H&H Classics | 12-Oct-2016 | Imperial War Museum Duxford | Venue : Duxford Cambridgeshire CB22 4QR
Category : Classic Cars
Lot No. : 87
Year : 1924
Engine Size : 4494cc
Colour : Green
Interior : Brown
Registration No. : XU 3216
Chassis No. : # 735
Engine No. : # 752
No longer available - Sold or withdrawn from sale


- Chassis originally supplied to Archie Ballantine of the famous family of distillers
- Much recent work by Elmdown Engineering Ltd
- Mechanical enhancements include Phoenix crank and rods, overdrive kit fitted
- Desirable 9ft 9.5 feet chassis length
Though initially opposed to the idea of competing at Le Mans, W O Bentley was well aware of how success in motorsport can aid sales, and, following the privateer 4th place of Duff and Clement in the inaugural 1923 Le Mans race, Bentley triumphed at La Sarthe in 1924, 1927, 1928, 1929 and 1930. The first two victories were achieved with versions of the 3 Litre model - an extraordinary feat considering it was the first to be produced by a company that had only commenced production in 1921. By 1928, however, more power was required and Bentley won with the 4 1/2 Litre car 'Old Mother Gun', that had been trialled the previous year but eliminated in the infamous White House crash. Since then, upgrading the engine to 4 1/2 Litres (in essence 2/3rds of the company's 6 1/2 litre unit), has been an accepted way of improving the performance of the 3 Litre models, and is exactly what was done to Chassis No.735 during the comprehensive restoration that turned it into the splendid-looking motorcar now offered for sale.
A copy of the chassis records shows that, on completion in 1924, 'XU 3216' was handed over to Eustace Watkins of Bond Street, London, for delivery to its first owner - Archibald J Ballantine of G Ballantine & Sons, 1 Craigmillar Park, Edinburgh. Whisky drinkers will be well aware that Ballantines is a famous make of blended Scotch that dates back to 1827. Archie was a grandson of the founder and responsible for the company's operations in Edinburgh, while his brother steered its fortunes in Glasgow, garnering a Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria along the way.
The records suggest Archie put his new toy to good use, with considerable maintenance carried out year on year - for example the engine was decoked and new valves and piston rings installed in 1928. Servicing was variously carried out by J A Hogg & Co of Peebles in 1929 and 1931 and by Scottish Motor Traction of Edinburgh in 1932. The trail then goes largely cold until June 1998 when the car was rediscovered. The chassis had been refurbished and shortened from 10' to 9' 9 1/2 inches but the Bentley still retained its original engine, steering box etc. The chassis is stamped on the front dumb iron and it is understood the offside rail is a repaired original whilst the nearside chassis rail has been replaced. There is a letter on file from the Bentley Drivers Club the following January, concerning an inspection of the car they carried out on behalf of Rod Warriner Restorations, in which they confirm it to be Chassis No.735 and recommend the original registration 'XU 3216' (that had lapsed 'due to a very lengthy rebuilding programme') be re-allocated. The Bentley was subsequently shipped to Australia where it was painstakingly restored to original condition over a number of years. It was at this stage the engine was upgraded to 4.5 litre specification, the radiator re-cored, oil pump capacity increased and full flow filter installed, and C-Type gearbox installed together with a modern clutch and lightened flywheel etc.
The vendor returned the fully rejuvenated Chassis No.735 to the UK roads in April 2015, since when it has greatly benefited from several visits to Elmdown Engineering of Hungerford, Berks who, apart from a lot of fine tuning, have fitted an overdrive unit, Cibi? lamps, battery cut-out etc.
The replica Vanden Plas body has been fashioned in aluminium over an American Oak frame and the car is now impressively presented with Bentley Racing Green coachwork teamed with Brown leather interior trim. This eye-catching vintage Bentley comes complete with full and half tonneau covers, and combines a charming early history with modern upgrades to make it wholly manageable and enjoyable in modern motoring conditions as evidenced in its successful completion of the Alpine Trial in 2015.