1931 Bentley 4 Litre

Summary

  • Year of manufacture 
    1931
  • Car type 
    Other
  • Lot number 
    055
  • Drive 
    LHD
  • Condition 
    Used
  • Location
  • Exterior colour 
    Other

Description

PROVENANCE
Bentley Motors Ltd.
P.A.G. Phillips, Royal Tunbridge Wells, UK (acquired in 1932)
Peter Balean, Derby, UK (acquired in 1960)
Ronald Gray, Germany and Florida (acquired in 1989)
Private Collector (acquired circa 2001)
Current Owner (acquired from the above)

THIS CAR
Elegant, sporting, and refined, the 4 Litre Bentley set the highest standards for motorcars of the period. Selecting body design, trim, and features from a host of coachbuilders, customers could order each car to their unique specifications. According to Bentley expert Clare Hay, records indicate that chassis VF4019 was one of two examples originally bodied by Vanden Plas in the distinctive and striking Tourer configuration, the same as fitted to Woolf Barnato’s personal 8 Litre. While most 4 Litres received closed coachwork, this open motorcar delivered a bold and commanding presence, quite suitable for its first assigned duties as a Bentley demonstrator. Finished in Le Mans Green with black fenders, frame, and moldings, the interior was trimmed in green leather and upon completion, the car was immediately dispatched to Autocar magazine for road testing. During the tests, a gearbox bearing failed, necessitating the replacement with gearbox no. 8151 (retained today). Bentley Motors’ Charles K. Bowers photographed VF4019 in its demonstrator role before it was assigned to London dealer Jack Olding. On January 4, 1932, Royal Tunbridge Wells resident and cigar manufacturing heir P.A.G. Phillips became the first private owner, registering the car in London as GP 5193.

Mr. Phillips regularly had VF4019 serviced, including the installation of a new 4.16:1 rear axle installed in September 1933. Though this example was unregistered during the war years, Mr. Phillips continued to use the car, occasionally loaning it to Peter Balean, a decorated RAF pilot and squadron leader. Impressed by the car, Mr. Balean eventually became the second owner, purchasing it from Mr. Phillips in June 1960.

Mr. Balean continued the tradition of carefully maintaining the 4 Litre, including rebuilding the engine with a lightly ground and balanced crankshaft using .0030" oversize pistons. In 1989, Mr. Balean sold the car to Ronald Gray, who divided his time between Germany and Florida. Around 2001, Mr. Gray sold the 4 Litre to a Bentley enthusiast in the US; that owner had restorer and preservation expert Steve Babinsky perform a full service on the car in 2009. It was then transferred to the current owner in 2015.

Over the past eight decades, this 4 Litre has been afforded a superb level of conservatorship. Features include the original interior, carpeting, instruments, and exceptional under-hood finishes, and what is believed by the consignor to be either original paint or an early period lacquer respray. The car is offered with a file documenting previous ownership and services, along with luggage and tools.

This exceptional Bentley 4 Litre Tourer represents a unique confluence of originality and premier preservation. The opportunity to steward its future, coupled with the unbridled joy of driving one of the world’s most exciting prewar cars, will surely delight and reward the discerning collector for many years to come.

Perhaps the best summary of this exceptional W.O. Bentley was stated by Bentley authority Clare Hay, “In general terms, I would say that this is about the most original and correct Bentley that I’ve ever seen.”