1922 Bentley 3 Litre (Project)SOLD
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Estimate: 95,000£ - 125,000£
Estimate: €140,000 - €184,000
Estimate: $192,000 - $253,000

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of £106.163

Engine No. 154
Body No. PM 1585

72bhp, 2,996cc four-cylinder, single overhead camshaft engine, twin sloper SU carburettors, front beam axle and semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension and rear live axle and semi-elliptical leaf spring suspension, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 108in. (2,743mm).

In March 1912 Walter Owen Bentley was in partnership with his brother selling the French Doriet, Flandrin et Parent car, which they imported. Bentley and Bentley had a showroom in Hanover Street and later in New Street Mews, off Upper Baker Street.

World War I brought the brothers’ car sales operation to a halt. Having fitted alloy pistons to the DFP car, W.O. Bentley felt his knowledge of this technology could help the war effort, and he approached the Admiralty with the suggestion that it should be incorporated into aero engines used by the Royal Naval Air Service.

Lieutenant Bentley was sent to the experimental department at Rolls-Royce in Derby where Bentley’s ideas were tried, even though the company had already used aluminium pistons in their Silver Ghosts in the Austrian Alpine Trial of 1913.

Bentley went to Humber in Coventry where he met designer F. T. Burgess and later Admiralty Inspector S. C. H. Davis. Both would play an important part in Bentley Motors after the war. Bentley was paid £8,000 for inventing the Bentley Rotary 1 and 2 aero engines, and this stake allowed him to turn his dream of making his own sporting car into reality.

After the war, in a small office in Conduit Street, Bentley began to design a new engine. He recruited F. T. Burgess from Humber and Harry Varley from Vauxhall. By September 1919 the design was complete and all the parts manufactured. Nobby Clark, chief mechanic of one of the RNAS squadrons that had used Bentley rotary engines, was hired to assemble the first car engine.

The 2,996cc four-cylinder engine followed the then customary long stroke, high-efficiency principles with maximum power developed at just 3,500 rpm. The engine was successfully run for the first time at New Street Mews at the beginning of October and a mock-up chassis was made ready for the Olympia Motor Show.

The Autocar reported that, ‘The Bentley chassis stands alone in its class as a car designed to give that peculiar and almost perfect combination of tractability and great speed usually to be found on machines built for racing and racing only.’

Of course Bentley would go on to achieve incredible success in motor racing for many years. S. C. H. Davis gave a 3-litre Bentley with an open four-seater tourer body its first road test for The Autocar in January 1920. Bentley moved to a factory in Oxgate Lane in Cricklewood where the Bentley cars were assembled. The first customer 3-litre was delivered in August 1921.

Original Bentley records and Michael Hay’s definitive book, Bentley: The Vintage Years, show that the first owner of this 3-litre Bentley, chassis 154 was S. De La Rue, the Chairman of Bentley Motors who lived at the Hoo at Willingdon in Sussex. The car was completed on December 22nd 1922. Four wheel brakes were fitted which was unusual with most early cars having rear wheel drums only. Many cars had the front wheel brakes fitted retrospectively. This car has a four-seater body by Harrison and is finished in dark green with black wings and green wire wheels.

Chassis 154 was sold by its first owner in 1954 to the vendor, who drove the car into a garage 50 years ago where it has remained until now. The garage was opened up for the first time in 50 years with the vendor present. The car is described as having no signs of major corrosion, with a solid body. The hood and hood mechanism are missing, as are the front headlamps and spare wheel. The period leather bonnet strap is still in place. The car has a folding windscreen, retains its original registration and number plates, and period tyres, which stayed up after pumping.

The interior is finished in red leather, although only the two front seats remain; the rear seats and floor pans are missing. The dash appears to be original, although there are some instruments missing. The car still has its original steering wheel and the twin carb engine is complete.

Road tests of the 3-litre credit it with the ability to run smoothly in top gear down to 6 mph. The short wheelbase chassis was guaranteed to achieve 80 mph at Brooklands although up to 100 mph was claimed depending on the type of coachwork; just 14 short wheelbase versions were made.

The last time this car was seen it was in driving condition – although that was some 50 years ago. Although conservation is possible, this is also a once in a lifetime opportunity to resurrect an early red label Bentley – one with only two long-term owners since new.

Reference Number 13133

as of 9/14/2007

Car 1922 Bentley 3 Litre (Project)
VIN 156 
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