Registration No. ME 3115 (To be confirmed by the DVLA)
Chassis No. 72 (See Text)
Engine No. 40
White with brown cloth interior.

Engine: 2,996cc, four cylinder non-detachable head, four valves per cylinder, single overhead camshaft through bevel drive, five bearing crankshaft, Claudel-Hobsen BZP racing carburettor; Gearbox: four speed and reverse, outside right hand gear change; Brakes: two wheel drum. Right hand drive.

In November 1921 W.O. Bentley decided to enter three cars in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Race. This was to be an important milestone in the history of Bentley Motors as a successful result would effectively ensure a large number of orders for the 3 litre, together with a great deal of publicity for the marque. W.O. Bentley had realised the importance of the outcome of the race and even consulted the National Physical Laboratory for advice on the aerodynamic streamlining for the T.T. cars.

The chosen chassis were numbers 42, 72 and 74 and because the Bentley Team would be up against the experienced racing teams of Vauxhall and Sunbeam they featured many modifications over the standard road cars. Almost every chassis part was reduced in weight - connecting rods and flywheel were lightened, all the steering parts polished, experimental pistons fitted and the chassis was clothed with a lightweight, two-seater streamlined body made by Ewart and Sons of Euston Road. The distinctive flat, lightweight radiators were also made by Ewarts and further distinguishing features were the huge straight-through exhaust system protruding through the nearside of the bonnet, the outside gear lever and handbrake, staggered seating and the horizontal spare wheel clamped in position in the tail. The bulkheads were made of plywood sandwiched between aluminium sheet and, like the radiators, were approximately 5" lower than standard (to improve the aerodynamics), forming an integral part of the body. The resultant all-up weight of the finished car, including a full 33 gallons of fuel, oil and water and wheel changing tools, was 1 ton 3 cwts. The engines were fitted with a Claudel-Hobson CZP racing carburettor with a specially cast inlet manifold and high compression "hourglass" pistons. A separate oil tank was fitted beneath the floor boards (so that the sump oil could be replenished during the race by the riding mechanic by means of a hand pump if necessary) and a high rear axle ratio (14:48), single Hartford shock absorbers to the front, with double to the rear, provided impressive performance and road holding .

The 1922 T.T. Bentleys were entered as Nos 3, 6 and 9 and were driven by F.C. Clement, W.D. Hawkes and W.O. Bentley respectively. Frank Clement's racing notebook includes various details regarding chassis No.72. He describes that it was run on the road for the first time at 6.30pm on 11th May 1922, just five weeks before the Tourist Trophy race itself. W.O. Bentley drove the car a number of times over the following few days, including 420 road miles and on the track at Brooklands, where he was timed at 90mph with a strong head wind! It was shipped to the Isle of Man on 1st June 1922 and between June 6th and June 20th 16 practice laps had been completed, equating to 604 miles.

The race itself was to take place on 22nd June 1922, comprising eight laps of the famous 37¾ mile T.T. course. The cars assembled at 9.30am in appalling weather conditions - Clement and W.O. Bentley quickly made a makeshift wing for their Bentleys in an attempt to protect themselves from the spray, and the various surfaces of the circuit - Macadam, tar and stone - were particularly treacherous. Park in the T.T. Vauxhall started first, followed by Clement in his Bentley and Seagrave in the Sunbeam, and the remainder at 1 minute intervals. Seagrave's first lap (from the standing start) was to prove the fastest of the day, although he was later to retire with ignition problems. Park, in the Vauxhall, retired with engine trouble and Hawkes' Bentley was delayed by 20 minutes having lost its radiator plug.

The weather and track conditions gradually deteriorated and W.O. Bentley noted that the authorities had sprayed the circuit with a chemical intended for laying the dust - this blended with the mud and worked its way behind the drivers' goggles, causing a good deal of pain. W.O. also had other agonies of his own - he described the race as the most uncomfortable experience of his life! On the first lap the floorboard worked loose and he lost all ankle support, so for hours his legs were held up by the pressure of the pedals alone! Then over four feet of the huge exhaust pipe fell off just ahead of the cockpit, the hot exhaust gases causing a great deal of discomfort for his navigator, Leslie Pennal. Pioneering stuff indeed!

On the fifth lap, Swaine (Vauxhall) retired with engine problems which left five cars in the race - one Sunbeam, one Vauxhall and the three Bentleys. Chassagne in the Sunbeam and Frank Clement had an exciting battle at the front, as did W.O. Bentley and Payne in the T.T. Vauxhall.

The race ended just before 3pm and Jean Chassagne in the Sunbeam won averaging 55.28mph. Frank Clement came in second in the Bentley, having averaged 55.21mph. The Vauxhall just managed to beat W.O. Bentley to third place by six seconds and Hawkes completed the Bentley trio, coming in fifth. The Bentleys won the Team prize and consequently produced the blaze of publicity needed by the company. Following the race, W.O. Bentley was quoted as saying "Our primary motive was to put the cars in the public eye and get them talked about... and the results were very pleasing". Bentley Motors capitalised heavily on the team success and produced what is now an exceedingly rare booklet entitled "The Blue Riband" to commemorate this occasion. It was to be W.O.'s last major race as a driver - he decided his priorities lay in running the Works.

The car on offer today has been painstakingly restored to the original specifications of the 1922 T.T. Team cars. The restoration was carried out by a well-known and highly respected Bentley enthusiast, the late Cyril Wadsworth, who previously had spent many years researching the whereabouts of the three T.T. chassis. He discovered that they had been sold by the Works over a period of eighteen months following the 1922 race, and although they had not been heard of since 1937 they had never officially been scrapped.

Team Car No.9 (chassis No.72) was sold by the Bentley Motors Works Team in September 1922 to Mr. Richard Edge, who fitted Harrison open four seat touring coachwork. He kept the car until 1924, selling it to a Mr. T.F. Aspin. It then passed into the hands of L.W. Boyce, who in approximately 1926, sold it to R. Pitt. Mr. Pitt kept the car until 1933, when he sold it to Mr. E.J. Loftus, who in turn sold it to Miss K.J. Kennedy-Clarke in 1936. The history is not recorded from 1936 until 1965 when Cyril Wadsworth reported he had discovered a derelict chassis frame and rear axle, although it is known that the car was stolen pre-war and was not recovered. The fascinating story of this discovery and subsequent reconstruction of the car is told by Cyril Wadsworth in a number of reports written for the Bentley Driver's Club Review (Nos 81, 84, 88, 95, 103, 110 and 113) over the period of July 1966 to August 1974, and we would recommend that potential purchasers of the car read these articles which are extremely informative and detail all aspects of the restoration.

The discovery materialised in the Spring of 1965 when Cyril Wadsworth purchased the 9' 9½" chassis frame with springs and a rear axle casing. This was documented in the BDC Review of July 1966 when Cyril wrote "when this was collected it was found to be of 1922 origin - easily confirmed by the spacing of the running board bracket holes and the two holes in the front gearbox cross member for the swinging lever of the brake linkage used with the "diff." type compensator. The frame and axle casing were most interesting as the frame had a hole for an outside gear lever, together with other holes in various places which corresponded with holes used on the T.T. cars for such fittings as the extra oil tank, outside petrol filter, bonnet catch brackets, undertrays, etc., The rear axle casing also was unusual in that the forged bosses on opposite sides to the brake anchor rods had been removed. These were usually left on but removed on the T.T. cars. There seemed to be some possibility that I had found one of the genuine frames!" He then explained how he could not raise any numbers on the chassis (perhaps they had been removed when chassis 72 was stolen?) except for the traces of a figure "2" stamped on the nearside dumb iron and went on to say..."The "2" was the last figure of a two figure number and though I polished the dumb iron and etched to try and raise another number I was not able to do so. Still, it could be either 42 or 72 - I like to think it is - and this frame was sent to Rubery Owen who trued and straightened it, re-rivetted, shot-blasted and primed it."

Having established in his own mind which of these exciting cars he had unearthed, Wadsworth commenced the rebuild of the car. He purchased a correct-period front axle and rebuilt the early 3 litre engine (No.40) to the correct T.T. specifications including fitting an original set of hourglass high compression pistons and a genuine Claudel-Hobsen BZP racing carburettor and manifold. The rear axle was rebuilt using a 2.86:1 ratio and a new body was manufactured, this being an exact copy of the original.

In fact, Wadsworth was very good friends with Leslie Pennal, W.O. Bentley's riding mechanic for the 1922 T.T. Race and Pennal provided valuable input into the reconstruction of this car, (again documented in the Bentley Drivers Club Reviews). During the course of the body's manufacture he even visited the workshops several times in order to ensure the accuracy of the dimensions of the coachwork.

A new radiator to the original specification was also made and the attention to detail throughout the whole car is outstanding.

Upon completion, Wadsworth used the car in various VSCC races and events where it created quite a sensation. It is finished in the original team colours of white with a red chassis and is tremendously exciting to drive, with very responsive and direct steering, predictable handling and excellent performance. Indeed, the lightweight construction of the Team cars enable it to accelerate quickly and yet still pull the high rear axle ratio, so at 70mph the engine is turning over at just under 2000rpm.

This important car has resided in one of Japan's premiere collections for over twenty years and in March 1996 returned to the Isle of Man where an extensive road test was carried out on the T.T. circuit. Ironically the weather conditions were as appalling as in the 1922 T.T. race, although the car performed admirably and aroused a good deal of interest from enthusiasts as well as the press.

There is a wealth of fascinating reading and photographs available on all three T.T. Bentleys and the race itself, and particular attention is attributed in the following titles - "Racing History of the Bentley" by Lt.Col. Darell Berthon (pp 13-19), "Illustrated History of the Bentley Motor Car" by W.O. Bentley (pp 92-96), "The Other Bentley Boys" by Elizabeth Nagle (pp 67-81), "The Autocar" July 1st 1922, "Bentley Factory Cars" by Michael Hay (pp 101-106) and "Bentley - The Vintage Years" by Michael Hay (pp 234-237).

Specific photograph references of chassis No.72, No.9 race car are as follows - "Bentley - 50 years of the Marque" by J.R.A. Green (p138), "Those Bentley Days" by A.F.C. Hillstead (p80), "Auto Motor Journal" 29th June 1922 (p537), "Tourist Trophy" by Richard Hough (p113), "Cricklewood to Crewe" by Michael Frostick (pp75-78 and ;80) and "My Life and My Cars" by W.O. Bentley (p57).


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