1932 Bentley 8 Litre Short Chassis Fixed Head CoupeSOLD

RM Auction - Vintage Motor Cars at Amelia Island - March 10, 2007

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ESTIMATE: $1,000,000 - $1,300,000

$962,500 Sold

Specifications:
220bhp at 3,500rpm, 7,983cc, overhead camshaft inline
six-cylinder engine, four valves per cylinder, dual carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, semi-elliptic leaf springs front and rear, four-wheel servo assisted drum brakes. Wheelbase: 144"

First introduced at the London Motor Show in 1930, the Bentley 8-Liter made an immediate impact. It was formidable, fast and impressive, especially at 100 mph. Fitted with an Elektron crankcase and sump, the 8-liter was an extension of the immensely successful 6.5-liter powerplant that earned Bentley an exceptional reputation on the race track. However the Eight was not looking for competition on the track but rather was a focused effort aimed squarely at dethroning Rolls-Royce from their pedestal as offering the best in British luxury.

The Bentley 8-Liter, was incredibly brisk, being capable of 100mph even fitted with formal coachwork, while the Rolls-Royce had difficulty attaining 90mph, even with lightweight coachwork. The 8-Liter found a well-polished list of customers and equally impressed the automotive scribes of the era. The Sphere of 1931 described the new 8 liter as “one of the finest examples of British Automobile Engineering that has ever been produced”, whilst an article printed in The Autocar in 1930 recounts a road test conducted on the model:

“Had it been that the performance made the car difficult to handle on top gear at low speed, difficult to maneuver in traffic or in a confined space, harsh or noisy, then the performance by itself might be justly regarded as simply that of a sports car, though few of these features are easily noticeable even in the modern sports car, unless it has been tuned for racing. Quite on the contrary, this car can be driven really softly on its high top gear, as slowly as a man walks, and can accelerate from that without snatch and without difficulty, and the whole time the engine, being well within its power, is silent and smooth. In fact, it is only rarely apparent that there is a big engine working under the bonnet at all, and that so high a top ratio is used, when the machine is accelerated from a crawl. For all practical purposes, therefore, the machine does its work on the one gear…”

Unfortunately, its launch at a time which coincided with the Great Depression meant that the car’s exceptional quality and performance were unaffordable by most people. There were great costs involved with bringing the 8-Liter into production, and as resources continued to thin, so did the market for the car. Eventually Bentley’s chief financier, the great Woolf Barnato, in pecuniary trouble himself cut his loses and severed his ties with Bentley.

After only 100 examples of the 8-Liter were built, Bentley was forced to cease production. To ensure that the Bentley threat would never resurface, Rolls-Royce pulled Bentley out of receivership, and created a whole new line of Bentleys that would serve as entry level cars into the ultra luxury department. Bentley was not dead, but it would never build a car as significant as the 8-Liter again.

The majority of Bentley 8 liters were fitted with formal, heavy four-door saloon or limousine coachwork, so it is rare indeed to find one built to the very sporting specification exhibited by YX 5124. This ultra rare short chassis example is a very handsome 2-door fixed head coupe by The Mayfair Carriage Company. This British firm, originally the Progressive Carriage Company when established in 1920, changed its name in 1929 and in the 1930s was one of the important coachbuilding companies, mounting bodies on most of the more expensive British chassis.

Chronicled as the second to last 8-Liter built, YX 5124, has a complete and known history from new with an enviable provenance. Known as one of only three 8-Liter Short Chassis Fixed Head Coupes, it is made even more desirable considering one of these three is locked away in India and likely to remain hidden from the car collections of the world. From Bentley archives as well as the host of documentation which accompanies the car in its sale, the 8-Liter was first delivered to a Mr. C.G. Hayward. Its next owner was Mr. H.J. Thomas who was then installed as Director of the Bristol Aeroplane Company. While in his ownership it is reported that the 21” wheels were replaced with 19” and the fenders and running boards were altered to incorporate tool boxes, under the pseudonym “Sajito”. Further records indicate the Bentley was off the road from 1940 – 1948 and then reappeared passing through the ownership of two English gentlemen before being purchased in 1957 by its most memorable of owners, the British Naval war hero Captain G.C. Blundell.

Captain Blundell took delivery of his first Bentley while as a Junior Officer in the 1930s and remained true to the marque until his passing at age 93 in 1997. Most impressively the 8-Liter had remained in the good Captain’s ownership from 1957 until 1983 until it was purchased by a well-known English car collector. He immediately commissioned a complete chassis-up professional rebuild by a renowned W.O. Bentley specialist restorer in the UK. The Bentley was painstakingly returned to its past glory and restored to its original configuration. During the restoration proper care was taken to ensure that the coachwork remained well preserved and properly restored and all mechanical components were completely overhauled. The fenders, running boards and wheels were all returned to their correct, original presentation and a photographic record of the work is contained within the history file.

YX 5124 attended many Bentley Driver’s Club events and Kensington Garden Concours’ (more than 20 each in total) and is a former winner of the coveted “Best Vintage Bentley” at the 1985 Kensington Garden Concours. Notably, Johnnie Green (Bentley author and acknowledged expert in Bentleys) confided in Capt. Blundell; “he was absolutely delighted and that he had never judged or seen a more worthy or a better champion”.

Importantly the Bentley retains its original engine and body and is rightfully equipped with a full compliment of tools as well as log books dating from 1945. All the while, this 8-Liter has performed flawlessly and has been expertly maintained and cherished by its owners. It has also been extensively exercised as it is believed to have covered in excess of 250,000 miles during its lifetime – an impressive amount for a motor car of this vintage and one which demonstrates the fabulous build quality of this remarkable model.

Today, the 8-Liter remains mechanically and cosmetically impressive. It has been driven by its owners, been actively toured and shown in BDC events and yet has stood the test of time expertly. While no longer “a 100 point restoration”, it remains in outstanding condition. The interior, which is trimmed in the appropriate green leather, shows only minimal wear from use since the rebuild. The woodwork remains in excellent condition, as do the gauges and headliner. The engine and bay shows some signs of use but is beautifully presented and is indicative of a well-maintained car in every respect. We understand the car runs and drives as one would expect and is fully sorted and ready for continued use by its next long term owner.

The Bentley’s exterior brightwork is very impressive and shows only minor flaws while the paintwork is also striking, being displayed in a lustrous British Racing Green and black. When fully opened, the sliding sunroof provides a large window to the sky offering both driver and passenger the benefits of open air motoring with a convenient manner of closed comfort and a simple operation. It is a truly unique feature to this Bentley and indeed one of its noteworthy features.

With its exceptional provenance, wonderfully restored condition, unique and rare production, this 8-Liter Shot Chassis Fixed Head Coupe is a handsome representative of Bentley’s most masterful creations. Presented here just as it was when new, YX 5124, with its fabulous original Mayfair coachwork, is worthy of close consideration and inspection by all motoring enthusiasts and collectors alike.

Reference Number 7112

as of 2/8/2007

Overview
Car 1932 Bentley 8 Litre Short Chassis Fixed Head Coupe
VIN YX5124 
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