- A wonderful vintage Bentley of excellent provenance
- Retains matching-numbers engine
- Well-known ownership and maintenance history
- Handsomely preserved restoration by UK specialists, in fine condition
- Fitted with a body in the style of Vanden Plas; ideal for vintage driving events
THE BENTLEY 4½-LITRE
Much of Bentley Motors’ lasting cachet can be tied to its first dozen years, from its establishment in 1919 until its founder, W.O. Bentley ceded control of the company to Rolls-Royce in 1931. This was the age of the so-called “Bentley Boys,” whose high-speed antics on, and sometimes off, the racetrack earned headlines and drummed up sales. W.O.-era Bentleys also earned a reputation for stout engineering and durable construction that did not come at the cost of sportiness. These attributes are still appreciated by owners of vintage Bentleys today.
The 4½-Litre model made its debut in late 1927, following a prototype’s running at Le Mans that year. Successor to the 3-Litre, it used the same bore and stroke as the six-cylinder 6½-Litre but retained the 3-Litre’s shaft-and-helical camshaft drive. The engine quickly proved its mettle, with Bentley swiftly taking an outright win at Le Mans in 1928 and meeting much continued success afterward at Brooklands. In racing trim, a properly prepared 4½-Litre was capable of 120 mph, which was considered quite remarkable for the era.
CHASSIS NUMBER PB3549
Bentley 4½-Litre number PB3549 was specified with chrome-plated hardware, a C-type gearbox, and double-spoked wheels, and originally delivered on 14 April 1930, to Sir James Wilson, Baronet, of Callander, Pertshire, Scotland, as the only known “W.O.” Bentley bodied by A.C. Penman & Co. of Dumfries. Factory records indicate that Sir James exercised the Bentley regularly and for many thousands of miles, with regular services and repairs undertaken through the 1930s. Copies of the car’s registration handbooks indicate he retained the car until 1945, when it passed to second owner Alexander Archibald. After a couple of years, Mr. Archibald resold the car in 1948 to Leonard Potter, an early British dealer in fine automobiles.
In 1950 the Bentley was acquired by J.B. Chadwick, who undertook a great amount of restoration work and maintained it for 22 years. When in 1972 it was sold to Arthur H. Cocks of Cornwall, he recounted it as being a very original and well-preserved car mechanically, but reportedly the Penman coachwork was in disrepair, with little material available to guide its restoration. According, Mr. Cocks undertook the building of new coachwork in the style of Vanden Plas, carried out by respected specialists Richard C. Moss and H&H Coachbuilding, with a windshield by James Pearce.
With the restoration complete, the 4½-Litre was sold in 1982 to R. Cutler of Staffordshire, then passed in 1985 to the renowned Bentley dealer Stanley Mann. The following year it was sold into its first American hands, cymbal manufacturer Armand Zildjian, who upgraded its appearance with Le Mans-style aluminum cycle fenders, installed Brooklands-style windscreens, and retrimmed the interior, then enjoyed displaying the car at stateside meetings of the Bentley Drivers’ Club and the Rolls-Royce Owners' Club.
In 2002 the Bentley was purchased by Dale Powers of Bradenton, Florida, who continued to use it on BDC rallies for a decade. It then joined its present owner’s distinguished private collection, where for another decade it has been quietly tucked away, out of sight of all but occasional visitors.
Well-preserved through careful display, the car is accompanied by an extensive collection of historical documentation, including scans of the original UK logbooks and titles, copies of service records, and many years of maintenance receipts, as well as research from the W.O. Bentley Memorial Foundation and the Rolls-Royce Foundation.
Retaining its numbers-matching chassis and engine, this is no bitsa Bentley, but a genuine 4½-Litre, fitted with the very best in period-style dress. It looks and behaves the part, and while it could be proudly taken to any show or concours, it most begs to be once again taken out to stretch its legs on the open road—continuing a rich tradition now dating back nearly a century to the era of the “Bentley Boys.”