year it completed the Colorado Grand. More recently it has also completed two North American Vintage Bentley meets. Through careful maintenance and use, the condition of the car given the age of its rebuild is very good, it has certainly worn well, and now has a patina which suits this sort of warhorse! Looking every bit the sportscar that you expect from a 'WO', the seller reports that it has recently been checked over and was shown to have excellent and consistent compression across the all cylinders, providing a strong and throaty engine tone. On the road when driven by this writer, it pulled well and the gearbox was smooth, and has the comfortable usable feel of the well-bedded in old car that it is.
With a well-documented and continuous history of ownership it offers an eminently usable, driver quality entry for any of the popular Bentley Club tours, or indeed longer distance 1,000 mile retrospectives.