Lot 102

British Classics Online

1928 Bentley 4½-Litre Supercharged Le Mans Tourer in the style of Vanden Plas

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€356,500 EUR | Sold

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Chassis No.
TX3227
Engine No.
MR3396
Documents
Bill of Sale Only
  • A rare 4½-Litre Bentley upgraded to ‘Blower’ specification
  • Fitted with a later body in the style of the tourers which attempted victory at Le Mans in 1930
  • Potentially the perfect Bentley for use on road, track, or endurance rally
Please note all lots are being sold on behalf of a court appointed bailiff. They are being sold ‘as is, where is’, with no warranties as to their mechanical condition, and all sales are full and final. Please also note buyer’s premium for this auction is 18.15% (this is a VAT inclusive figure).

While most manufacturers forged their reputations over several decades, the legend surrounding the Bentley marque was created in as little as 12 years. Famed for combining ultimate luxury with sporting prowess, Bentley is still synonymous with the 24 Hours of Le Mans, though the company’s most famous model—the ‘Blower Bentley’—was not originally a Cricklewood creation.

Bentley’s 4½-Litre model could trace its origins back to the formation of the company, in being an evolution of the 3 Litre. Predominantly fitted with a 10-foot 10-inch chassis, the 4½-Litre formed the backbone of the Competition department’s efforts at Le Mans, Brooklands, and Montlhéry before the arrival of the dominant Speed Six. While the Speed Six utilised Bentley’s tried-and-tested formula of reliable long-stroke engines providing effortless torque, Sir Henry ‘Tim’ Birkin was convinced that a lighter car with forced induction through supercharging was the answer for achieving outright speed. With the backing of the Hon. Dorothy Paget, five competition prototypes were built and would be used at the team entries under Paget’s name.

Affectionately known as the ‘Blower Bentley’, these supercharged 4½s were some of the fastest cars of their day, with Birkin leading the race and taking the lap record during the 1930 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Blower’s most impressive feat was at the 1930 French Grand Prix, where Birkin heroically muscled his Bentley to 2nd overall behind a Bugatti Type 35C, but in front of five further Bugatti Type 35s—a remarkable achievement for a modified road car pitted against thoroughbred Grand Prix cars. The project ultimately led to 50 production examples being completed by the factory, despite its initial reluctance, in order for the model to meet Le Mans regulations.

Unsurprisingly, the legendary status of the ‘Blower’ has resulted in a handful of Bentley 4½s being upgraded to supercharged specification. Not merely an exercise in fitting an Amherst Villiers supercharger to the front of the engine, the modifications range from fitting stronger front crossmembers to a unique inlet manifold, all incurring significant expense.

According to Bentley service records, this example, chassis TX 3227, was delivered new to Mrs. Boyd of Rye, East Sussex and registered with the number plate “PN 1562”, with the guarantee starting on 11 April 1928. Delivered as a standard 4½ Litre 10-foot 10-inch chassis, the car was fitted with a four-seat Harrison open tourer body. Desirably, this Bentley was fitted with a close-ratio D-type gearbox.

Mrs. Boyd passed away in 1932 and the Bentley was sold on to Major Sir Robert Abercromby of Eaton Terrace, a distinguished Military Cross winner who later succeeded as 9th Baronet Abercromby of Birkenbog. Abercromby owned at least two Bentleys and it appears he kept chassis TX 3227 through the 1930s.

With the founding of enthusiast organisations such as the Bentley Drivers Club and Vintage Sports Car Club, these cars were celebrated through their use and the phenomenon of the ‘bitsa’ was born as parts were mixed between cars to keep them running and even competing. By 1961, it was with its fifth owner, and the parts of TX 3227 and 3 Litre chassis 976 had been rebuilt into one car which carried on the TX 3227 identity and registration of “PN 1562”.

In 2000, this Bentley had reappeared in the BDC register in the care of Mr. Cedric Charles Cook of Bude, Cornwall. At this time, it is believed that it was a project fitted with a replacement side rails (believed to be new old stock) and it was sold in 2004 without a body. Shortly afterwards, it entered the workshops of Stanley Mann, who fitted coachwork in the style of a Vanden Plas Le Mans tourer. By 2006, it was noted in the BDC Register as being owned by a South African. Reportedly, its final transformation to its current specification took place in 2009 when it was fitted with a supercharger, and it is believed to have been upgraded to 5.3-litre capacity with a desirable Phoenix crankshaft having previously been offered as such.

Today, this wonderful Bentley carries the front and rear axles bearing “TX 3227” stampings, while all other major components either originate from other Bentleys or, in the case of the D-type gearbox, likely an unnumbered reproduction. Please note, due to its history, this Bentley has the continuous identity of TX 3227 yet its original chassis stampings have long since been lost so it is recognised by its axles.

Offered following a period of static display, this Bentley at a minimum will require recommissioning, after which it would be the perfect tool for circuit racing events such as Le Mans Classic, VSCC hill climbs, or long-distance rallying and touring. A versatile and magnificent machine, this wonderful 4½-Litre upgraded to supercharged specification would be the ideal vintage car for any collection.