Monterey | Lot 233
1926 Bentley 3-4½-Litre Tourer in the style of Vanden Plas
Sam & Emily Mann: A Collection by Design
$682,000 USD | Sold
| Monterey, California
20 August 2016
- Offered from the collection of Sam and Emily Mann
- Faithfully constructed in the style of the famed 1928 Le Mans winner, “Old Mother Gun”
- An exceptional restoration; extensive sorting for rallying and touring
- Ideal for events such as the Copperstate 1000 and Bentley Drivers Club rallies
- A thrilling Bentley meant to be driven in the great “W.O.” style
100 bhp, 4,398 cc OHC inline four-cylinder engine, four-speed manual gearbox, solid front axle and live rear axle with semi-elliptical leaf springs, and four-wheel mechanical drum brakes. Weelbase: 117.5 in.
Developed from the brilliant 3-Litre, W.O. Bentley’s more powerful 4½-Litre made its debut in 1925 and managed the difficult feat of both improving upon the marque’s carriage-trade business and building upon the racing success of its progenitor in one masterful stroke. Of all Bentleys of its era, it is the 4½-Litre that remains most famous today, and the most famous 4½-Litre is “Old Mother Gun.” Crashed at Le Mans in 1927, it was subsequently repaired and captured Bentley’s third Le Mans title in 1928, co-driven by the “Bentley Boys” Woolf Barnato and Bernard Rubin. “Old Mother Gun” enjoyed an epic career and survives today as one of the most valued and historic of vintage Bentleys.
The faithful and handsome car shown here was built in the style of “Old Mother Gun” on the Bentley 3-Litre chassis number 911, originally delivered in Melbourne, Australia, with a drophead coupe body by Freestone & Webb, in January 1925. When acquired by enthusiast Brian Hussey in 2003 as a restoration project, it was running, but its original coachwork was beyond repair. Rather than attempt a full restoration to original form, the decision was made to perform an exacting conversion of the car to the Le Mans specification of “Old Mother Gun.”
The car was completely dismantled, and its chassis shortened by 2½ inches, fitted with fixed pillar struts, and its springs re-tempered, reset, and refitted with correcting mountings and full-length gaiters. The brakes were rebuilt with finned drums, and period-correct 20-inch wire wheels were installed. The engine was built upon a “Blower”-specification 4½-Litre block, acquired from the late Russ “Rusty” Turner, with the additions of a Reece camshaft, Phoenix crankshaft, performance connecting rods, high-compression pistons, needle-bearing rockers, and a high-performance oil pump. A lightened flywheel, heavy-duty clutch, and fully rebuilt gearbox drive a new balanced propshaft and a 3.53:1 differential with a new four-star crown wheel and pinion.
The coachwork in the Vanden Plas Le Mans style was expertly framed by Rod Wariner and paneled in aluminum; all of the trim details are correct, including Vanden Plas sill plates. James Pearce finished the seats in Muirhead leather, while the hood and tonneau covers, both full and half-length, were reportedly made to the correct original pattern. Accessories included both full and quick-release Brooklands-type windscreens, pre-war Lucas P100 angle-mounted headlamps with stone guards, right-angle-drive Klaxon horn and two forward Klaxonettes, and full instrumentation with a dashboard-mounted air pump.
The completed car was sold by Mr. Hussey in 2008 and was eventually acquired by a Swiss enthusiast, who reportedly invested a further ₤30,000 in such items as a new alternator and starter motor, the cross-shaft assembly, and the addition of new racing pistons and engine tuning for additional power. Four years later, it was acquired by Sam and Emily Mann, in whose distinguished collection it has since remained.
Further sorting has been undertaken during the Mann’s ownership, with tours and rallies in mind. Blakeney Motorsport of Buntingford, Hertfordshire, performed an initial round of fettling shortly after the Manns acquired the car in 2012. More recently, in June 2016, D.L. George Historic Motorcars, the well-regarded vintage Bentley restoration facility in Cochranville, Pennsylvania, rebuilt the suspension with correct rod end springs, rebuilt and improved the brakes, installed new rear wheel hubs and spring shackle bushings, and rebuilt the alternator.
A fan of vintage Bentleys, Sam states: “This car shifts beautifully and easily, and it has the wonderful capacity of being fun to drive at speed or with a full passenger load for a more leisurely outing. It has the look of that wonderful Vanden Plas design with the flowing, ostensibly one-piece fender. I am particularly enamored with the front view, with its dual shock absorbers, low-mounted horns, headlight stone guards, and diagonal struts to reinforce the headlight stanchions – all elements which emphasize the competition character of the car.”
The car is set for a new owner to enjoy in events such as the Copperstate 1000 and Colorado Grand, as well as Bentley Drivers Club events such as the 1000-mile event one the Manns completed just last year in Upstate New York. Not just a “special,” it is a thoughtfully constructed representation of one of the most famous and valuable of vintage Bentleys and will allow its next caretaker to enjoy the remarkable driving experience of “Old Mother Gun” on modern roads.