1924 Bentley 3/4½-Litre “Red Label” Short-Chassis Speed Model Tourer
Original coachwork by Vanden Plas
Chassis No. 849
Engine No. 851
Body No. 1100
Registration No. NL 8498
If it’s the shiny green ones that float your boat, then may we kindly suggest that you avert your eyes now? If, on the other hand, you wish to be the coolest cat in town and arrive at events in one of the least shiny and least green Bentleys around then please read on…
Offered for sale here is a rare opportunity to acquire an original Vanden Plas bodied 3-Litre Speed Model with its original “matching numbers” engine recently uprated to 4½-Litre specification.
Factory service records on file indicate that this original 3-Litre Speed Model, chassis no. 849 was completed in December 1924, fitted with engine no. 851 and supplied via Hodgsons Garage of Newcastle-upon-Tyne to a J. Kennedy of Gosforth. The Bentley was registered NL 8498 and a Cambridge thermometer listed as an extra. The service records note an accident in 1925 with “one front axle sent to Grimshaw Leather Co.” Whether or not the front axle was replaced at this stage is not known. In 1926 the service records list slow running SU carburettors fitted, a feature that ‘NL 8498’ retains to this day.
The first change owner is listed as a Mr. Leroy of London in 1927. During his ownership the car suffered another minor prang and the service records indicate a front axle change at this stage. The next ownership change is also listed as 1927 with three subsequent owners and the works they had carried out all listed in the works service records up until 1937. The works records always end by 1939 when the service department closed down. There is the usual gap in the ownership trail during the war years.
As an interesting aside, in 1932, H. C. Martineau purchased ‘NL 8498’. Martineau had also owned the Ex-Showroom demonstrator 4½-Litre tourer, Chassis No. ST 3006, Registration No. YT 8262, that is also currently residing in the same stable.
In 1957 The Bentley Drivers Club, recorded the ‘NL 8498’, as being registered to W.H.W. Howes and by early 1960s a Mr. De Villiers, who restored the car and attended a number of Bentley Drivers’ Club events with it. In 1964 ‘NL 8498’ was sold, via London dealer, Peter Suckling to Alan Radcliff in America. In his amusing book on car collecting and concours, Adventures of a Vintage Car Collector, Radcliffe describes how he had stumbled across and purchased the “NL 8498’ whilst sourcing a Bentley Speed Six in the UK. The 3-Litre had been reserved for the actor Tony Curtis, but when Curtis appeared not to want to proceed with the deal the broker sold ‘NL 8498’ to Radcliffe. Having been re-upholstered in vinyl in the early 60s, Radcliffe re-upholstered this 3-Litre in a “tough grained black cowhide” and showed it at various American concours events, landing himself in trouble for chroming certain parts of the car rather than nickel plating them. From Radcliffe the car passed to Rick Carrol and then Roger Quinsinberry of Florida. Between c.1972 and 2007 ‘NL 8498’ was retired to a barn until it was discovered Bill Perretti also of Florida and a collector of highly original examples of prewar motorcars and motorcycles. Despite the previous restoration, ‘NL 8498’ was in wonderfully patinated condition, and crucially retained its original engine, gearbox, instruments, and Vanden Plas Body, No. 1100, with every floorboard numbered accordingly – a particularly rare feature.
Purchased by the current owner in 2008, chassis no. 849 was returned to the UK. A respected engineer and a fierce competitor in pre-war and historic racing events, the current custodian decided to leave the car’s cosmetic condition alone, but embarked upon a total engine rebuild (invoices on file) and conversion to 4½-Litre capacity. Utilizing the original 3-Litre sump, crankcase, magneto turret, valve chest and rocker cover the conversion included the fitment of a new 4½-Litre cylinder block, a new crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons and valve gear. The original 3-Litre cylinder block, crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons have been retained and are offered with the car. Further works included a service of the radiator and a total re-wire by Winston Teague with the option for spotlights to be fitted to the front. A brand new set of four 21” wheelbase wheels shod with Blockley tyres have also been fitted. The hood and tonneau material have been replaced and the side-screens restored with fitted travel cases. Invoices for the works carried out are on file.
Just circa 500 miles have been completed since the works were completed, the current owner using the vintage Bentley simply as family transport to and from VSCC events and the pub with a child seat fitted in the rear.
A fantastic highly patinated original Vanden Plas bodied Short Chassis Speed Model, with the desirable upgrade to 4½-Litre power; this car will make an ideal endurance rally weapon as well as family transport to the pub. Inspection of the car and accompanying history file is welcome by appointment but please don’t bring your oily rag; you’ll only get it dirty!