1926 Bentley 8 Litre
Year of manufacture1926
Offered from The Alps to Goodwood Collection
1926 Bentley 6½/8-Litre 'Le Mans' Tourer
Chassis no. WB2565
With characteristic humility 'W O' was constantly amazed by the enthusiasm of later generations for the products of Bentley Motors Limited, and it is testimony to the soundness of his engineering design skills that so many of his products have survived. From the humblest of beginnings in a mews garage off Baker Street, London in 1919 the Bentley rapidly achieved fame as an exciting fast touring car, well able to compete with the best of European and American sports cars in the tough world of motor sport in the 1920s. Bentley's domination at Le Mans in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930 is legendary, and one can only admire the Herculean efforts of such giants as Woolf Barnato, Jack Dunfee, Tim Birkin and Sammy Davis, consistently wrestling the British Racing Green sports cars to victory.
W O Bentley proudly unveiled 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. Bentley's four-cylinder 'fixed head' engine incorporated a single overhead camshaft, four-valves per cylinder, and a bore/stroke of 80x149mm. Twin ML magnetos provided the ignition and power was transmitted via a four-speed gearbox with right-hand change. The pressed-steel chassis started off with a wheelbase of 9' 9½", then adopted dimensions of 10' 10" ('Standard Long') in 1923, the shorter frame being reserved for the TT Replica and subsequent Speed Model. Rear wheel brakes only were employed up to 1924 when four-wheel Perrot-type brakes were introduced.
In only mildly developed form, this was the model that 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) on the existing 9' 9½" wheelbase, short standard chassis. 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, led to the introduction in 1926 of a larger car: the 6½-Litre. Known as the 'Silent Six', the latter perpetuated the 3-Litre's mechanical theme but with greatly increased refinement.
Although the 6½-Litre had been conceived as a touring car to compete with Rolls-Royce's New Phantom, in Speed Six form it proved admirably suited to competition: in 1929 Barnato/Birkin's Speed Six won the Le Mans 24 Hour Race ahead of a trio of 4½-Litre Bentleys, while Barnato/Kidston repeated the feat in the following year's Grand Prix d'Endurance at the Sarthe circuit ahead of similarly-mounted Clement/Watney. Small wonder then, that the fast yet refined 6½-Litre Speed Six was W O Bentley's favourite car. The 6½-Litre was produced for four years, during which time 544 chassis were completed, the standard/Speed Six split being 362/182.
According to Dr Clare Hay's authoritative work, Bentley: The Vintage Years, this particular 6½-Litre, registration number 'YP 7937', is one of 97 erected on the ST2 (12') standard chassis; most (242) of the standard cars being built on the longer (12' 6") frame. Chassis number 'WB2565' was completed in August 1926 and bodied as a saloon by the obscure coachbuilder, Surbiton Bodies. The car was supplied via Jack Withers & Co of North London and the first owner was one Ulrich Charles Pusinelli of London. Early in its life 'YP 7937' was one of a group of Bentleys photographed on the seafront at Cannes (copy on file). The car continued to be serviced by Bentley until the outbreak of war, the last entry in the record (copy on file) being dated 2nd March 1939. By this time 'YP 7937' belonged to J O Kastner-Walmsley (its fourth owner), the second and third owners being T Miller Jones and S K Troman respectively.
The next three known owners are, in order: H A Booth (1968); Paul Bentley (1972); and J C Wardell (1976). The Vanden Plas-style 'Le Mans' tourer body was fitted in 1972, and the car was in this form when it appeared in Clarendon's advertisement in Thoroughbred & Classic Cars magazine's June 1977 edition. Clarendon described the car as a "Vanden Plas type 4-seater. Open Tourer coachwork, magnificently well finished. Tonneau and weather gear supplied. The overall appearance and performance of this vehicle are outstanding".
'YP 7937' was next owned by David Findlay (1986) followed by Spencer Flack (1989-2000) and from then onwards by the current vendor, a prominent Swiss private collector. Restored in 1988, the Bentley is finished in British Racing Green with matching upholstery, while the original engine ('WB2562') has been enlarged to 8 litres. Figures quoted for this engine are a maximum output of 240bhp at 4,550rpm and 334lb/ft of torque at 2,950 revs, while the car is said to have a top speed in excess of 110mph.
'YP 7937' has been campaigned extensively while in the vendor's care, taking part in some of the toughest historic motoring events worldwide. These include the Peking to Paris Rally in 2007 (class winner, VSCC Award, Gold Medal); Carrera Sudamericana (2006); Vintage Bentley Tour of South Africa (2001 and 2006); and the New Zealand Vintage Tour (2002). It has also participated in the Liège-Rome Rally; Grand Prix de Tunis; Gran Premio Nuvolari; Rallye des Alpes; Ennstal Classic; Copperstate 1000; and the California Mille. The Bentley's most recent outing was at the Rotary Rally in September 2019. 'YP 7937' comes with a comprehensive history file, which among other items includes photographs of HRH Prince Charles driving it at Brands Hatch.
The car is accompanied by numerous accessories designed and built with endurance rallying in mind, including but not limited to: tool cases built for the running boards; secondary water radiator and fans; custom made seats; desert air filters; and a customised bonnet. A full list of the adaptations and spare parts is available on request. In addition, the car is fitted with a 140-litre safety fuel tank.
As legend has it, Ettore Bugatti once dismissed W O Bentley's products as 'the world's fastest lorries', but their inherent robustness made them ideally suited to the arduous long-distance events of their era. This car's exceptional rallying career in the hands of its current enthusiast owner amply demonstrates that W O got it absolutely right. Was there ever any doubt?
Should the vehicle remain in the UK, local import taxes of 5% will be added to the hammer price.