On Display at RM Sotheby's Hershey Auction
$600,000 USD | Asking
| Redding, Connecticut
- Boasts known history from new
- Desirable late-specification 4½-Litre with self-wrapping front brakes, plate clutch, and reinforced frame
- Recent engine rebuild by marque specialists Kingsbury Racing and further restoration work by D.L. George Historic Motorcars
- Accompanied by a report from marque historian Claire Hay
- An excellent driver’s Bentley in the ideal touring specification
To many, Bentley’s golden era existed when the firm’s founder, W.O. Bentley, was firmly at the head of the company. From its founding in 1919 until control of the company was ceded to Rolls-Royce in 1931, an amazing array of incredible vehicles gave the company a stellar reputation worldwide, both on and off the racetrack. Notching up five victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1924 and each year from 1927-1930, not only were these cars fast, but they were also extremely well engineered to be exceptionally durable and reliable.
Succeeding Bentley’s incredible 3-Litre model was the new 4½-Litre, which made its debut in 1927 following the model’s prototype running at that year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Utilizing the same bore and stroke as the six-cylinder 6½-Litre, this new engine retained the shaft-and-helical camshaft drive of the 3-Litre. The following year at Le Mans, a 4½-Litre took the overall victory with Woolf Barnato and Bernard Rubin at the helm. In racing trim, a properly prepared 4½-Litre was capable of 120 mph, which was considered quite remarkable for the era.
This particular 4½-Litre, chassis number RL3446, was initially outfitted as a H.J. Mulliner Weymann saloon, as per a report compiled by marque authority Claire Hay. Sold via Woolleys Ltd. of Windermere in the UK, the first owner was recorded as Oswald W.E. Hedley of Briery Close in the picturesque Lake District. This would be Mr. Hedley’s third Bentley, having previously owned a pair of 3-Litres and later owning a 4-Litre Saloon. Ownership passed to an S.E. Smith of Middlesex in early 1932, at which point the car’s current Vanden Plas bodywork was fitted. A new chassis frame was supplied by Bentley for the car in 1933, duly stamped RL3445, and united with the car’s original engine and the 1928 Vanden Plas coachwork.
Passing through the hands of C.E. Robinson of Brentford, by 1935, RL3446 had emigrated to Australia and was acquired by Helen Chambers of Victoria according to the Bentley Driver’s Club of Australia. Australia is where the car would spend the majority of its life, including throughout the second world war, when it was owned by K.L.T MacMeikan from 1938. A locally well-known racing driver Lex Davidson would be the Bentley’s next custodian, acquiring the car in 1947. Amazingly, Davidson used the Bentley to tow his pre-war Alfa Romeo grand prix car to and from race meetings. Evocative photographs of this exist and are present in Hay’s report on RL3446.
After passing through two more Australian owners following a move to New South Wales, the car was acquired by Dick Rymill in 1955 and was then restored, likely as the bodywork’s original fabric would have needed replacement due to the strong Australian sun. Long-term owner Jim Nilsson acquired the car in 1980 and moved it back to Victoria, where it remained with him for over thirty years. More recently, the car returned to the UK for some restoration work, where the car’s fabric bodywork was recovered and new wheels were fitted.
Hay’s in-person inspection, carried out in the UK in later 2019, assesses the car’s history and originality. Importantly, the chassis was found to be the correct ‘new old stock’ frame supplied in 1933. In addition, the car is accompanied by its original engine, original gearbox, original front axle, original rear axle, original bonnet, original steering column, and Vanden Plas coachwork as was fitted in 1932. As such, the car remains exceptionally complete, rare for a Bentley of this era or any car nearing its 100th birthday!
Since Claire Hay’s inspection was carried out, the Bentley has received a full engine rebuild by Ewen Getley at Kingsbury Racing, located within Bicester Heritage in the UK. This included the fitment of four new brake drums, a new engine block, new crankshaft, new rods, and a new camshaft, resulting in the engine being bored out to 4.9-litres. Then acquired by its current owner and shipped to the US, the Bentley has remained there ever since. Whilst in the US this year, further service and restoration work was entrusted to the well-regarded D.L. George Historic Motorcars of Cochranville, PA, with invoices totaling to over $90,000.
To those looking for a powerful and reliable vintage car for endurance rallies and road events, a pre-war Bentley is often the go-to choice for those in the know. In this particular car’s case as a later-specification 4½-litre, it has the welcome upgrades of self-wrapping front brakes, a plate clutch, and a reinforced frame, making it very durable for situations where sub-par roads are a normality, like on the Peking to Paris.
Events like that are where these fabulous cars are best enjoyed, and thanks to the brilliance of their engineering and sheer robustness, it is no wonder why they established such a stellar reputation in period. For its next owner, who will perhaps carry the car onwards towards its second century, RL3446 would surely not disappoint.