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1925 Bentley 3/4½-Litre Tourer

Chassis No. HP 388

Engine No. XR 3349

Registration No. CX 7658

+44 (0)1869 244 255

info@robertglover.com

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Copy factory service records on file indicate that this Bentley, Chassis No. HP 388, was sold new as a 3-Litre Speed Model on the 9ft 9½” short-wheelbase chassis. Fitted with coupe coachwork by Surbico and supplied with engine number HP 391, it was first registered YM 7877 to a Mr. Thomas Graeme Ferguson. (At a later stage ‘HP 388’ was re-registered ‘CX 7658’ and has been known by this within the Bentley Drivers Club by this number for at least 50 years). The service records list various minor works carried out as well as indicating owners up until 1938, the service department being closed in 1939. The ownership history pre-war can be listed as follows:

  • Thomas Ferguson – 1925 – 1927
  • Lady Gertrude Denman – 1927 – 1930
  • James Ritchie – 1930 – 1931
  • C.B. Freeland – 1931

It is not clear exactly when Freeland sold ‘HP 388’ but by 1948 it was reported to belong to a C. H. Verrinder, then Major B.S. Heath before being purchased by BDC member and marque enthusiast, Ken Cleave in 1954. Cleave kept ‘HP 388’ until 1959, selling it to a G. A. Brown but swiftly repurchased the Bentley that same year, ultimately keeping it until 1968.

It was during Kenneth Cleave’s ownership that ‘HP 388’ was uprated with the installation of a genuine 4½-Litre engine, numbered XR 3349. As an interesting aside, this engine came from Chassis No. XR 3342, a car believed to have been entered in the 1932 RAC rally but subsequently damaged by fire. At the same time Bentley 4½-Litre front and rear axles were fitted from another original Bentley 4½-Litre.

In 1968 Cleave sold the car to M. R. Cannock who retained ownership until the 1990s when it was purchased by Annabel Swain, the daughter of the late John Bolster, the latter a famed British racing driver and technical editor of Autosport Magazine. During Annabel Swain’s tenure ‘HP 388’ was treated to extensive refurbishment including an engine overhaul by, Bentley guru, Len Wilton. In 2009 Annabel Swain sold the car through Bonhams at their Goodwood Revival auction, ownership passing to Jahn Vidmer.

The next owner, Peter Kite, a successful historic ‘rallyist’, purchased ‘HP 388’ through Stanley Mann Racing in 2015 and commissioned them to rebuild the engine. Documentation on file from Stanley Mann Racing lists a total engine overhaul with work carried out including:

  • Fitting of a new semi-counterbalanced crankshaft
  • Fitting of new connecting rods, pistons, gudgeon pins and piston rings
  • New big and little end bearing shells
  • New cross shaft gears
  • New exhaust and inlet valves and valve guides

As well as the mechanical work, various cosmetic enhancements were completed and are listed in the file of paperwork offered with the car. These include the fitting of new wheels and tyres all round. It should also be noted that HP 388 is fitted with a desirable A-Type gearbox and overdrive.

The current owner acquired ‘CX 7658’ a few years ago and has enjoyed numerous touring events in the car with his wife. The Bentley has performed well on both home soil in the North of England as well as Scotland and mainland Europe, covering well over 1,000 trouble-free miles on a trip from Epernay and through Switzerland and back organized by the Ward brothers in 2017. Most of the maintenance work was carried out by Stanley Mann Racing while the firm remained open after Stanley’s passing and indeed, CX 7658’ was one of the last cars to receive the benefit of that experienced vintage Bentley firm’s attention. Copies of the invoices for the work they carried out are on file and further work included re-tempering of the road springs and rebuilt shock absorbers. The magnetos have also been recently refurbished and the useful addition of an improved charging system, curved driving mirrors and twin sockets for phone charging and satellite navigation all increase the usability of this already highly useable touring car.

Given the lightweight coachwork and recently overhauled 4½-Litre engine this sporting Bentley should prove very capable, both on the track and road. It is a genuine 3-Litre Speed model that has evolved from its original specification very much in the spirit of the Bentley Drivers Club and Vintage Sports Car Club. It is therefore, eligible for all of their club events and well as the superb racing events organized by Legends Motor Racing in Europe as well as rally events such at The Flying Scotsman, 1000mile trail in the UK and the Colorado Grand in the USA where it will doubtless perform admirably.

Chassis no. HP 388, offered for sale here, benefits from the fitment of a genuine 4½-Litre engine and has been in 3/4½-litre form for over 50 years and over half of its life. Whilst it is not a factory original car, the merits of these hybrid cars, that have evolved with the use of all original vintage Bentley components, was perhaps summed up best by Captain J. G. Fry in The Autocar of May 1943 when he wrote the following:

‘Recipe: take a good 3-litre Bentley chassis, mix in a good 4.5-litre engine, gearbox and transmission and add a light body with accessories to taste. The result is a motor car which, while still retaining a good vintage flavour, possesses a performance equaled by few other machines even of the most modern and expensive type’ We couldn’t agree more and 77 years on the same applies! Inspection and demonstration of this attractive vintage Bentley is welcomed by appointment.