1929 Bentley 4 1/2 Litre
Year of manufacture1929
Number of seats2
Property of a deceased's estate
1929 Bentley 4½-Litre Tourer
Coachwork by R Harrison & Son
Registration no. GU 9000
Chassis no. NX3468
W O Bentley proudly debuted the new 3-litre car bearing his name on Stand 126 at the 1919 Olympia Motor Exhibition, the prototype engine having fired up for the first time just a few weeks earlier. In only mildly developed form, this was the model which was to become a legend in motor racing history and which, with its leather-strapped bonnet, classical radiator design and British Racing Green livery has become the archetypal vintage sports car.
Early success in the 1922 Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, when Bentleys finished second, fourth and fifth to take the Team Prize, led to the introduction of the TT Replica (later known as the Speed Model). However, by the middle of the decade the 3-Litre's competitiveness was on the wane and this, together with the fact that too many customers had been tempted to fit unsuitably heavy coachwork to the excellent 3-Litre chassis rather than accept the expense and complexity of Bentley's 6½-Litre 'Silent Six', led to the introduction of the '4½'.
The new 4½-Litre model effectively employed the chassis, transmission and brakes of the 3-Litre, combined with an engine that was in essence two-thirds of the six-cylinder 6½-litre unit. Thus the new four-cylinder motor retained the six's 100x140mm bore/stroke and Bentley's familiar four-valves-per-cylinder fixed-'head architecture, but reverted to the front-end vertical camshaft drive of the 3-Litre. Bentley Motors lost no time in race-proving its new car. It is believed that the first prototype engine went into the 3-Litre chassis of the 1927 Le Mans practice car. Subsequently this same engine was fitted to the first production 4½-Litre chassis for that year's Grand Prix d'Endurance at the Sarthe circuit.
The original 4½-Litre car, nicknamed by the team 'Old Mother Gun' and driven by Frank Clement and Leslie Callingham, promptly set the fastest race lap of 73.41mph before being eliminated in the infamous 'White House Crash' multiple pile-up.
The 4½-Litre was produced for four years, all but nine of the 665 cars being built on the 3-Litre's 'Long Standard', 10' 10½"-wheelbase chassis. Purchasers of the 4½-Litre model were, in common with those of all Vintage-period Bentleys, free to specify their preferences from a very considerable range of mechanical and electrical equipment, in addition to whatever body style and coachbuilder might be required.
A remarkably original example, chassis number 'NX3468' retains its original two-seat tourer coachwork by R Harrison & Son of Stanhope Street, London together with its original registration mark, 'GU 9000'. All the numbers have been checked and everything matches: chassis, engine, SU carburettors, front axle, steering box, C-Type gearbox - even the sump number is in the correct sequence. (The car is expected to possess a Hay Report by time of sale.)
The Bentley's first owner was Mrs Eileen Mary Marshall of Buckingham Gate, London SW1, daughter of Albert Jacob, a director of the eponymous Liverpool-based biscuit manufacturer and MP for East Toxteth. He died in February 1929, two months before the Bentley's delivery to his daughter. Bentley Motors' service records show that Mrs Marshall drove the '4½' extensively during the ten years she owned it, and the sight of a woman at the wheel such an imposing motor car must have caused quite a stir in 1930s London.
Between 1929 and 1938, 'GU 9000' was maintained by Bentley Motors, and in 1939 the car was sold to Mr E Bird in Kent. Various logbooks trace the owners during the post-war period, showing the Bentley spent time in Upper Richmond and Queens Club Gardens. It later moved to Oxford and then, in 1947, to West Bromwich, remaining with that owner until 1959 when it bought by the immediately preceding owner.
When acquired by the latter in 1959, the Bentley was finished in cream over black; this was not to the new owner's taste so the car was repainted in its present blue over black livery. The rear dickey seat had already been modified (it is believed in the 1950s) and turned into a more conventional boot, opening from the rear, while 18" wheels were fitted in the 1960s. During the next 34 years, the Bentley provided its owner with virtually trouble free motoring, and in the late 1960s Hoffman & Mountford carried out a major overhaul of the engine.
Around 1983, the Bentley and its owner moved to Guernsey where 'GU 9000' was used regularly. No major restoration was required and so the car acquired a fine patina of age, the original brown leather interior being particularly delightful. A new tonneau was made in the early 1990s, while other noteworthy features include an overdrive; Lucas headlights and sidelights; additional (later) spotlights; twin running board-mounted spare wheels; and a Raydoyt searchlight.
Acquired by the late owner in 1993, 'GU 9000' remains extremely unspoilt and original. It is a jewel of a car, worthy of inclusion as the centrepiece of any significant private collection.