Sales totals are hammer price plus buyer’s premium and do not reflect costs, financing fees or application of buyer’s or seller’s credits.
Exceptional Motor Cars and Automotive Art
29 August 1999
THE PROPERTY OF MR. TOM SELLECK
1928 BENTLEY 4 LITRE LE MANS TOURER
Former UK Registration No. UC 2801
Chassis No. RN 3050
Engine No. RN 3047
British racing green with green leather upholstery
Engine: four cylinder, overhead camshaft, 4,398cc giving 100bhp at 3,500rpm; Gearbox: four speed manual; Suspension: semi-elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
By 1926 the 3-litre Bentley was losing its competitive edge and, although the 6-litre was selling well, the Bentley enthusiast was looking for an improved big four-cylinder car. W.O. Bentley set about developing such a model using, where possible, 3 and 6-litre components. The first series of 4-litres was launched in late 1927 following the success of the prototype car at Le Mans, when it broke the lap record prior to the White House Corner disaster. Eloquent road tests by the motor press of the day established the new 4-litre as a very special Bentley and, with its outright victory at Le Mans in 1928 and subsequent Brooklands competition success, it soon established itself as the worthy successor to the 3-litre. During the four years of production, the 4 received many detail changes, the most significant of which were changing from a cone clutch to plate type, fitting of a servo to the front brakes and fitting of vertical SU carburetors in place of the early 'Slopers'. To many Bentley enthusiasts, the big four-cylinder 4-litre with its familiar burbling exhaust, long-legged gait and whine of the straight cut gears symbolized the very best of W.O. Bentley creations. A standard Vanden Plas tourer was capable of a genuine 90mph, but 100mph was possible with Le Mans camshafts and alternative axle ratios.
Unquestionably, the W.O. Bentley fame is based upon the competition success the company achieved in the racing world. The most important sports car race then, and still even today, is the Le Mans 24 hour race held in France each year. Genuine surviving team cars are extremely rare and indeed only around four or so 4-litre cars raced at Le Mans, consequently they are highly valuable to collectors. It is no surprise therefore that over the years many attempts have been made to satisfy demand by replicating the famous Vanden Plas Sports tourers that ran at Le Mans in the late 1920s.
The example on offer here today is certainly one of the finest Le Mans style Bentleys that we have had the pleasure of offering. The basis for this car was a genuine vintage Bentley which still retained its original chassis and matching engine. Chassis number RN 3050 was supplied new with a saloon body by Harrison in December 1928, and during the late 1930s this coachwork was exchanged for a Barker two seat configuration. By the early 1990s, under the guidance of the premiere English Vintage Bentley enthusiast and dealer, Stanley Mann, it was decided to restore the car in the style of one of the famous Le Mans team cars. The coachwork was carefully constructed by Hastings and Harding of South Stoke, while the engine machining was undertaken by the renowned specialist, Roger Cook, with final assembly carried out in the workshop of Stanley Mann. The trim work was again subcontracted out, this time to Bill Smith. This superb car has some wonderful details and features including a full racing dashboard with large Jaeger rev counter and speedometer guage, a large Le Mans petrol tank, stoneguarded head lights, Hartford shock absorbers, wefco spring gators, twin leather bonnet straps, racing aero screens, a corded steering wheel and a nice set of sloper SU carburetors. The bodywork is finished in the traditional Vanden Plas style with an aluminum bonnet and fabric covered coachwork.
When this evocative vehicle was completed, it was sold to well-known actor, Tom Selleck (Magnum P.I. and Three Men and a Baby, among others), who has since then garaged the car at his California ranch. Owing to his busy schedule, the Bentley has had very limited use by Mr. Selleck and it has only travelled some 1,215 miles since the restoration was completed. Some minor service work was undertaken by Hill & Vaughan and the car has been maintained in fine cosmetic condition. This car and Tom Selleck appeared in the winter of 1995/6 issue of Cigar Aficionado. If you ever aspire to emulate the famous 'Bentley Boys' (as the works drivers affectionately became known) here is your chance. Without question this superb car would be welcomed at Bentley Drivers' Club and many other classic car events.
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