One of the great cars of all time, the Bentley 3 Litre was a magnificent milestone machine that led the world on both road and track. That it did so as the first ever production Bentley was no mean feat and a tribute to the engineering excellence that was to become a hallmark of the marque; indeed, it introduced a then hitherto unknown level of performance combined with immense strength and reliability.
When in the late 1920s the need for more power became evident, due to both increasing competition on the track and a trend for ever heavier coachwork, Bentley introduced the 4 1/2 Litre model. With a design that was basically two thirds of its existing 6 l/2 Litre six cylinder, the 4 1/2 Litre prototype engine was first tested in the 1927 Le Mans practice car, the latter a 3 Litre chassis, before being transferred to the first 4 1/2 Litre chassis. 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. Driven by Woolf Barnato and Bernard Rubin, ‘Old Mother Gun’ (race number ‘4’) won the famous French endurance classic the following year and finished 2nd in 1929 carrying race number ‘9’, its drivers on that occasion being Glen Kidston and Clive ‘Jack’ Dunfee.
3 Litre chassis number 735 was delivered to Archie J Ballantine, Son of the famous distiller George Ballentine in July 1924 ninety-two years ago. The heritage of Ballantine’s Scotch whisky can be traced back to 1827, when farmer’s son George Ballantine set up a small grocery store in Edinburgh supplying a range of whiskies to his clientele.
Business thrived under George’s son George junior, and the family sold out profitably to the firm of Barclay and McKinlay in 1919. And so it came to pass. Five years after the sale of the Blending business, Archibald invested in one of the finest cars of the time, the 3 litre Bentley.
Records show that XU3216 was delivered in July 1924 to Archibald J. Ballantine of G.Ballentine & Sons 1 Craigmillar Park, Edinburgh. Archie enjoyed the car putting considerable mileage on it, having work done through the late 20’s including decarbonising the engine and new valves fitted. The car was serviced by J.A.Hogg & Co of Peebles in 1929. with more work undertaken in 1931. The car had a busy life and in 1932 Service support was moved to Scottish Motor Traction in Edinburgh.
By January 1999 the vehicle was ready to be inspected and the Bentley Drivers Club duly inspected it at Broughton farm and confirmed it’s title to the original registration XU3216. The car was shipped to Australia and over a number of years restored to original condition. The engine has been upgraded to 4 1/2 litres specifications, including a new cylinder block from New Zealand and Phoenix crankshaft and rods. The radiator has been re-cored and a new water pump fitted. The oil pump capacity has been increased and the system now incorporates a full flow oil filter. A new lightweight flywheel has been made and incorporates a modern clutch. The B-Type gearbox has been completely rebuilt with new gears, and it changes gear beautifully. The chassis has been refurbished with one rail replaced. The Vanden Plas replica body has an American Oak frame and is panelled in aluminium. The upholstery is finished in brown leather and the car comes with both full and half tonneau covers.
The car has travelled less than 2000 miles since it’s rebuild and has had recent upgrades by Elmdown Engineering including, an Overdrive kit, and wiring for a Monit navigation unit, Aux Cibie lamps along with a modern battery with cut-out and alternator. It has successfully toured from the home-counties to the Scottish Highlands and back without a hitch, and last summer competed successfully in the ERA 2nd Alpine Trial.
This touring 3/4½ litre Bentley, presented in Bentley Racing Green is quite simply magnificent. Whilst holding all of the features that brought this car to early fame and fortune, this particular car also has the modern upgrades to make it into a useable and manageable car in any situation. Excellent in condition, both mechanically and aesthetically, what better time to acquire this most classic of British Sports cars.