Lot 320

Monterey 2023

1929 Bentley 4½-Litre 'Short-Chassis' Sports Tourer by Vanden Plas


$1,600,000 USD | Sold

United States | Monterey, California



Chassis No.
Engine No.
Body No.
US Title
  • One of the most original surviving of only 10 ‘short-chassis’ models constructed; the connoisseur’s choice
  • Retains numbers-matching body, chassis, engine, and axles; marvelous authenticity
  • Superb, extensive restoration by noted marque specialists R.C. Moss
  • Extremely well-documented with coveted Dr. Clare Hay report
  • Among the finest 4½-Litres; an exceptional W.O. Bentley in every regard
Addendum: Please note that this lot does not have a tool kit.

“The short chassis 4 ½-litre was the finest car we built. It was a magnificent car.” –Woolf Barnato

The fame and renown of the Bentley 4½-Litre is well-known to enthusiasts, but not all 4½-Litres were created equal. Foremost among them was surely the handful of “short-chassis” cars, of which 10 were produced to individual customer order between 1927 and 1931. As the name indicates, these cars were built on a 117 1/2-inch-wheelbase frame, which was similar in length to the earlier 3-Litre, but as a purpose-built unit for the 4½-Litre engine was stronger and more rigid. The reduction in wheelbase much improved handling and thus road manners, producing a true connoisseur’s “driver’s car.” Longtime Bentley Drivers Club stalwart and archivist Darell Berthon wrote in Cars in Profile: The 4½-Litre Bentley that the short-chassis “handled beautifully on the road...In the opinion of many, they were the best looking and handiest Bentley ever made.”

Chassis number NX3463, one of the original factory-built short-chassis models, was built to special-order as the last of six vintage Bentleys ordered by repeat customer, John Ward Cox of Derby, who used the well-known racing driver “Bertie” Kensington-Moir as the selling agent. It was mounted with a four-passenger sports tourer body by Vanden Plas. Cox kept the car for a brief period before selling it in 1930 to C.R. Robinson, who after two years passed it to Edwin “Bill” Pacey, who was famous for his racing exploits in Bentleys at the Brooklands circuit. Early photographs of the car taken in 1932 during Pacey’s ownership depict it appearing exactly as it does today.

The car was sold by Pacey to Peter Eckersly of Stockport, and in 1933 was purchased from him by J.F. Aspin of Manchester. Mr. Aspin would become a longtime owner, retaining the Bentley through the war years. A succession of short-term post-war caretakers followed and the body was externally repaneled in metal before, in 1956, the car was purchased by William Thompson, a longtime Bentley Drivers Club member from Richmond. Mr. Richmond changed the car’s registration number to “WT 43,” and sensitively restored and dutifully maintained it for 18 years.

H.L.G. Melly acquired NX3463 in 1973 and kept it for seven years. It was then purchased in 1980 by David B. Benson of Tadcaster, who became the longest-term caretaker, enjoying the Bentley for a remarkable 28 years, during which time the engine was rebuilt with a counterbalanced Allan crankshaft, Carillo rods, and new pistons; the radiator recored; new gears installed in the “D”-type gearbox; and the rear axle rebuilt. Following a brief period in Cambridge the car was then purchased by a well-known British specialist in vintage Bentleys, who kept it for his personal use for nine years. In April of 2006 this owner was able to reacquire and return to the car its original registration, “CH 8280.” Further comprehensive mechanical rebuilding then took place with Elmdown Engineering in 2008 and 2009, including a full engine rebuild and fitment of overdrive.

In 2011, NX3463 was then entrusted to the noted British Bentley specialist Graham Moss for a sympathetic but highly detailed cosmetic restoration and additional mechanical sorting. Returned to its original and unique blue over blue color scheme, the car retains its original short chassis with the original numbering on the front dumb-iron knuckle and front cross-member, and the numbers-matching engine and axles, as well as the original body with correct windshield and original-style Rexine fabric covering, the latter reproduced by R.C. Moss in the original graining. Even the Smiths headlamps are as-original. The result is not only beautiful but proven, having completed the Flying Scotsman Vintage Rally with ease in 2012.

A comprehensive history report was completed for a prior owner by the eminent Bentley authority, Dr. Clare Hay, which notes that prior to restoration “in overall terms this is a very original car with only minor alterations from new...The body is also generally very original, with the body number visible (in part) to the nearside rear body rail...As a genuine short 4½ Litre with a VdP sports body NX3463 is a very rare car indeed.” This report remains in the history file, along with photos and comprehensive restoration invoices and descriptions of work from R.C. Moss, as well as many other documents from the car’s rich, storied history.

Now beautifully and correctly finished down to the last detail, and extremely well-kept mechanically, this important Bentley stands in the first rank of “W.O.s”—a singular automobile in specification, purity, provenance, and presentation, it is worthy of the most discerning Bentley Boy or Lady, on concours field or BDC rally alike.