Amelia Island | Lot 260
1924 Bentley 3-Litre Sports Two-Seater
Offered from the Richard L. Burdick Collection
$434,000 USD | Sold
| Amelia Island, Florida
9 March 2019
- Offered from the Richard L. Burdick Collection
- Perennial winner of the Great American Race
- Ideal candidate for future vintage tours
- Iconic Red Label Bentley
Every Bentley boy has his favorite model. Some celebrate Bentley’s recent liberation from Rolls-Royce with the new Continentals; others revere the timeless R- and S-Type models. The pre-war 3½- and 4 ¼-Litre “Silent Sports Cars” have their adherents, but for many enthusiasts, a Bentley is not a Bentley unless it was built when W.O. himself was in charge. For them, one of the most prized “W.O.” models is the Red Label, the short-chassis three-liter car built from 1924 to 1929.
For its engine, Bentley chose a long-stroke four with four valves per cylinder, operated by a shaft-drive overhead camshaft. The cylinder head was fixed, a feature of subsequent cars until the 1930s. Announced in The Autocar in May 1919, the car was christened “3-Litre,” said to be the first use of engine capacity as a model name. The introductory illustrations were by Bentley’s friend F. Gordon Crosby, the renowned artist, who also designed the car’s iconic radiator shell and famed “Winged B” emblem.
At £1,060 for the chassis alone it was expensive, but sales were encouraging, growing to 402 in 1924. Most cars were sent to nearby coachbuilder Vanden Plas for four-seater touring bodies. By the mid-1920s the Bentley was accepted as the archetypal British sports car and achieved considerable racing success. The 3-Litre remained in production through 1929, by which time 1,622 had been built.
The cars are characterized by their radiator emblems, which changed in color over the years. The “standard model” on either short or long chassis used a blue background and came to be called “Blue Label.” Extra-short wheelbase 1924–¬1926 cars with high compression were called “Green Label,” and high-compression short-wheelbase (117.5-in.) 1924– 1929 models were “Red Label.”
Once owned by F.L. Regnery, this 3-Litre ‘Red Label’ boattail two-seater was acquired by Arthur Lieberman of Skokie, Illinois, in the 1970s. It came to the Burdick Collection in 1984. From then until 1992, it was a regular competitor in the Great American Race. The Great Race, as it is commonly known, is a long-distance time-distance rally for vintage cars. First run from Buena Park, California, to Indianapolis in 1983, it became an annual event, and continues to this day.
In its first race, 1985, the Bentley managed a 7th-place finish. The following year it managed to place 2nd, just two seconds behind the 1st-place scorers. Over the next six contests it managed one 3rd-place finish, two managed Best Overall Cumulative Scores, and three Grand Championship 1st-place wins. Dick Burdick driving and Wayne Bell navigating are the only three-time winners in the history of the Great Race. Burdick, Bell, and the Bentley retired from competition after 1992.
Well conserved and preserved since its competition retirement, this Red Label longs to race again. The 2019 Great Race takes place in June. There is still time to register.