Lot 217

London 2023

1931 Bentley 8-Litre 'Silent Bloc' Saloon by Vanden Plas


£601,250 GBP | Sold

United Kingdom | London, United Kingdom



Chassis No.
Engine No.
US Title
  • A marvelous example of the short-chassis 8-Litre with well-known provenance
  • Unusually handsome, original owner-driver saloon coachwork by Vanden Plas
  • Formerly owned by J.A. Player, William Ruger, Jr., and G. Clayton Greene
  • Well-maintained mechanical condition, a superb 8-Litre that has been driven and enjoyed
  • Documented by a history report from Vintage Bentley authority Dr Clare Hay
Addendum: Please note this lot has entered the UK on a temporary import bond, which must be cancelled either by exporting the lot outside of the UK on an approved Bill of Lading with supporting customs documentation or by paying the applicable VAT and import duties to have the lot remain in the UK.

Chassis YX5113 was one of only 12 particularly sporting 8-Litre Bentleys constructed on the "short" 12-foot frame. According to noted Vintage Bentley authority Dr Clare Hay, it was one of three examples fitted with this very attractive body by Vanden Plas, a so-called ‘Silent Bloc’ saloon built to the French Weymann construction method, with aluminium panels assembled in such a way as to avoid squeaks and rattles—hence the name. It was originally delivered to J.A. Player of Wratton Manor, near Nottingham, of John Player cigarette fame and fortune. Interestingly, the factory Service Record notes that parts for the car were sent to the Players factory in Nottingham in 1932, and there is a minor gap in the record through 1935—indicating that Player may have had general service done on the car ‘in-house!’. By the following February the car had passed into the hands of C.W. Mason of Belfast, then to H. Dagnall of London, who used the Bentley extensively and for whom some repair work was carried out in 1938, including fitment of a new front axle beam.

Apparently laid up for the duration of World War 2, the 8-Litre was sold thereafter by dealer John H. Truscott, and by the 1950s was in the ownership of Denys Leonard Taaffe of Worcestershire. Mr Taaffe advertised the Bentley in the October 1955 issue of Motor Sport, from which it was sold to Bruce Fagan of California, thus beginning the car’s long sojourn in the United States. Mr Fagan refinished the Bentley and sold it to Leonard Potter, a British agent of Ed Jurist’s Vintage Car Store, who dealt it to William Ruger Jr., heir to the Sturm, Ruger arms fortune, and at the young age of 19 already a skilled mechanical engineer with an appreciation for fine automobiles.

Mr Ruger retained the Bentley for several years before exchanging it on another 8-Litre, in a deal which placed this car in the collection of the Larz Anderson Museum in Brookline, Massachusetts, for decades known as one of the finest small museums in North America. Apparently the car had been acquired by the museum for purposes of sale, as it was shortly acquired in 1962 by George Clayton Green of Concord, Massachusetts. Mr. Green was a faithful and passionate long-term steward, undertaking well-documented and sympathetic refurbishing of the car, and keeping meticulous records of its maintenance. He possessed the Bentley for the rest of his life, at which point it was sold in 2018 into the hands of the present owner.

Having avoided the fate of modernisation and "specials" that befell so many 8-Litres, YX5113 survives in the original form in which it was supplied to John Player, complete with its factory-installed frame, engine with its closely-numbered SU carburettors, gearbox (no. 8105), and handsomely well-proportioned coachwork. It has been well-loved as a well-preserved road car, and thus has the charm that one expects to find on the best of this model, with what appear to be the original door panels and wood cappings intact, and the original linoleum-covered floorboards. Even the original smoker’s companion is intact. Accompanying it is the aforementioned history file, as well as, wonderfully, the original numbered handbook and original tools, and an impressive collection of maintenance invoices for extensive mechanical sorting and preparation undertaken in present care. It was driven at the 2019 North American Vintage Bentley Meet and exhibited that year at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, as well as the subject of an article by David Brown and photography on behalf of Bentley Motors.

More recently the Bentley has been driven quite successfully for over 4,000 miles, with appropriate follow-up service following each event, again as documented in the accompanying invoices. Benefitting from previous very long-term care and its current devoted ownership, it remains an utterly lovely example of the model, properly sorted and still with all the brawn and potency with which W.O. Bentley endowed it.