THE EX-JOHNNIE GREEN/BILL AND ANN KLEIN
1929 BENTLEY 3 LITRE SPEED MODEL TOURER 'GREENFLY'
COACHWORK BY WYLDERS OF KEW, LONDON
Engine No. DN1744
British Racing Green with green leather interior and black canvas hood Engine: four cylinder in-line, sloper carburetors, four valves per cylinder, 2996cc giving 86bhp at 3500rpm; Gearbox: A-type four speed; Suspension: semi-elliptic leaf springs front and rear, Hartford friction shock absorbers; Brakes: four wheel drum, mechanically operated. Right hand drive.
Designed in 1919 and drawing on aero-engine technology, and first produced in 1921, the 3 Litre Bentley is to many the archetypal vintage sports car. Second, fourth and fifth in the 1922 Tourist Trophy against out-and-out racing cars, first at Le Mans in 1924 and again in 1927 and the holder of 24 hour records at over 95 mph, the 3 litre Bentley is truly a legend. The 3 Litre Bentley was a tractable, docile, road-going sports car that could be raced; a formula that many manufacturers have since emulated but rarely bettered.
The example on offer is the very last 3 Litre production chassis made by the Old Company at Cricklewood. Chassis DN1741 was built to order for W.T.Townend on the short Speed Model chassis. Finished in May 1929, DN1741 was shipped to Wylders of Kew to be fitted with an open sports touring body, the body it still wears. Wylders tended to build sports bodies and numbered the well-known sporting motorist Prince George Imeritinsky among their customers. Delivered in August 1929, chassis DN1741 was allocated the London registration UV 7549.
The strong point of this chassis though for Bentley enthusiasts is the engine. Bentley Motors developed the 3 litre engine continuously right up to the end of its production life, incorporating lessons learnt in international competition. The late 3 litre engine is so much improved over the early units that in'Notes on Tuning Old-Type Bentleys' written in the late 1930s, Marcus Chambers recommended those with early engines to scrap them and fit later engines! First, Bentley fitted the late-type one-piece sump, as used on the 4 Litre, with a much superior oil-pump arrangement. A heavier crank was fitted with thicker webs and two-bolt direct-metalled rods. The valve gear used duralumin rockers in separate rocker-boxes, again developed for the 4 Litre engine, and the fixed-type top bevel drive to the camshaft. This replaced the earlier non-located type which was prone to tooth breakage. The resulting engine was significantly more powerful and more robust than the early engine.
In the case of DN1741, the engine was breathed on by the legendary 'Mac' McKenzie in the 1930s. 'Mac' fitted a special Laystall balanced crankshaft, lightweight racing pistons, raised the compression ratio and machined 28lbs off the flywheel. Driving through a close-ratio A type gearbox (fitted by Bentley Motors in 1934), DN1741 lapped Brooklands at 77.21mph in the first Bentley Drivers' Club meeting at Brooklands in 1936, driven by its then owner Stuart Wilton. Bought by Johnnie Green in 1940 for L60, and christened 'Greenfly', the 3 litre was regularly clocked at 92 mph, and was driven by Johnnie in early post-war BDC meetings at Silverstone. Johnnie included a photo of himself driving 'Greenfly' at Silverstone in 1947 on p.147 of his book, 'Bentley - Fifty Years of the Marque'. Green fondly recalls the car as providing 'over 12 years of idyllic ownership' and excellent provenance. The facia is resplendent with its correct instrumentation and there are two lovely plaques, one identifying it as 'Greenfly' and the other attesting to its successes at Brooklands. It comes complete with copies of correspondence from Johnnie Green. Johnnie sold his Bentley to noted Marque enthusiasts Bill and Ann Klein, and 'Greenfly' spent many years in the famous Klein collection.
As seen now, chassis DN1741 is a beautifully patinated fabric covered example with its original body and matching numbers again. The engine has its desirable sloper carburetors fitted. It is an unrestored, original example with full history and this is a rare opportunity to buy one of the finest 3 Litre Speed Models in existence.