1929 BENTLEY 4½ LITRE TOURER
Chassis No. DS 3554
Engine No. DS 3552
Black with red leather upholstery
Engine: four cylinder, overhead camshaft, 4,398cc., 110bhp at 3,500rpm; Gearbox: four-speed manual; Suspension: semi-elliptic leaf springs; Brakes: four wheel drum. Right hand drive.
During the Great War of 1914-1918 Captain W.O. Bentley conceived the idea of building a fast and reliable yet comfortable sporting car, and of proving its merits by embarking from the very beginning on a program of the most arduous racing. Since he took as his inspiration the design of the 1914 Mercedes-Benz and Peugeot Grand Prix racers, his car could not be cheap, but it was intended to offer reasonable running costs and to be maintained by an enthusiastic owner/driver. With a sixteen-valve overhead camshaft four cylinder engine, excellent four-speed crash gearbox provided with relatively close ratios and that superbly balanced chassis, it was built to the highest specification using only the finest available materials.
Bentley won Le Mans five times and will forever be associated with the golden years of British sports car racing. The exploits of the "Bentley Boys" (as the Works drivers affectionately became known) have passed into history. The 4½ litre was introduced in 1927 and became an extremely popular model, being the last of the traditional big sporting cars with four cylinder engines. In concept it was a scaled up three-litre with the same bevel-driven overhead camshaft and non-detachable cylinder head, but output was up to 110-115bhp and maximum speed to over the 90mph mark. Although heavy, the car handled superbly, the steering being lower-geared than that of the three litre and having predictable understeer, while braking was first class. From the outset the model proved highly capable of sustained high performance with remarkable reliability; with few modifications apart from higher compression, modified carburation and competition gear ratios, they managed to win the 1927 24 Hour G P de Paris, the 1928 Le Mans 24 Hour race and the 1929 Brookland 500 Miles.
The example on offer here today was originally sold to a Mr. E.W.W. Bailey in July 1929 and was supplied new with a 10' 10" chassis to which a Vanden Plas sports touring body (numbered 1596) had been fitted. Its UK registered license plate number was VJ 2092. Recorded in both the book, Bentley The Vintage Years by Michael Hay and the Flying Lady on page 1846, its last known English registration number was DE 270. According to the Bentley Drivers' Club records, it did receive a factory replacement chassis frame in 1930 following an accident. Service records are recorded in detail up to 1939, and the only change of ownership appears to be in 1938 when Mr. D.F. Martin from London acquired it.
Following the War, we believe the car still retained its Vanden Plas touring coachwork and the known owners included both a Mr. Royce and a Mr. Berrisford in 1945. The following year it passed to Bentley enthusiast, Major W.V.E. Bashall, and was in the care of his wife in 1948. This same year the car passed to Dr. G. White Phillips who kept the car until the 1960s. We believe that during this period of ownership, as was so often the case, the Bentley was "modernized". The chassis was shortened and an updated sportier coachwork that was more in keeping with the time period was fitted. By 1963 the car was owned by Mr. G. Campleman who we believe lived in the US. On October 4, 1964 the current owner's family acquired the Bentley from Frederick H. Olsen of Long Island. It then provided the family with almost forty years of enjoyable motoring and played an integral part in family history, appearing at all manner of events from Bentley meets to family weddings.
A genuine vintage Bentley that still retains its matching engine, chassis number DS 3554 was supplied new with a Vanden Plas body numbered 1596. We believe that during the 1930s the original coachwork was exchanged for the intriguing body that it wears today. On October 4th 1964, the Bentley was acquired from a private owner in Long Island by the current owner's family. It then provided almost forty years of enjoyable motoring and was an integral part in the family's history, appearing at all manner of events including Bentley meets and family weddings.
The coachwork has recently benefited from some restoration work following damage caused by an internal fire. Work has been carried out to the bulkhead and a driver's door has been fitted. The rear panel has also been removed making room for two more seats. The trim work is partly finished in red leather that will need finishing and, while there is a convertible top frame, a new top needs to be made. Although not currently running, the engine has been fitted with new pistons and rings and some valve work has been completed. The starter motor has also been rebuilt. The dashboard is finished in engine-turned aluminum and includes a number of non-original instruments. This car has some interesting features including Lucas P100 headlights, Hartford shock absorbers, fold flat windscreen with twin aero screens that double up as wind wings and a large four spoke steering wheel. The Bentley has not yet been fully repainted and is currently still in black primer.
To many Bentley enthusiasts, the large four cylinder engine with its distinctive exhaust note, long-legged gait and whine of the straight cut gears represents the very best of W.O. Bentley creations. This rare "WO" is being offered for the first time in nearly forty years and without doubt offers an opportunity to acquire a reasonably priced 4½ that can either be returned to its original Vanden Plas style coachwork or finished as is. It should most certainly be welcomed in the Bentley Drivers' Club and many other classic car events.