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 6 1/2 litre ‘Silent Six’, led to the introduction of the ‘4 1/2’.
The new 4 1/2 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 6 1/2 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 4 1/2 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 4 1/2 Litre was produced for four years, all but nine of the 665 cars made being built on the 3-Litre’s ‘Long Standard’, 10’ 10”-wheelbase chassis. Purchasers of the 4 1/2 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.
This wonderful Mk VI special is built in the style of a 4/12 Litre Tourer with a hand fabricated body in aluminium by Paul Forty , who educated himself whilst working for the Legendary Coachbuilder Bob Peterson. The result as you can imagine is fantastic and the car is resplendent in British Racing Green coachwork over green upholstery.
The engine is from a later 6.75 litre V8 Bentley and is mated to the MK VI original 4 speed gearbox and also benefits from having an overdrive unit for relaxed cruising. Indeed during the vendor’s ownership he has travelled from London to the Midlands on many occasions- the car performing faultlessly. The front brakes have been upgraded to Wilwood discs but are hidden from view in aluminium cast drums.
Serviced regularly and starting on the button, this wonderful MK VI is described as reliable and comfortable to drive, possessing plenty of power and torque for modern traffic. Its automotive styling is a guaranteed centre of attention at any of the most prestigious motoring events.