Coachwork by. Vanden Plas
Chassis No. 969
Body No. 1120
Engine No. 985
Registration No. XX 554
+44 (0)1869 244 255
The Bentley 3-Litre Speed Model Tourer with four-seat touring coachwork by Vanden Plas is regarded by many to be the prettiest of all the vintage sports-touring motorcars produced. The 3-Litre Speed Model was often referred to as the “Red Label” due to the colour of the radiator badge, the longer chassis generally supplied with a blue badge and the hyper-rare super-sports model with a green badge. The Speed Model was, in essence, a development of the earlier TT-model, of which Bentley had made 50 production models for their more sporting and well-healed clients.
Based on Bentley’s standard-short 9’9.5” wheelbase chassis, the Speed Model benefited from a higher compression engine breathing through twin “sloper” carburettors and, mated to the A-type close ratio gearbox, had a significantly improved performance to the standard Bentley 3-Litres both in terms of acceleration and top speed. The shorter wheelbase allowed for the elegant yet sporty design of the coachwork from Vanden Plas, and was basically the same design of body that featured on the works cars that were so successful in the Le Mans 24-Hour races. To this day they remain iconic and a good 3-Litre Speed Model, such as the example offered for sale here, remains one of the most sought after vintage motorcars and rightly so.
One of the plentiful joys of vintage Bentley ownership is that most examples have a good degree of pre-war history recorded in the Works Service Records held at the W.O. Bentley Memorial Foundation and a well-documented history by the worldwide authority on vintage era Bentleys Dr. Clare Hay. This example, chassis number 969, is just one such example.
One of just 513 Speed Model 3-Litres produced by the works, chassis 969 was fitted with engine number 985, and supplied new to a Walter Johnson of Davies Street, Berkeley Square London. The warranty date on the works records indicates that chassis 969 was completed on 2ndFebruary 1925 and registered XX 554. The records indicate that ‘969’ was fitted with a Vanden Plas Sports 4-Seater. No order number is listed for the body but a copy of the Vanden Plas records for order number 1120 has been obtained from the W.O.B.M.F. and notes Walter Johnson as the first owner and that the body, wings and chassis were all finished in “Parsons Cobaltine.”
Johnson retained ‘969’ for roughly two years and in 1927 the car is thought to have made the long journey to Roy Isaacs of George Street Sydney Australia. The service records note this change of ownership, yet in 1927 the records also note that a new chassis frame was fitted by Western Garage, Newton Abbot Devon and that “provided car is tested by us (Bentley Motors) Guarantee is to hold,” so presumably ‘969’s’ trip to the antipodes was short lived. The service records list numerous further works and changes of ownership up until the works was closed in 1939. The extent of the work carried out is too lengthy to list here but the list of owners after Roy Isaacs is as follows:
A photocopy of the original buff-log book for ‘969’ on file notes that after Cartwright the next keeper of the car was the author Edward Jerrard Tickell who registered the Bentley at the War Office. The Bentley re-appeared in 1957 in the ownership of Ft. Lt. H.W.A. Deacon who joined the Bentley Drivers’ Club and supplied a photograph of ‘969,’ date stamped 12thNovember 1957 outside a pub that appears to be called the George & Dragon. It is thought that this is the same H.W.A. Deacon of Sandwich, Kent, whose son went on to become a racing driver with, amongst others, Lister Jaguar and who distinguished himself in the RAF. Ft. Lt. Deacon commissioned Elmdown Engineering to carry out and engine rebuild. From Deacon, the car pasted to Steven C. Wood, Beneden, Kent, in 1936 who also had work carried out by Elmdown Engineering. From Wood ‘969’ passed onto D.C. Poulton, Bedford in 1969. Poulton notes that when he bought the car in 1969 it had an original log-book with it and he sent this off to Hampshire County Council who proceeded to destroy it! He eventually received a green replacement log-book in 1970.
Invoices on file show that Mr. Poulton had further works carried out by a number of well-known Bentley specialists including Elmdown Engineering, Belcher Engineering and R.C. Moss, the latter carrying out the lion share of the works. In 2009 Mr. Poulton returned the car to R.C. Moss and the world-famous restorer was tasked with re-upholstering ‘969’ in “Lena Smoke Blue.” In 2010 ‘969’ was sold to Mr. D. Rodger-Brown of Sudbury, Suffolk. Further invoices are on file from Mr. Rodger-Brown’s period of ownership and include works carried out by Belcher Engineering, Foppe d’Hane, and R.C Moss.
The current owner purchased this well-loved 3-Litre Speed Model Tourer in 2014 and since then he and his family have enjoyed numerous trouble-free outings with the car including the VSCC’s Champagne rallies. Recent maintenance has been carried out by Blakeney Motorsport in Buntingford, Herts and the car drives beautifully. Sold only to assist with the children’s “house fund” this delightful and correct Bentley 3-Litre is ready to be enjoyed this summer while Bentley Motors celebrate 100 years of the marque.