• 1926 Bentley 3/4½ Litre
  • Unique specification with Park Ward saloon body
  • Restored and prepared for competition and fast-road use
  • Continuous history from new
  • Eligible for major international events such as the Goodwood Revival

Fans of historic motor racing will no doubt recognise this distinctive Bentley 3/4½ Litre Park Ward saloon. A regular entrant at the Goodwood Revival, as well as sprints, hillclimbs and rallies, it is a superb dual-purpose vintage car – competitive in various motorsport disciplines as well as being fast and comfortable on the road.

Chassis number AP319 was delivered in January 1926 to Ernest Johnson, who lived in Bradford, Yorkshire. It was given the registration KU 7592 and was fitted with a Gurney Nutting Weymann saloon body.

The factory records show that Johnson kept the Bentley until 1934, when it was sold to Mr ER Hill of Ockley in Surrey. Shortly after buying the car, Hill fitted a four-seater open body by Corsica, and in 1935 he had twin SU carburettors fitted. The history file contains extensive records of the work that was carried out at the Bentley factory during this period.

Impressively for a pre-war car, KU 7592 boasts a continuous ownership history. In 1948, it was sold to BHC Nation – a lieutenant in the Royal Navy – and from him the Bentley passed to Flight Lieutenant DAJ Draper, a Spitfire pilot who had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Draper sold KU 7592 in 1952 to a Mr JP Graham, who in turn sold it in March 1952 to GA Cox. Mr Cox would end up owning the Bentley for more than 40 years, although it had apparently been standing for about 20 years when it was eventually acquired by the Rt Hon Alan Clark MP in 1996. Clark was a noted aficionado who owned a number of significant cars over the years, including a Jaguar C-type and a Bentley R-type Continental.

The paperwork that comes with KU 7592 contains a number of letters between Clark and various people who were involved with the recommissioning of the car, but by 2007 it was still in need of restoration. Alan Clark had sadly passed away in 1999, and the car – still mechanically complete – was bought from his wife Jane by Ben Collings.

The Bentley was then treated to a complete mechanical and cosmetic restoration, and as part of the process an original Park Ward saloon body that had originally been fitted to a Bentley 4½ Litre was sourced. Body number 3304 dropped straight onto KU 7592’s chassis with no modifications, and it’s thought to be the sole remaining 4½ Litre Park Ward saloon body.

Engine number HT 1645 had been fitted to the Bentley at some point prior to 1959, and as part of the restoration it was converted to 4½ Litre specification. The work involved fitting a new block, crankshaft, con-rods, pistons, camshaft, valves and various other internal components, while retaining the numbered castings. A pair of correct Bosch magnetos was fitted, plus two 1 5/8in carburettors.

The rear axle was rebuilt with a new crownwheel and pinion, the gearbox was rebuilt, new brake linings were installed and the steering box was fitted with high-ratio gears in order to lighten the steering. The AP319 chassis number is visible stamped into the chassis dumb iron and crossmember, the front axle, the gearbox, the steering box and the rear axle.

Inside, the seats were reupholstered with brown leather – as originally specified by the first owner of body number 3304 – and the chassis number is also stamped on the chassis switch plate on the dashboard.

Sympathetically and expertly upgraded for fast-road and competition use, this Bentley 3/4½ Litre has been issued with a FIVA identity card and a VSCC eligibility document and is now being offered for sale by The Classic Motor Hub. It is a unique and entertaining car that has huge reserves of power and torque, and which would be welcome at a variety of competition events – a distinctive presence among the more typical open vintage sports cars.

Model history

From victory at Le Mans to the patronage of royalty and aristocracy alike, it was the 3 Litre that laid the foundations for the Bentley marque. The first model to be offered by WO Bentley’s new company from its launch in 1919, it used a four-cylinder monobloc engine that was advanced for its time and featured 16 valves, an overhead camshaft and twin plugs per cylinder.

Various combinations of chassis and engine tune were offered from the beginning of 3 Litre production in 1921. The majority of the 1622 cars that left the Cricklewood factory were the Blue Label model, which was offered with a wheelbase of either 9ft 9.5in or 10ft 10in, and had a single Smiths carburettor.

The Red Label Speed model used only the shorter 9ft 9.5in chassis and featured a higher-compression engine running on twin ‘sloper’ SU carburettors. And finally there was the Green Label Supersports model, which was built in tiny numbers on a 9ft chassis and was guaranteed to offer 100mph performance.

Motor racing was part of the Bentley story from the very beginning, and in 1923 Frank Clement and John Duff drove the latter’s 3 Litre in the first running of the Le Mans 24 Hours. They returned in 1924 and won outright – the first of Bentley’s six victories at La Sarthe. In 1927, Bentley introduced the 4½ Litre model, which continued the marque’s run of competition success and won at Le Mans in 1928.

The Bentley 3 Litre remains among the most coveted of all vintage cars, its combination of robust engineering and sporting pedigree giving it iconic status. With the engine from a 4½ Litre fitted, you get the best of both worlds – the agility of the 3 Litre, but with the additional power offered by the 4½ Litre.

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