1931 Bentley 8 Litre Open Tourer by HarrisonSOLD
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$2,200,000 Sold

220bhp at 3,500 rpm, 7,982.81 cc, coupling rod driven single overhead camshaft inline six-cylinder engine with a 110 mm bore x 140 mm stroke, four-speed sliding pinion transmission with open propeller shaft, two SU carburetors, front and rear half elliptic leaf spring suspension, four-wheel drum brakes. Wheelbase: 156"

Walter Owen Bentley was educated at Clifton College in Bristol. He left in July 1905 at age sixteen to study engineering at King ’ s College in London. The course lacked a practical element and, finding theory boring, W.O. left and joined the Great Northern Railway as a premium apprentice.

W.O. spent six years at the Great Northern Railway Works at Doncaster, progressing through the various shops and finally ending up on the footplate of the company ’ s locomotives.

W.O ’ s next job was assistant to the works manager of the National Motor Cab Company where he was responsible for the maintenance of over five hundred London taxis.

Bentley ’ s first motorized transport was a Quadrant motorcycle. As time went on, he bought better motorbikes and began entering races and touring events. Bentley won a gold medal in the difficult London to Edinburgh trial and in 1909 competed in the Tourist Trophy but crashed his Speed King on the first lap.

W.O ’ s first car was a 9 hp Riley that he bought in 1910. About a year later he purchased a French Sizaire-Naudin. The path of his life could not have been predicted; this early in his life, his views on this form of transportation were not favorable. “ The motor car seemed to me a disagreeable vehicle. Perhaps I should have realized the vast potentialities of internal combustion and recognized from my nursery days that it was to be the impelling force in my life. But the fact must be recorded that the motor car struck my young, literal mind as a slow, inefficient, draughty and antisocial means of transport. Motor cars splashed people with mud, frightened horses, irritated dogs and were a frightful nuisance to everybody. ”

In March 1912, in partnership with his brother, Horace Milner Bentley, W.O. secured the British concession for three French motor manufacturers. Two, Buchet and La Licorne, were not considered very good and so the new company concentrated on the superior Doriet, Flandrin et Parent car. Bentley and Bentley had a showroom in Hanover Street and later in New Street Mews, off Upper Baker Street. Motor racing was a great way to promote and sell cars and W.O. began to develop the four cylinder 2,001 cc 12/15 hp D.F.P. for competition use. Humber, with a similar engine capacity, was dominating this class of racing – Bentley would soon change that.

W.O. ’ s first event was June 15, 1912 at Aston Clinton hill-climb where the D.F.P. easily won Class II. More modifications followed and considerable success was achieved at Brooklands, eventually averaging 81.98 mph over ten laps. After fitting alloy pistons, Bentley took the car to Paris and broke the flying half-mile record at 89.70 mph. In June 1914 Bentley finished an incredible sixth overall in the Isle of Man T.T. against out and out racing cars of much higher capacity. This competition experience led to the D.F.P. 12/40 hp, the first car in motoring history to be fitted with aluminium pistons as standard.

The First World War brought the brothers ’ car sales operation to a halt. Having fitted alloy pistons to the D.F.P. car, W.O. Bentley felt that his knowledge of this technology could help the war effort. W.O. approached the Admiralty with the suggestion that this knowledge 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 his ideas were tried, even though the company had already used aluminium pistons in their Silver Ghosts in the Austrian Alpine Trial of 1913. Bentley also worked at Sunbeam and Gwynnes before he was given the opportunity to design his own aero engine.

Bentley went to Humber in Coventry where he met designer F.T. Burgess and later his old friend from his motorcycling days, now Admiralty Inspector S.C.H. Davis. Fredrick Tasker Burgess worked with W.O. to produce the Bentley Rotary aero engines the B.R. 1 and B.R. 2. Later he would work in design at Bentley Motors. W.O. said of him, “ I soon recognised that we talked the same language, understood and appreciated the same things, and that he was a man in a thousand to have on design work. ” W.O. was to meet another person who would figure significantly in Bentley Motors, on an airfield in France during the war while under attack by the Red Barron. W.O.: “ The adjoining canal seemed to be the only retreat left to me when a Fokker came over one day, and after a terrific hundred-yard sprint with the bullets dancing behind me, in I went with a splash and huddled under the overhanging bank. The plane ’ s next run across the airfield brought me company in the shape of Petty Officer (Nobby) Clarke, and side-by-side Bentley Motors ’ future head racing mechanic and I huddled among the rushes, teeth chattering. The pilot who sent us there, and helped to seal a warm friendship, was Barron von Richtofen himself. I almost felt a pang of regret when Brown in a (Sopwith) Camel, powered by one of our B.R.1 ’ s, caught him at last a year or two later. ” W.O. Bentley was awarded the M.B.E. (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for his service in World War I and the Royal Commission on Awards paid him £8,000 for his work designing the B.R.1 and 2 engines. This money would provide W.O. with the means to set up Bentley Motors. W.O. wanted to build a car. “ The creative instinct is strong in most engineers, and, just as I hadn ’ t been satisfied for long to work on someone else ’ s rotary engine, so I had to produce my own car. ” 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 Clarke, chief mechanic of one of the R.N.A.S. squadrons that had used Bentley rotary engines, was hired to assemble the first car engine. The 2,996 cc four-cylinder engine followed the current customary long stroke, high efficiency principals 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 in London. The car made an immediate impression, with a tall, imposing radiator and winged Bentley badge that had been designed by famous motoring artist, F. Gordon Crosby. 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, winning the Twenty- Four Hours at Le Mans four times in a row during the twenties. Bentley ’ s drivers included Woolf Barnato, Sir Henry ‘ Tim ’ Birkin, Jack Barclay, Glen Kidston and George Duller. The Bentley Boys, as they were known, would become part of the Bentley legend. W.O. ’ s policy was to “ race on Sunday, sell on Monday. ” S.C.H. Davis gave a 3.0-liter 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 3.0-liter was delivered in August 1921. Bentley would go on to produce models of 4.5-liters and 6.5-liters and finally between 1930 and 1931 the mighty 8-Litre. The 8-Litre was basically an enlarged version of the Speed Six. It had a new lower chassis frame, with out-set rear springs and an ‘ F ’ series gearbox differing from all previous Bentley designs with its casing split down the centre, as opposed to the square box with a lid on top which was used in all earlier cars. This layout allowed for larger bearings which provided extra strength and reduced engine noise. The first 8-Litres appeared at the Olympia Motor Show in October 1930 and created a sensation. This magnificent machine would top 100 mph with limousine coachwork and eight people inside. Bentley ’ s Sales Manager Arthur Hillstead in his book, Those Bentley Days, wrote. “ Eight litres! Nearly three times the cubic capacity of the never-to-be-forgotten 3! And what a motor it was! Having a six-cylinder engine with a bore and stroke of 110 mm by 140 mm respectively, and a top-gear speed range (with a ratio of 3.5 to 1) of a minimum of 6 mph and a maximum of 104 mph – what more could man ask for? Yes, indeed; and add to that an acceleration capacity of 10 mph to 100 mph in 50 seconds with a fully equipped saloon body, and surely we had the answer to the sporting motorist ’ s prayer? The sporting motorist! Speed cum refinement in its highest form! A creation evolved from years of racing experience! ” The 8-Litre was clearly aimed to go head to head with the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, challenging to be the best car in the world, although Hillstead was impressed by the fact that the Bentley outperformed the supercharged Mercedes of that time, on both acceleration and maximum speed, “ but it performed with a silence that was uncanny. ” He said, “ There was nothing like it in the world. ” The 8-Litre was clearly aimed to go head to head with the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, challenging to be the best car in the world, although Hillstead was impressed by the fact that the Bentley outperformed the supercharged Mercedes of that time, on both acceleration and maximum speed, “ but it performed with a silence that was uncanny. ” He said, “ There was nothing like it in the world. ” It would have been interesting to see what developed in this rivalry but Bentley was in deep financial trouble. Bentley Motors effectively ended in 1931 when they notified London Life that they would be unable to make their June 30th mortgage payment. W.O. was confident that the company would continue under the proposed new ownership of Napiers of Acton, London. The receiver ’ s sale of Bentley ’ s assets was regarded to be a formality, but in the Royal Courts of Justice in London ’ s Strand a barrister representing the British Central Equitable Trust made a counter offer, much to everyone ’ s astonishment. Napier immediately offered more, but the judge informed the court that he was not an auctioneer and gave the two parties until 4.30 in the afternoon to come back with sealed bids. W.O. said, “ I don ’ t know by how much precisely Napier were out-bidded, but the margin was very small, a matter of a few hundred pounds. All I knew that evening was that the deal would not be going through after all. ”

Later W.O. commented on the bankruptcy. He said, “ When people ask me (and they are too tactful to do so often) why Bentleys went bust, I usually give three reasons: the slump, the 4-Litre car, and the ‘ blower ’ 41/2s; in proportions of about 70, 20 and 10% respectively. ” Following the court case, it became apparent that the B.C.E.T. was representing Rolls-Royce. Having acquired all of Bentley ’ s assets, including the design of the 8-Litre, it is perhaps telling that the model was never again produced. Napier ’ s original bid had been for £103,675, their sealed bid £104,775. Rolls-Royce paid £125,256. After the acquisition of Bentley by Rolls-Royce, Walter Owen Bentley was asked to call at Rolls-Royce ’ s London offices to see Sir Henry Royce. Royce, like Bentley, had started working life on the Great Northern Railway. Bentley said, “ It might be called an exploratory interview, I suppose, and I have often wondered what was its purpose. ” Royce asked, “ I believe you ’ re a commercial man, Mr. Bentley? ” Bentley replied, “ Well, not really, primarily, I suppose I ’ m more a technical specialist. ” Royce, in some surprise, said, “ You ’ re not an engineer, then, are you? ”“ Yes, I suppose you could call me that. ” Bentley replied. “ I think you were a boy in the G.N. running sheds at Peterborough a bit before I was a premium apprentice at Doncaster. ” This was accepted with a nod, W.O. recalled, and he was then offered a job, “ on not ungenerous terms… ” The first Rolls-Royce built Bentley was the 31/2 Litre. W.O. was heavily involved in the testing of this car, which became known as ‘ The Silent Sports Car ’ . W.O. loved it. Bentley were Rolls-Royce ’ s greatest rivals, but there was great mutual respect between the two men and admiration for the cars that they produced. The Bentley 8-Litre was superior to the Phantom II in a number of respects. Royce considered buying one, but rejected the idea. He said, “ We can see in which way it can be better than we are. ” Chassis no. YR5076 Only one hundred 8-Litre Bentleys were built. The car presented here, chassis number YR5076, has its original open tourer coachwork by R. Harrison and Son, who were established in 1883. This incredibly handsome car has velvet green paintwork with a green leather interior and is in beautiful condition. The 8-Litre was the last car designed by W.O. Bentley and of the hundred examples built, seventy-eight are still in existence today. Only sixteen 8-Litres were built with open bodywork, six drophead coupιs and ten open tourers; only twelve of these open cars survive today with their original coachwork. YR5076 is one of these extremely rare cars. This car was delivered to Mr. W.B. Henderson, of Somerset, England on January 3, 1931 and was subsequently owned by G.R. Wilson and Lt. Col. A.J.A. Beck before being shipped to the United States in 1953 by Leo Pavelle from New York. The car then became the property of Bill Klein, who then had the largest collection of Bentleys in the world. The car remained in America in the ownership of Jimmy Black from Tennessee, Johnnie Bassett, Ed Jurist, Wayne Brooks and then David Van Schaick, who showed the car at Pebble Beach in 1989. YR5076 returned to the U.K. in 1995 having been sold to Richard Procter, the odometer showing just 43,000 miles, which was believed to be correct. The Bentley was restored during this time and was repainted and retrimmed. It was then sold to William Connor II in Hong Kong. This car, chassis number, YR5076 has always been maintained to a very high standard and represents an exceptional opportunity to own one of these elegant, rare, high-speed touring cars. It is ready to be enjoyed at important events around the world. Addendum Please note a 2.5% import duty is payable on the hammer price of this motor car should the buyer be a resident of the United States.

Reference Number 19025

as of 2/9/2008

Car 1931 Bentley 8 Litre Open Tourer by Harrison
VIN YR5076 
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