The 1926 Motorshow Bentley 3 / 4½ Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer

  • 1926 Bentley 3 Litre Red Label Speed Model Tourer (3/4½)
  • The 1926 Vanden Plas London Motor Show car
  • Fitted by the factory with Vanden Plas Sports 4-seater coachwork
  • Chassis number LT 1593 Registration number YE 812 VDP Body number 1331
  • First owned by proprietor of Motor Sport magazine
  • Continuous known history from new
  • Original engine and sporting fabric covered bodywork

This Bentley 3 Litre not only features a fascinating and meticulously researched cast of former owners, it boasts continuous history from when it first left the famous Cricklewood factory in north London and retains a fascinating history file and many years of wonderful patination.

Chassis number LT 1593 was a Red Label Speed model built on the shorter 9ft 9½in frame and fitted with engine number LT 1591, plus an A-type gearbox. It was ordered by the factory with Vanden Plas four-seater sports tourer coachwork and this was the actual car displayed on the Vanden Plas stand at the 1926 London Motor Show.

Registered YE 812 on 31 December that year, it was delivered in January 1927 to its first owner, Tom Moore – a wealthy young student from the Isle of Man. Moore went on to own Motor Sport magazine between 1929 and 1936, and wrote articles under the pen name of ‘Mannin’. On one occasion he documented his time with YE 812, noting that his first run with the Bentley was from London to Liverpool and that the car was capable of sustained high-speed cruising.

He also admitted that he was not always as careful as he could have been with the gearbox: ‘On occasion, when both in a hurry and a bad temper, our engaging of the various ratios was not marked with the tender care which shows up the good motorist.’

In the end, the gearbox cried enough and he had to limp to the factory with it stuck in third gear. A new one was fitted and Moore continued to use the Bentley for speed trials – it was pictured in The Autocar during the 1927 Inter-Varsity Hillclimb at Ewelme Down – as well as fast motoring on the road. The highest speed he reached was apparently 97mph.

In late 1927, Moore replaced YE 812 with a new 4½ Litre Bentley and the 3 Litre passed to Charles Andrae. While in his ownership, the factory fitted a new frame and straightened the front axle following an accident..

Andrae sold the Bentley in 1929 to a Mr A Chapman, and from him it was bought back by the factory. It is thought that this is when it was photographed being driven out of the Service Department – possibly by WO Bentley himself – and while it was there a desirable C-type gearbox was fitted.

The next owner of YE 812 was Lt Cdr Captain EW Anstice – later Vice Admiral Sir Edmund Anstice. A wonderful letter on file from Anstice’s son David explains that he used to be woken by the sound of its engine as his father started it up to drive down to the naval base in Portsmouth.

During the latter stages of Anstice’s ownership, the Bentley was kept at Milvil Farm, on land that was suddenly needed for the expansion of Lee-on-Solent airfield as the dark clouds of war approached. With Anstice being called away, the Bentley was sold in 1940 to Commander R Clutterbuck, who kept it until 1954.

It passed in relatively short order to Thomas Burrows and then William Allday – who was thought to be an undergraduate at Cambridge at the time – before Charles Richard Kidd acquired it in 1958.

Kidd kept the Bentley for 30 years until 1988 before it passed to its next custodian, Peter Golding, who eventually sold it in 1994 via marque specialist Stanley Mann.

A rarity among Cricklewood-era Bentleys in that it boasts continuous history as well as its original engine and coachwork, this 3 Litre Red Label Speed Model is being offered for sale with a beautifully presented history file that includes period photographs, press cuttings, the factory service records, and information on its previous owners. The former owner purchased the car in 2010 and embarked upon conversion of the original 3 litre engine to 4.5 litre capacity the extensive work is detailed in over £170,000 worth of invoices contained within the history file.

Fabulously patinated and well-sorted, it is ready for its next custodian to continue its amazing story. The British Racing Green fabric covered coachwork is complemented by wonderfully patinated tan hide interior and carpets with a full and half tonneau with full canvas weather equipment. The mahogany dashboard is complemented by a full set of original gauges. An original four and a half litre sprung steering wheel is fitted but the original un-sprung three litre wheel is also supplied. The unusual stepped opening windscreen allows greater hand room in turning and the car stands upon 21inch Blockley 525×600 tyres.

Model history

The 3 Litre was the first model to be offered by WO Bentley’s new company, using an engine that was developed in-house and which took inspiration from pre-war Mercedes Grand Prix designs. The four-cylinder monobloc unit 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 production in 1921 through to its replacement by the 4½ Litre in 1929. 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 9½in or 10ft 10in, and had a single Smiths carburettor.

The Red Label Speed model used only the shorter 9ft 9½in chassis and featured a higher-compression engine. 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 1924 Frank Clement and John Duff won the Le Mans 24 Hours, the first of Bentley’s six victories at La Sarthe and the beginning of the ‘Bentley Boys’ legend that would take hold throughout that decade.

The Bentley 3 Litre remains among the most coveted of all vintage cars, its combination of robust engineering, reliable performance and sporting pedigree giving it iconic status and the Three-Four and a half offers the very best of all Bentley experiences.

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