1921 Bentley 3 Litre Super SportsSOLD

Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auctions

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To be sold at the Gooding & Company Pebble Beach Auctions on August 20 and 21, 2011. For further details please visit www.goodingco.com or contact a vehicle specialist at 001.310.899.1960. Engine Specifications: 2,996 CC SOHC Inline 4-Cylinder Engine Smiths 45VS Carburetor 70 HP 4-Speed Manual Non-Synchromesh ?A? Gearbox 2-Wheel Rear Drum Brakes Live-Axle Suspension with Semi-Elliptical Leaf Springs About this Car: The legendary story of W.O. Bentley and his heroic, playboy drivers is familiar to many in the automotive world. It began in a London mews where the first 3 Litre roared to life. Prior to WWI, W.O. Bentley was importing French DFP motorcars valuing race competition as a marketing tool for automobiles. With aluminum pistons and a more aggressively engineered camshaft, W.O. set several early records at Brooklands andfound numerous successes elsewhere. During the war, his ability to increase power output through the use of aluminum pistons was implemented in aero engines, including those of Rolls-Royce and Sunbeam. In the immediate post-war period, W.O. and his brother H.M. Bentley founded Bentley Motors Limited and, by 1919, had developed their dynamic three-litre motor. The new Bentley was first seen by the public at the 1919 Olympia Motor Show where Experimental Chassis 2 (Exp 2) was displayed with a wooden crankcase. By 1920, the first completed experimental chassis was tested and several important changes were made including the use of a wet sump system. The overhead camshaft, four-valves-per-cylinder, dual-ignition motor was without a doubt an advanced machine. Production began in 1921. The cars were built as the Short Standard 1922 model on a 9' 91?2" chassis, noticeably on beaded-edge wheels without front brakes. Offered for £1,150, the Bentleys were capable of a maximum advertised speed of 80 mph. By the close of 1921, only 29 chassis had been built and just 194 of the Short Standard Chassis were made in total; however, by the end of production in 1929, a total of 1,613 Bentley 3 Litres were made. The 3 Litre Bentley led a line of internationally dominant racing cars representing a fabulous display of national pride. Its racing debut came just three years after the founding of Bentley Motors Limited. After an unsuccessful 13th at Indianapolis Speedway, three cars were entered in the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. The 3 Litres battled with Sunbeam and Vauxhall to bring in a 2nd, 4th and 5th place. Brooklands also became a proving ground for Bentley and, in the hands of team drivers and privateers, Bentley was finding success on the home front as well as abroad. The true testament to the engineering of the 3 Litre Bentley came at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At Bentley?s first appearance at the ultimate endurance event in 1923, the factory?s sole entry finished 4th. Continued participation brought an outright win in both 1924 and 1927, starting an epic run of five victories in eight years of factory participation. The legend had been born in a successful albeit short 12 years. In the fledgling years of Bentley?s early beginnings, the need to produce and sell ?customer? cars was of the greatest importance. As early chassis and engines were completed, the finished cars were immediately sent to coachbuilders for order fulfillment. The first Bentley to be delivered was this very 3 Litre, Chassis 3, carrying engine 4. On August 3, 1921, Bentley handed over the first customer car to Ivor Llewelyn of Blaen-y-Pant, Malpas near Newport, Monmouthshire, in Wales. Mr. Llewelyn represented the ideal Bentley client. He was often seen and photographed at the wheel of his Silver Ghost while the chauffer occupied the rear seat. He became an enthusiastic customer and purchased two more 3 Litres, Chassis 48 and Chassis 912, and enjoyed ownership of Chassis 3 for seven years. Bentley valued Mr. Llewelyn for his status as their first paying customer who, upon seeing Exp 2 at the Olympia show, had eagerly placed his order for the new British-built sporting car. Interestingly, the sale of the car to Mr. Llewelyn was kept private as it was necessary for Bentley to publicly deliver the ?first? car, Chassis 1, to KLG financier Noel van Raalte, a transaction that took place a full month after the delivery of Chassis 3. The early completion of Chassis 3 is thought to be an outcome of the simplistic finishing of the coachwork. As specified for Mr. Llewelyn, the body of Chassis 3 is a very Edwardian yet sporting ?canoe stern? two-seater. The aluminum coachwork was left unpainted, ?scratched? and varnished, producing an interesting metallic wood-grain appearance. The brightwork on the car was brass and the original interior was believed to be non-pleated black leather. The proportions of the car are striking and the height of the body is enveloping and sporting. It is notable that, for such an early car, the brake lever remains within the coachwork, the windscreen is both raked and vee?d and, more astonishingly, the top is fully disappearing ? a very advanced feature for 1921. Although there are no records or badging of a coachbuilder on Chassis 3, the work is believed to be that of R. Harrison & Son, Ltd. whose marking can be found cast on the windshield locking nuts. In late 1921, soon after delivery and at the urging of Mr. Llewelyn?s wife, the rear of the body was slightly altered to accommodate a dickey seat. The work was done in steel and the car was subsequently painted in grey with the wings and wheels finished in Claret. Mr. Llewelyn?s son, Desmond Llewelyn, the famed actor known as ?Q? from the James Bond movie series, recalled his father?s immediate changes to the car. The first registration, dating November 17, 1921, notes the new finish as ?Primrose and Sand.? In 1928, after a lengthy first ownership, Chassis 3 was sold to Christopher J. Griffiths, also of Newport, Monmouthshire. The car remained in factory service records through 1931. On March 23, 1933, the logbook notes a transfer of ownership to Earnest ?Cracky? Williams of Bristol, England. The Bentley remained with Mr. Williams through the war in the company of what was said to be ?numerable interesting cars,? the care of which was less than satisfactory. However, Chassis 3 did have the ?luxury? of a groundsheet cover and was believed to be in very original condition during that time. In 1946, John Frank Saunders, an engineer with Bristol Aeroplane Company, purchased the Bentley from Mr. Williams. Mr. Saunders began the task of bringing Chassis 3 back to the road and, at that time, the car received a new front axle with front brakes. However, Mr. Saunders? ownership was short and, after just three years, the car passed to Duncan Beaton for the sum of £120. Mr. Beaton recalls the effort of the negotiation from the asking price of £125 as ?costing £4 in beer, at 10 pence a pint.? Mr. Beaton went on to recollect that it was ?a wonderful bargain because every trip [in Chassis 3] was joyful.? Mr. Beaton owned the car for just two years but used it frequently. A series of black-and-white photos show Mr. Beaton and Mr. Saunders using the car at a club event at Naish Hill. During that ownership, the car also found use on a rather damp tour of Wales with Mr. Beaton and his mother, who, in proper Bentley fashion, never once used the top. In 1951, Mr. Beaton regretfully traded Chassis 3 to Frank Walker of the Highland Square Garage off Blackboy Hill in Bristol, in part ex- change for a 6C 1500 Alfa Romeo. Mr. Walker sold the car to Stephen James that same year. The Bentley was seen on display shortly after at a Bentley Drivers Club event with the Royal Air Force ?Battle of Britain at Home Day? air display at the Filton Aerodrome in Bristol. Chassis 3 was the cornerstone of a 12-car display featuring one of each model Vintage Bentley. In 1954, Chassis 3 was sold to Samuel Rex Purkiss who kept the car for two years. During Purkiss? ownership, his inquiry of early delivery dates prompted the Bentley Drivers Club (BDC) to acknowledge Chassis 3 as the oldest Bentley known to exist and, since then, the club record card has indicated that it is ?The first production Bentley to be sold to a customer.? Chassis 3 eventually left the Bristol area when Robert Eugene Tait of London purchased the car. After some minimal restoration, Chassis 3 ap- peared at Kensington Gardens and other BDC events where it received considerable attention. Mr. Tait sold the Bentley to John S. Riggs of New York. On November 28, 1957, Chassis 3 left the UK for the first time aboard the S.S. American Farmer en route to New York. It is said that Riggs drove Chassis 3 the 350 miles from the harbor to his home in Elmira, New York, without a problem. Mr. Riggs was an active collector in the 1940s and 1950s. Various club records show his interest in, and ownership of, Brass, Nickel and Classic Era cars of both American and European manufacture. Mr. Riggs listed Chassis 3 for sale in a 1959 issue of the Flying Lady and, although he noted the need for restoration of the coachwork, the car was listed at $2,500 when the most expensive 8 Litre in the same issue was no more than $1,500. In 1961, the car was sold to Gordon C. Morris in Maryland, New York. Little is known of Mr. Morris? ownership of the car and, after five years, it was purchased by Ed Jurist of the Vintage Car Store, also in New York. That same year, Robert McKee of New Jersey bought the car. During McKee?s five-year ownership, a lengthy article on the history of Chassis 3 by Tony Stamer was featured in the BDC Review. In 1971, the car was bought by a partnership and subsequently sold to Breene Kerr and William E. Howell in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Upon receipt of the car, Mr. Kerr and Mr. Howell began restoring Chassis 3 but ultimately abandoned the project after several years. Correspondence and photos document the process from 1971 to 1976 when the work ceased. Photos from 1976 show the car in a relatively complete and assembled state, and clearly show the two major changes Mr. Kerr undertook, the first of which was the placement of louvres in the bonnet followed by the replacement of the steel tail with aluminum. It was Kerr?s desire to leave the coachwork in polished aluminum and, in order to do so, the 1921 changes for the dickey seat were replicated in aluminum. Chassis 3 remained with Mr. Kerr until 1985 when George Schuetz of Woodstock, Vermont, purchased the car for $50,000. When it arrived at Schuetz?s shop ?Cricklewood,? a thorough assessment was undertaken with the help of fellow enthusiasts Len Wilton and Ed Downey. Work began again on Chassis 3 but was never completed. In July 1994, the current owner purchased Chassis 3 in an unfinished and disassembled state. However, Chassis 3 held the promise of a complete and significant Bentley. Having known the car for some time, the owner, a true Bentley enthusiast, was anxious to bring Chassis 3 back to driving condition, although it became apparent that it was to be a lengthy process. In a very methodical and purposeful manner, significant research was done on the history of Chassis 3 as well as on the details of early 3 Litres. The car was once again assessed from the perspective of completeness and correctness, any issues were noted and any missing parts were sourced. In conjunction with the ongoing research, a labor-intensive disassembly initiated a well- documented and sympathetic rebuild of the car. In September 1999, Chassis 3 proudly returned to the road for the first time in approximately 30 years, appearing with a delightful patina and a wonderful exhaust note appropriate of such an important Bentley. In its current state, Chassis 3 is simply unique with polished aluminum coachwork, black wings and beaded-edge wheels. The unrestored brass plating complements the medium green interior imbuing the Bentley with irresistible charm. Upon closer inspection, each detail specific to these very early cars can intrigue even the most knowledgeable Bentley enthusiasts. All major components except the front axle, which was replaced by the brakeless unit from Chassis 261, are original. Attesting to its mechanical condition and usability since completion, Chassis 3 has participated in many events and Vintage Bentley rallies. Chassis 3 is undoubtedly one of the most significant Bentleys in the world. Originality and matching numbers are extremely scarce with this marque ? so it is remarkably fortunate that Chassis 3, the first production Bentley delivered, still possesses its original body and matching-numbers engine and gearbox. In original form, there is no older or more important Bentley 3 Litre.

Reference Number 125350

as of 12/24/2011

Car 1921 Bentley 3 Litre Super Sports
Exterior / Interior Color Aluminum / Green 
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Known History

The Oldest Production Bentley in the World