- 1923 Bentley Special 3/4½ Litre
- Built using original Bentley engine and A-type gearbox
- Successfully campaigned in historic motorsport
- Eligible for Vintage Sports-Car Club events
This much-campaigned and very successful Bentley Special 3/4½ L was built in 2006 using a blend of original components and new parts.
Its inspiration was the 3 Litre Supersports known as ‘Smokey’. Having been fitted with a competition-spec engine and two-seater coachwork by Jarvis of Wimbledon, ‘Smokey’ was raced extensively at Brooklands during the 1920s and ’30s by Kit Baker-Carr.
When this particular car was conceived, a new chassis was built to 1926 specification in the style of the Supersports model, with a 9ft wheelbase, and an original 3 Litre engine was fitted. This was engine number 797, which had been fitted to chassis number 795 in 1924.
In 2010, the engine was rebuilt by marque specialist Craig Collings around a replacement 4½ Litre block. It drives through an original 1922 A-type gearbox, while the front axle is also original and dates from 1928.
The rear axle casing is new but is to the correct specification and has a 4-star differential; the final-drive ratio is 3.3:1. The steering arm is original and the brakes have been converted to hydraulic operation.
Conceived for competition use, the Bentley was fitted with a lightweight aluminium body in the style of ‘Smokey’, and the radiator features a modern core in order to further reduce weight. Distributor ignition has been fitted and the car can be set up for racing (using 19in wheels) or trials (on 21in wheels).
Since 2010, the current owners have regularly campaigned it in Vintage Sports-Car Club meetings, including the Herefordshire Trial, the Lakeland Trial, and speed events at venues such as Loton Park and Pembrey. In 2016 it won the Class 11 Speed Series, claiming a class win at Prescott in the process, and it’s supplied with a VSCC buff form plus a full record of its competition outings.
Since the engine rebuild and overhaul by Craig Collings, this Bentley Special has had further work carried out by Kingsbury Engineering. Now being offered for sale by The Classic Motor Hub, it’s been regularly serviced and meticulously cared for, wears Blockley tyres, and provides all the raucous entertainment that you’d expect from a car of this type. No doubt Kit Baker-Carr would have approved of this well-sorted and successful machine.
Various combinations of chassis and engine tune were offered from the beginning of Bentley 3 Litre production in 1921. The majority of the 1622 cars that left the factory in Cricklewood, north London, 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 running on twin ‘sloper’ SU carburettors – but at the top of the tree was the Green Label Supersports model. Built in tiny numbers on a 9ft chassis, it was guaranteed to offer 100mph performance.
The 3 Litre formed the bedrock of the marque’s success and was the first model to be offered by WO Bentley’s new company following its formation 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.
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.