1931 BENTLEY 8 LITRE ROADSTER
COACHWORK BY DOTTRIDGE BROTHERS OF LONDON
Chassis No. YX 5125
Engine No. YX 5126
Black with black leather interior and a black canvas top
Engine: six-cylinder in-line, 4 valves per cylinder, 7,983cc giving c240bhp at 3,800rpm; Gearbox: 4-speed; Suspension: semi-elliptical springs front and rear, Bentley-Draper Duplex shock absorbers; Brakes: four wheel drum - servo assited. Right hand drive.
Within the history of the Motor Industry there are few select names that during their own lifetime have become legendary, none more so than the name Bentley which, still to this day, arouses immense passion and symbolizes the very best of British Craftmanship. During the short span of twelve years between 1919-1931, W.O. Bentley earned a world reputation for producing the ultimate high performance sporting motor car, that proved its reliability and speed by winning the Le Mans 24-Hour Endurance Race no less than five times.
The simple philosophy of Bentley was to provide luxurious high performance transport that was effortless and silent, and no better example of that was the introduction in 1930 of the magnificent 8 Litre model. Despite the shadow of a world economic recession, W.O. Bentley had been planning a replacement of the existing 6.5 litre Big Six and the 8 Litre was basically an enlarged version of the 'Speed Six' model. The new engine has a bore of 110mm (4.33 inches) and the same 140mm (5.51 inches) stroke of the 6.5 litre. A new, lower, deep channel, chassis frame with five tubular cross members carried the engine, the new F type elektron gearbox, and additional stability was provided by mounting the rear springs outside the main chassis members. The 8 Litre was primarily designed to take heavy luxurious saloon car coachwork and when tested by one of the Motoring Journals, an 8 Litre Bentley became the first closed saloon car to lap Brooklands circuit at over 100mph, fully laden.
By the time the factory closed in 1931 one hundred 8 Litre chassis had been laid down, of which YX 5125 was the last manufactured. The Bentley Motors Ltd. receiver sold it in 1932 to Captain Vivian Hewitt. Captain Hewitt had earlier bought chassis YX 5119, that he had built with many racing modifications and a very sporting Vanden Plas body. After he learned that the company had gone into liquidation, he negotiated with the court receiver to purchase a "spare" chassis from the Service Department who had a considerable number of parts available. He was able to commission a very special 12 foot short chassis (YX 5125) 8 Litre which he specified should be built as a "Le Mans Replica". While of course no 8 Litre ever ran at Le Mans, it is assumed the Le Mans modifications of the Speed Six were incorporated. Captain Hewitt never used the chassis and in about 1938 the chassis was taken to the Kensington High Street Garage, where it was well cared for. During the war the chassis was transferred to the Marylebone Garage at Dorset Mews. It was then purchased by the sales manger of Jack Olding's garage for re-sale and in November 1950 they advertised this brand new chassis in The Motor. It was purchased by Mr. Hewett, who has no relation to the previous owner.
Mr. Hewett considered several coachbuilders to execute a suitable sporting body to his design and finally selected Dottridge Brothers of London. Mr. Hewett requested a few modifications to make the Bentley a lot more interesting including a McKenzie lowered radiator (5 in.) and alteration of the rake and position of the steering column. The engine was also given special treatment by fitting a third carburettor on a McKenzie manifold, lightweight pistons and a higher compression ratio of 6.25:1. Motoring journalist Charles Meisl tested the 8 Litre for the November 1958 issue of Sports Car Illustrated and stated; with its 3:3:1 rear axle ratio and standard tires the car is capable of some 115mph, which is really rather splendid from a car which weighs 48cwt in road trim. In the Bentley Drivers Club sprints at Silverstone the quarter-mile was covered in 18.71sec. and in 1956 the standing kilometre at Brighton occupied 33.2 sec., comfortably beating Stanley Sear's Bentley Continental.
During the 1950s and 60s this 8 Litre was well known as one of the fastest and best looking vintage Bentleys active in the Bentley Drivers Club. In a letter Mr. Hewett's son states that he has driven the car at speeds in excess of 120 mph! A comprehensive mileage log of the car was kept and up until 1984 the car had covered only 34,000 miles, when the car was acquired by the current vendor from Mr. Hewett's son
YX 5125 was brought to the US in good unrestored condition and embarked upon a complete nut and bolt restoration in 1989 that was not finished until in 1994. So extensive was the work that the frame was stripped, all rivets drilled, the cross members removed (the old Bijur oil and grease removed), refitted and re-rivited for absolute assurance that the 8 Litre would go as well as it looked. This restoration was meticulous upon detail and took around 5,000 hours to complete.
The results speak for themselves, the 8 Litre has won the following awards: First Place Rolls-Royce Owner's Club in 1995, the Road and Track award at the Amelia Island Concours, First Place Junior, AACA, and a First in Class at the 1995 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance - the year in which Rolls-Royce and Bentley were the featured marque.
This spectacular 8 Litre is a welcome entry to numerours Concour d'Elegance events throughout the world, as well as being eligible for many of the long distance touring events which are currently so popular. It also must rank as one of the prettiest and fastest 8 Litres ever produced.